City of Newton Releases First Draft Proposal for Riverside Development Project

After conducting an extensive city-driven discussion, which spanned over the course of several months and engaged residents, planning and development officials, and other stakeholders, the City of Newton released its official proposal for the Riverside Development Project on March 14.

The Riverside Development Project is a proposal to transform the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s Riverside Station parking lot and nearby Hotel Indigo along Route 128 into a “mixed-use” and transit-oriented space. The project seeks to redevelop the area and provide enhancements to infrastructure in three categories of mixed use: business, commercial, and residential.

The proposal outlines descriptions of the site and its history, proposed zoning changes and text amendments, description of the development, and information about parking. On the 2.22 acres of available open space, the city proposes to create 10 new buildings on the development. The buildings range from six to 18 stories, and while the function of the spaces remains unknown, the majority will be used as office and retail spaces.

The proposal will provide a total of 2,924 parking spots on-site, of which 958 will be reserved for MBTA commuters. The remaining will be available to residents, employees, and visitors.

The ultimate goal of this project is to “maximize the principle of walkability on-site and to create a vibrant, transit-oriented hub,” according to the proposal.

To ensure that the needs of the community are heard and answered, the City of Newton Planning Development Committee has hosted a series of highly attended meetings and public forums—which began in February—to discuss proposals regarding Riverside development.

At the first meeting, held on Feb. 10,  about 275 residents of Newton and the surrounding area turned out to discuss proposed developments. Resident concerns ranged from housing affordability to fear of over-development of the suburban area.

While this proposal initiates the next step in moving forward with development, discussion is far from over. Two more public forums are scheduled to occur, which seek a public response to the proposal. The next meeting will take place this Thursday, March 28 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Lasell College. The final visioning meeting will take place on April 30.

Following the release of the proposal, Mayor Ruthanne Fuller, in an official letter, said that the Planning Department will not deliver a final draft of the new citywide zoning ordinance until 2020, and stresses that this proposal should be looked at as a first draft.

“We know we have considerable work to do on the second draft to ensure we have the right rules in place to direct the future development of our community,” said Fuller.

Featured Image by Maddie DiPatri / Heights Editor