Newton developers demand special zoning giveaway from Waltham

In the News-Tribune this morning, a story about how a Newton-based developer is getting ready to put a 7-story monstrosity at the intersection of Charles and Moody Street. It's going to block out light, dominate the small businesses and residences nearby, and make for more traffic. But hey, it will give the top floor tenants river views! Now the developer is asking for special treatment from the city. The article says:
Northland has asked the City Council to create a new zoning district, called Business D, to allow for the project. The proposed zone change is set for a City Council public hearing Monday.

The change would allow bigger buildings than those outlined in the developer’s informal proposal. Northland said it will build six stories on Main Street, and seven stories on Charles, where the ground slopes down toward the river, but the new zone would allow 90-foot-high buildings seven stories tall, across the block.

An artist’s rendering of the project, presented to the council this week, shows a building that appears smaller than the actual structure would stand at 77-plus feet. The new building appears to be just slightly larger than a building across the street that, at three stories, would be half the new building’s height.
A developer playing games, by trying to downplay the size of the building? Is anyone surprised?

Northland's chairman and CEO is Lawrence R. Gottesdiener. City councillors, please send Larry G a resounding message: NO WAY!

You can read the rest of the article at Building plan irks residents


The Globe West has more information about the proposed project:
The plan calls for 350 luxury apartment units above 35,000 square feet of first-floor retail space on a 4 1/2-acre site at the corner of Main and Moody streets, opposite the common. ...

An underground parking garage. Plans call for 570 spaces.

Fast-food restaurants.
There's a public hearing at City Council tomorrow night (Monday, 8pm) to debate this project. Don't let it go forward!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Borderline, are there any parts of Waltham where you think there should be additional development? Replacing two ugly multistory bank buildings, a realty office, and acres of parking lots with even a halfway-decent mixed-use development with underground parking seems like a net positive to me, especially if it brings some life to the common. The main concern would be traffic, but some good engineering (i.e., use an expanded Charles Street for garage access) could make it work.

What would you rather see in that location?

2:57 PM  
Blogger Borderline said...

Anonymous: Depends where and what kind, but in my view, less is more. For decades developers treated Waltham like their own private playground, and the pols went along with them, allowing monstrous retail and residential projects to be built. It's time we started taking back the city from uncontrolled development. I've said it before and I'll say it again: We should be looking at Lincoln as a model of development, not Framingham.

The Northland plan is too big, will bring way too much traffic to an already congested area, and didn't take into account the concerns of the community. I think Globe West had a very interesting quote from the developer's lawyer -- when asked about the farmer's market at the parking lot there, he basically admitted they hadn't even considered this issue. These people clearly don't give a hoot about the community, they only want to maximize their profit with the least amount of effort.

11:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're welcome to your opinion, obviously, but I don't think anyone can change Waltham into a small, wealthy bedroom community with a longstanding two-acre minimum lot size for single-family houses.

I agree that there have been some terrible development decisions made in the past. The intermingling of big-box retail with the offices around Winter Street jumps to mind, and I wish there had been a coherent, less sprawl-filled plan for Lexington Street. But south Waltham is definitely an urban area, and this looks like a solid urban development -- high-density housing, first-floor retail along the sidewalks, and covered parking. It's a significant improvement over what's there. I think anti-development efforts are better concentrated elsewhere.

3:16 AM  
Blogger James said...

Same ranter, but I remembered to log in this time.

So, this article has some interesting details. First off, someone opposed to the project should muzzle the retailers. No matter how noble their intentions, every quote sounds like "I don't want to compete with Starbucks/Barnes and Noble".

That being said, I'm coming around on the zoning issue itself. Unless things have changed very recently, underground parking and first-floor apartments are red herrings; Cronin's and Longview have both features. I think the real issues are height (which is pretty much subjective) and fast-food restaurants. I can understand the desire to keep freestanding fast-food facilities (heheheh) out of Business C, but I think a reasonable compromise would be to allow fast-food in mixed-use Business C buildings. In other words, allow Starbucks or Quizno's at the new place, but also allow them at Cronin's.

1:52 PM  
Anonymous michael said...

I know this is very old, but I have to say I would have welcomed this development. it seems a bit too much, but not by a lot. Right now that area is somewhat blighted. Waltham needs to look to CAMBRIDGE as a development model, and absolutely not lincoln or even newton. This is the urban heart of our small city, and it should serve as a jewel, not some crumbling banks and a weed-filled vacant lot.

3:14 PM  

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