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A new mixed use 40B development has been proposed for a site just off California Street in Nonantum along the Charles River next to Forte Park.

The Riverdale project would include 204 units of apartments, including 51 that are classified as “affordable,” along with 17,782 square feet of office/innovation space and 4,600 square-feet of retail space.

It comes a few weeks after Mark Development (which is already developing the Washington Place project in Newtonville and is proposing a project at the Riverside MBTA station)  proposed a 40B with 243 units (with 61 affordable units) and 12,521 square feet of ground floor retail space at a three acre site at the Barn Family Shoe store on Washington Street, Dunstan Street and Kempton Place in West Newton.

Both projects were filed under Massachusetts 40B, a statute which allows developers to bypass most local zoning restrictions in communities such as Newton where less than 10 percent of the housing stock (or other measures) qualifies as “affordable.”  The process is reviewed by the zoning board of appeals rather than a city council.

Here’s what Mayor Fuller wrote about it in her newsletter:

A second 40B housing development proposal was submitted last week to MassHousing. Criterion Development Partners is proposing 204 units of rental housing, 17,782 square-feet of office/innovation space and 4,600 square-feet of retail space between Los Angeles Street and Riverdale Avenue. This is just off California Street in Nonantum along the Charles River next to Forte Park.

 

The project was filed at MassHousing under Chapter 40B, the state law enacted in 1969 which allows developments that include a certain percentage of affordable housing units to bypass most local zoning restrictions in communities that do not meet the law’s criteria. Newton has not yet met the threshold to bypass the law. The proposal includes 51 units of permanently affordable housing (at 80% of area median income), or 25% of the total number of units. Applying to MassHousing, the quasi-governmental agency created in 1966 that supports the development of affordable housing, is the first step in the 40B process.

 

This proposed project is on property that was once used by manufacturing businesses. The existing building on the property has been used by The Boston Globe for newspaper delivery.

 

The Planning Department, soon followed by Newton’s Zoning Board of Appeals, is beginning the review process. Most likely the ZBA will vote on the proposal in mid-2020.

 

As with the 40B project proposed earlier this month on Washington Street, some aspects of the project initially look promising while there are still many issues and questions that we will be looking at closely.

 

The promising aspects include the 51 units of much-needed affordable housing and a new public walkway through the complex to a landscaped area along the Charles River; new retail and commercial space.

 

We’ll be looking closely at whether the retail spaces are sized appropriately and rents priced to attract small, local businesses. Will green energy building standards be used? How is the developer planning to address traffic impacts from the project? Are the number of units appropriate at this location? Are the heights of the two buildings, four and five stories, appropriate? Is there sufficient parking? What is the impact on Forte Park?

 

I would have preferred this project, like the Washington Street project, to come in through the special permit process so the City Council could have more input. But until Newton meets its affordability thresholds developers will continue to have this option to move forward with the 40B process