On Monday night, Newton City Council voted to approve Northland Investment Corporation’s project on Needham Street.

The Northland project will transform 23 drab acres of old parking lots, an outdated shopping plaza and industrial buildings. It will bring new vitality to Needham Street and beyond; bringing new business, jobs and tax revenue to Newton.

Unfortunately, project opponents are organizing a referendum petition that would force a citywide special election that could overturn City Council’s decision. They have 20 days to collect 3,200 signatures. If they do, City Council will be forced to vote again in January on their original decision. If they vote to uphold it, it’s likely that the project would appear on the ballot next spring. 

If it’s voted down, the developer will likely create a “40B” project that would have slightly more affordable housing units, but that would give City Council little leverage over it. Hence, many of the benefits noted above would go away.

We encourage Newton resident to not sign the petition. 

The project will include 800 desperately-needed apartments–140 of them affordable; commercial space that includes subsidized retail space dedicated to non-formula, locally-owned merchants; and 180,000 square feet of brick and beam office space for small and mid-sized companies. Ten acres of new public gathering and open spaces will be created, including eight new parks and new connections to the Upper Falls Greenway.

Northland’s cutting-edge sustainability plan includes at least three, and as many as eight, Passive House-certified residential buildings. If it’s completed before several competing projects, it will be the largest Passive House development in Massachusetts–setting an outstanding example for other developers and communities. All buildings on the campus will be heated by heat pumps–and not by on-site natural gas. The developer will choose building materials with low embodied carbon where feasible.

Northland’s “mobility hub” will provide free-to-all electric shuttle service to the Newton Highlands T station every 10 minutes, 16 hours per day. Northland will provide its residents with free T passes, and car-share and bike-sharing infrastructure. They will have, by requirement, a strict, accountable and comprehensive plan designed to mitigate traffic; plus millions in mitigation funds, which could be used to improve bike and pedestrian connections to the MBTA and Needham Crossing.

Green Newton endorsed the Northland project after the company committed to a comprehensive green building and transportation plan. We think that the Northland project will be a great one for Newton.