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02newton-renderingNorthland Development unveiled their plan today for their 27 acre site in Upper Falls.  This morning they held an on-site presentation and this evening they had an Open House for the neighbors and the public at large.

At this point, the plans are very preliminary and mostly consist of a series of artist’s renditions that sketch out an overview.  The general outline is a mix of retail, commercial and residential laid out in a “main street” style.  The project will extend from the Upper Falls Greenway (top left border) to Needham St (center vertical road in drawing) with an additional parcel on the far side of Needham St.

The main portion of the project, north of Needham St consists of a series of buildings with street level, small footprint retail space.   The floors above contain either apartments or commercial space.  On the opposite side of Needham St are a few larger footprint “big(ish) box” retail buildings.   Parking will be in a multi-story parking lot in the middle of the site with a few smaller roads within the site to get cars in and out.  

At first glance there are a number of things to like about the project.  In  particular, the connection of the project’s main retail street out to Oak St by Chestnut holds out the promise of extending and bolstering Upper Falls otherwise feeble village center.  Also the developer seems to have put a particular focus on pedestrian connections both to the surrounding neighborhood as well as within the site.  The general layout of the design is to have low two story buildings around the edges and as you go deeper into the site the building height’s increase.  At the perimeter along the Upper Falls Greenway the plan calls for a street of two story town house with yards backing on to the Greenway. 

At tonight’s open house the two biggest concerns I heard were “traffic” and “schools”.  Needham St is already a traffic nightmare for chunks of every day.  The biggest concern I heard about traffic was that the project not push a lot of new traffic into the streets of Upper Falls.  The school issue is of course another very big concern.  With 950 units of new housing included there will certainly be a major impact on schools given the scope of the project.  I heard roughly equal parts of both excitement and nervousness at the size of the project, from those who were at tonight’s open house.

The whole project is only at the earliest conceptual stage at this point.  None of the permitting and zoning issues have really begun so the first shovel full of dirt probably won’t be moved for at least another two years.

Northland will be holding another open house on Saturday Nov 19 in the former premise of the Halloween Store in the Marshall’s plaza.  They will also be presenting the plan at November’s  Upper Falls Area Council meeting on Thursday Nov 17.

Watch video here