Skip to content

The future of our small downtowns and villages

Need to Knows Graphic

The future of our small downtowns and villages

When the Retailers Association of Massachusetts surveyed small business owners across the state, 70 percent said they would be looking to sell or retire within the next decade.
Consider what that means.
If seven out of ten of small business owners hope to step away from their livelihoods in ten years, where will the next generation of owners in our downtowns and village centers come from?
And what will they need to open here and to be successful?

Decisions made by our four chamber communities (and across eastern Massachusetts) to comply with the MBTA Communities Upzoning Law could do a lot to help.
The new state law was primarily designed to remove historic obstacles that have stood in the way of building, small, multi-family housing close to transit.
But properly executed, the decisions could also have big economic benefits and viability upside for future generations of small business owners.

Given interest rates, limited access to capital, and construction worker shortages, change won't happen quickly anywhere.

But adding density provides more customers within walking distance of shops and restaurants as well as housing opportunities for employees. And those factors can greatly influence the decision of someone considering buying an existing business or deciding to open one in the future.

All eyes are on Newton tomorrow 

NeedhamWatertown, and Wellesley are all in the formative stages of crafting their MBTA Communities Upzoning Law plans. They’re due at the end of 2024.
The situation is more urgent in Newton, one of 12 communities that must comply by Dec. 31 of this year. 
Failure to approve a plan by New Year's Eve would place Newton in violation of state law and at risk of losing millions in state grants.
But the fate of the city’s existing approach -- known as the Village Center Overlay District plan -- was upended by last week’s municipal elections in which candidates opposed to VCOD as written won 5 of 6 contested seats.
The good news is that all 24 current city councilors, who must approve a plan, are on record saying they support complying with the MBTA Communities, just not the wider-reaching VCOD plan.
Even the winners of last week’s election are on record supporting the MBTA Communities compliant portion of VCOD.

And the MBTA Communities portion of VCOD will greatly enhance five of Newton's villages over time, even though we believe the broader approach offers greater benefits.
So when deliberations begin at Newton City Hall at 7 p.m. tomorrow (Weds), the only issue should be what, if any, modifications should be made to VCOD, not a debate over whether Newton should intentionally defy the state deadline to wait for the new council to be sworn in.

New MassDOT boss knows our region well 

Monica Tibbits-Nutt

Monica Tibbits-Nutt was appointed Secretary of Transportation by Governor Maura Healey yesterday.

Tibbits-Nutt was formerly the department's undersecretary and has been serving as acting secretary since mid-September. She also knows our region, our transportation challenges, and even our chamber well. For 13 years, Tibbits-Nutt led the 128 Business Council, a chamber member that promotes and provides transportation and access to the Route 128 West Corridor.

She previously served on the board of directors of MassDOT and as vice chair of the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control.

Program looks to speed migrants' path to jobs 

The state is partnering with the Department of Homeland Security on a pilot program that looks to significantly speed up the time it takes migrants to get work authorizations.

The goal is to get eligible migrants residing in the at-capacity shelter system work authorizations within two to three weeks after they attend the clinic, instead of the four months or more it now takes, reports Sarah Betancourt at GBH.

The program will also waive the sizable $495 application fee.

The goal is to process hundreds of individual work authorization applications per day, supported by over 200 volunteers weekly.

We know that many employers are anxious to potentially hire many of these applicants, including many who held highly skilled jobs in their native countries. 

New vision for Watertown Mall passes first step 

Watertown Mall

The master plan for remaking the Watertown Mall has been approved by Watertown’s Planning Board.

The next step for Alexandria Real Estate Equities will be to seek approval of the individual lab buildings, residential units, retail, and garages, reports Charlie Breitrose at the Watertown News.

The project was first proposed by ARE as a lab and retail-only project. But reflecting both economic realities and a request from local housing advocates, ARE has added four floors of residential units above retail as well as more retail overall and additional opportunities for public amenities.

The master still plan includes 681,616 SF of new office/lab space and will add $8 million in linkage fees to the city’s Affordable Housing Trust.,

And, no, the Target store isn't going away.

Today's grab bag 

  • Should the MCAS test continue to be required in Massachusetts schools? That was the topic for a debate between Max Page, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association and Ed Lambert, executive director of the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education.

  • Moldova Restaurant in Nonantum is in the home stretch of a crowdfunding campaign which will trigger a matching grant through the Biz-M-Power program through the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation. Donations will help this family business improve its outdoor seating, and signage and add a new European-style coffee shop service.

  • Watertown singer/songwriter Noah Kahan has been nominated for the Best New Artist Grammy Award.

  • Brooklyn-based Mia's Bakery is now open at The Street in Chestnut Hill, offering a variety of cakes, pies, cupcakes, and more. This is Mia's first shop outside of New York (Boston Restaurant Talk)

  • Avenue Deli on Beacon Street in Newton Highlands has closed after less than one year in business. The original Avenue Deli was first established in Watertown in 2009 and came under new ownership in 2013. (Boston Restaurant Talk)

  • Just in time for Thanksgiving: Learn how to make cannabis-infused gravy from the folks at Redi and Better Life Foods and enjoy a Harpoon and live music, tomorrow (Weds) at 5 p.m. at Dunn-Gahernis in Newton Upper Falls. Free.

  • Is your small business taking advantage of the state's training grant program? You may be eligible to access up to $20,000 annually through the workforce training fund for thousands of pre-approved training courses on marketing, accounting, HR, DEI, restaurant management, technology and so much more. Lean more at our chamber webinar tomorrow (Weds) at 9 a.m

Mark Development sues partner over two senior housing projects 

Newton-based Mark Development has filed a lawsuit against California-based Senior Resource Group in Suffolk County Superior Court over a permitted 185-unit facility on Crafts Street in Newtonville, as well as a proposal in Weston, reports Greg Ryan at the BBJ.  Mark is accusing SRG of breaching a cost-sharing contract.

The Newtonville project, located behind the Whole Foods and Marty’s Fine Wines on Washington Street is supposed to include at least 185 units, including 52 for assisted living and another 28 for memory care.

Help us spread the word about supporting local this holiday season 

Finally, this morning, as we approach the holiday shopping season, we're launching a campaign to support our local merchants, restaurants, and nonprofits.

But we need your help spreading the word.

We've created logos, banner ads, and graphics that can be shared on social media, in your email newsletters, or email signatures.

Download all here and let us know if you need a different file format or size. Be sure to tag us @crrchamber and/or link to

We’d also appreciate it if you would share our "Get to Know" videos featuring Newton, Needham, Watertown, and Wellesley. View the full library and share via our YouTube playlist


That’s what you need to know for today unless you need to know what it takes to get the dust off Michelangelo’s David.

Be back later this week
Greg Reibman (he, him)
President & CEO
Powered By GrowthZone