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Riverside Visioning Concludes!

CivicMoxie presented its final Riverside Vision Plan on Tuesday, April 30, at Williams Elementary School. 

The guidelines can be downloaded here under the "Info" tab (there are 3 parts and an appendix) or from the City's website, at www.newtonma.gov/riversidevision

For more information on the upcoming Riverside Special Permit and Zoning amendment process, visit: www.newtonma.gov/riverside

Mark your calendars: The first City Council Land Use Committee public hearing is slated for the evening of Tuesday, June 4, with details to come.


Background

At the urging of the Lower Falls Improvement Association, the City of Newton launched a “visioning” process in December 2018 to find out what residents and other neighborhood groups would like to see at the Riverside site. Our aim was to produce “design principles” for any potential development at Riverside, not to respond to any specific proposal.

The LFIA’s Riverside Committee articulated a list of topics (see below) that should be addressed by the process and voiced two concerns: that the two-month period allotted was too short, and that having the developer pay for the visioning process could undermine its credibility.

The Newton Planning and Development Department hired the planning consulting firm CivicMoxie to assist in the process. Close to 300 residents attended the first open house, on February 10, and a smaller but equally passionate crowd attended the March 28 meeting, where draft principles were described. Neighbors embraced many of the principles but challenged Riverside being characterized as a “Gateway to Newton” or an “isolated site.”

The final public session is scheduled for April 30, 7 p.m., at Williams Elementary School, where the final ‘reference guide to decision-making at the Riverside site’ will be presented.

Rightsize Riverside appreciates everyone who took the time to attend the meetings or went on the Civic Moxie website, at https://courb.co/riverside, to voice their questions, concerns, and feedback. And we thank City Councilors Krintzman, Gentile, Markiewicz, Laredo, and Auchincloss for petitioning the City Council to conduct a visioning process as a proactive step to articulate principles for an appropriately scaled design for the Riverside site.  

We are dismayed that Mark Development filed for a special permit to build a massive mixed-use complex at Riverside even before the conclusion of the visioning process (and nearly unchanged from the plan they presented in September 2018), suggesting their lack of commitment to heeding neighborhood input.

We look forward to Civic Moxie’s final reference guide, and hope it reflects BOTH the potential benefits and risks of any Riverside development to the local neighborhoods. Most importantly we hope that our City Councilors will utilize the reference guide to decision-making at the Riverside sit to guide them in evaluating Mark Development's request for a special permit and zoning changes.

Rightsize Riverside will work constructively with the City Council Land Use and Zoning Committees to assure that any development at Riverside fulfills the arrived-at vision and to press for issues not adequately addressed by this process. We are committed to advocating for an appropriate-sized, well-designed development at Riverside.

* CivicMoxie interviewed the following stakeholder groups:

• Ward 4 City Councilors

• MBTA/MassDOT

• Developer – Mark Development

• Lower Falls Improvement Association

• Auburndale Neighborhood Association

• Riverside Greenway Working Group

• Transportation Advisory Group

• Livable Newton

• Newton Village Alliance

• Green Newton

• Newton-Needham Regional Chamber

• Planning & Development Board – interview to be scheduled

• Towns of Weston and Wellesley (Waltham no response)

For more information on visioning:

  • Visit the City’s website on the visioning process. 
  • Check out the draft principles from the March 28 community meeting.
  •  View   the "takeaways" from the February 10 community meeting.
  • Get summaries, slides, and other Riverside visioning materials on the Civic Moxie site.
  • See a video of  Mayor Fuller during her campaign praising the importance of community visioning; specifically  that it is essential for a citizen-based steering committee to lead the visioning process  NOT the planning department.


The LFIA requested that the city conduct a visioning process for the Riverside site. The city agreed to a process to be  completed by March 2019. The development of Riverside is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and it should be done right. A number of higher-level questions need to be answered before any project is designed:
      • What size development would leave Riverside with the capacity to accommodate new MBTA services including the Indigo line or expanded bus service?
      • What level of increased traffic is Grove Street capable of accommodating without creating gridlock in Lower Falls , Auburndale, and important intersections in the neighborhood?
      • What are the real needs for housing in Newton? 
      • What resources could harnessed to increase the percentage of affordable housing units beyond the required 12%?
      • What the role can commercial housing models like ‘turnkey' apartments, urban dorms, etc. play in a housing mix.
      • What city resources would be required to meet the needs of the new residents of the development and the adjacent neighborhoods of Lower Falls and Auburndale?
      • What would a truly walkable "20-minute neighborhood" with access to housing, schools, recreation, and essential services – look like?
      • How can access to open space and recreation be assured?
      • How would this new neighborhood be integrated into the social and political fabric of Lower Falls and Auburndale?
      • How would Ward 4 representation be changed by this development?
      • Given these issues what would the optimal design of the site be?
For an explanation of visioning please download Community Visioning

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RightSize Riverside  - LFIA
91 Cornell St.                           

Newton Lower Falls, MA 02462

lfiariverside@gmail.com 

The Newton Lower Falls Improvement Association is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.


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