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Police on heightened alert

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Police on heightened alert

Police in our chamber communities, across the state and around the nation are on a heightened state of alert, after a former Hamas leader made a generic call for protesters to stage demonstrations on Friday, WCVB reports.

The Massachusetts State Police Commonwealth Fusion Center, Watch Center and Anti-Terrorism Unit have been activated but officials say they are not aware of specific or credible threats made against locations or groups within Massachusetts.

Newton Police also said on social media that they “are not aware of any specific threats to our city” but are asking “our community to practice good situational awareness and as a reminder if you see something, say something."

Chamber to honor Walensky for her service Nov. 3 

I hope you will join us at our Fall Business Breakfast, Nov. 3 at the Newton Marriott when we will be honoring Newton resident Dr. Rochelle Walensky for her service to our nation as director of the CDC during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Also that morning: We're really looking forward to hearing from our guest speaker, Rich Gotham, president of the Boston Celtics.

As is always the case, we expect that this year's breakfast will sell out.

Our early bird discount offer for tickets ends tonight. Reserve your seat here.

Yes, Virginia, supply and demand applies to housing

It’s an argument heard regularly in all four of our chamber communities and well beyond.

Building more housing, say opponents to the MBTA Communities Law and other efforts to make it easier to create new multifamily housing, will only drive-up prices and further gentrify our neighborhoods.

It won’t, they also say, make our communities more affordable to young workers, families and downsizing seniors.

It won’t, they add, drive down prices, as if the law of supply and demand applies to everything except housing.

Except study after study shows that more housing does lead to lower home prices.

For example, a Pew Trust study of four different U.S. markets found that more flexible zoning helped those areas build housing faster, keeping up with their rising populations and slowed rent growth, reports the Daily Progress.

“Although rents remain fairly high in the four places examined, they are certainly lower than they would be if the cities had not allowed more housing,” reads the report.

Same results in an Upjohn Institute study which found that when substantial amounts of new apartments were built across 11 different cities, average rents declined about 6%.

“Opposing such development may exacerbate the housing affordability crisis and increase housing cost burdens for local renters,” added the authors of a seperate New York University study, the Daily Progress notes.

Yes, upzoning can increase land values in the short term but the price per unit should decrease. For example, if a single-family Victorian home is subdivided into multiple units, as the MBTA Communities Law encourages, it’s naturally going to be more affordable than the original configuration.

However, a research paper out of the University of California warns that if a community is looking to upzone it should do so across the entire city, much like the plan now being considered by the Newton City Council which seeks to allow for more multi-family homes in all of its village centers, even though some city councilors and candidates favor rezoning one, or some, villages at a time.

But doing so would only create bidding wars over land in the few neighborhoods that are upzoned, driving up prices.

“Broad upzoning favors small-scale developers,” the study reads.

Needham pondering MBTA Communities options 

Speaking of MBTA Communities, Needham will hold its first community wide meeting to discuss how the town may comply with the law, Nov. 9 at Town Hall.

In preparation, the nine-member committee that’s been designated to study compliance scenarios, called the Housing Needham Advisory Group (HONE) has been meeting to consider options that would allow for the potential creation of at least 1,784 multi-family housing units prior to the Dec. 31, 2024 deadline.

And here comes the standard, but necessary, disclaimer: Zoning to allow for 1,784 units does not mean that 1,784 units will be built. And even the new housing that will come on line will likely happen gradually.

HONE is modeling zoning options around three of the town’s four commuter rail stations, Needham Heights, Needham Center and Needham Junction.

Want to know more? Peter O’Neil at the Needham Observer has been paying close attention.

Friday grab bag
  • Some of the Israel-based employees at Newton’s CyberArk are among those who’ve joined the military effort in the war against Hamas. CyberArk’s corporate HQ is on Wells Ave but nearly 70% of its property and equipment is in Israel and the company conducts its R&D activity primary there. (BBJ)
  • Yelp has discovered something folks around here have known for years: They've named Mt. Auburn Cemetery on the Watertown/Cambridge line as the 4th Top Spot for Fall Foliage in the US
  • The Newton Harvest Fair returns to Newton Centre, rain or shine, this Sunday (Oct. 15), 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. It's a great time to meet the many candidates running in the Nov. 7 city election; visit booths hosted by area businesses and nonprofits; and have the kids decorate a pumpkin from Wegmans.
  • Sunday is also the date for the 22nd running of the amazing Paddy’s Road Race in Newton.
  • MassDOT is hosting a virtual meeting/workshop Oct. 24 at 6:30 p.m. to solicit public input to identify potential improvements to address safety and operational deficiencies associated with the roadway and ramp network of I-90 Exit 127 (formerly Exit 17) at Newton Corner. Register.
  • Mass Taxpayers Foundation hosts an important webinar on Oct. 19 at 10 a.m. called Massachusetts at a Time of Transition and Competition which will explore national migration trends and assess their impact on Massachusetts.  The program will include a presentation on national trends, followed by a panel discussion on what those trends mean for the Commonwealth.
  • Meet the press: The League of Women Voters of Needham is hosting “Learn All About It! Sources of Needham News” on Monday (Oct. 16) at 7:30 p.m., at the Center at the Heights, 300 Hillside Ave. Folks from the Needham ObserverNeedham Local, and News You Need(ham) will present their concepts, missions, goals and future plans.
  • MathWorks is growing. The Natick software company is said to be adding a new 220,000 SF office building next to its Lakeside campus along Route 9. (Real Reporter

Newton Centre, Wellesley Hills bank branches to close 

Once Eastern Bank’s pending acquisition of Cambridge Trust is completed early next year, Eastern plans on closing 11 branches across the region, including the Cambridge Trust branch in Newton Centre (which many of us recall fondly was a former Peets) and the Eastern Bank branch in Wellesley Hills (which had previously been a Century Bank).

Employees at all locations will be offered jobs elsewhere in the company, writes Jon Chesto at the Globe.

Needham watchmaker passes 

Needham has lost a beloved member of its business community: Bert Wikstrom, owner of Three Crown Jewelry, a Needham Center institution.

Wikstrom, 84, ran the unique clock store for 32 years with his wife Sandy, working seven days a week repairing watches and clocks, becoming the go-to place for help with any time piece or family heirloom. 

Additional details about the wonderful Swedish watchmaker can be found here.

News regarding the future of Three Crown Jewelry will be announced soon.

Women-owned businesses face SBA loan gap 

The Small Business Administration has acknowledged that one of its main lending programs has a women problem.

Women-owned businesses accounted for about 38% of American businesses, but were approved for about 32.6% of SBA 7(a) loans in fiscal year 2023. The share of loans approved for businesses majority-owned by women stood at just 11.4%

And when women-owned businesses do get loans, they are typically smaller than those obtained by male business owners, writes Andy Medici at the BBJ.

Two very different visions for Watertown 

Finally today, thanks to the two candidates running for city council president in Watertown – incumbent Mark Sideris and his challenger Clyde Younger -- for an engaging 45-minute discussion about economic development and supporting local businesses yesterday.

In some forums, it can be hard to decipher the differences between the candidates.

I guarantee that's not the case here.

Watertown City Council President debate 

That's what you need to know for today, unless you need to know about the Brookline official who basically delivered a “get off my lawn” lecture to local high schoolers.

Have a great weekend. You'll be shopping and dining locally, right?

Greg Reibman (he, him)

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