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Newton, Needham, Watertown, Wellesley

We need more, but we're building less

We need more, but we're building less

The Celtics' Unfinished Business remains unfinished.

Here's what else you Need to Knows from the Charles River Regional Chamber.

We need more, but we're building less

When Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll joins us Friday at our Spring Business Breakfast, she will, no doubt, emphasize the priority she and the Healey administration have placed on addressing our housing crisis.
Here’s hoping Driscoll will inspire all of us (including the many elected local officials who will be joining us at the Needham Sheraton) to follow the lead set by Lexington and rezone for more transit-oriented housing than required under the MBTA Communities Law.
Lexington could have waited until the end of 2024 to comply, but didn'tNewton's rezoning must be complete by the end of this year. Needham, Watertown and Wellesley have until the end the next year. But we need to start building now. We can’t be held hostage by the usual NIMBY tactics.
In fact, while our employers struggle to hire, workers move out of Massachusetts and our region cries out for more housing, we're actually building less.

Through April, cities and towns in the Boston metro region approved building permits for 3,771 new units so far this year, reports Greg Ryan at the BBJ. That's down 30% from the same four months in 2022.

Just over 640 units of housing were permitted to be constructed across the Boston metro last month. That's less than half the number from last April, and not even a third of the total from April 2021, Ryan adds.
Here's another way to grow our housing supply

Jack Corrigan, a former Dukakis administration official, believes the region’s colleges and universities could help the housing shortage by building more dorms to lighten the need for off-campus housing.

Dorms can be built densely and quickly because they can side step zoning rules under the state’s Dover Amendment, Corrigan writes in CommonWealth. 

Alexandria pushes ahead in Watertown 

Watertown Mall Alexandria

Alexandria Real Estate Equities may have abandoned plans to convert Riverside Center on Gove Street in Newton into lab space.
But the developer is moving forward with with plans to transform the Watertown Mall into a 24.5-acre lab campus, writes the Globe’s Catherine Carlock.

Alexandria filed a master plan for a multibuilding project along Arsenal Street last month. 

The 1 million SF project includes four new life-science laboratory and office buildings, two amenity buildings and a building with a mix of office and retail plus two parking garages.

´╗┐The Target store would remain at its current location and the Registry of Motor Vehicles would move to a new location on the property.

Meanwhile at the Muzi site in Needham

The fact that it took nearly two years to rezone the site of the former Muzi Motors in Needham didn’t help.

Neither did the months-long, drawn-out approval process before Needham’s Planning Board.

But Bulfinch Companies President Robert Schlager is making it clear that he’s patiently waiting for the economy and the right tenant, or tenants, to show interest in his 10 acre project at right off I-95 at Highland Ave.
In fact, in an interview with the new hyper-local news site the Needham Observer, Schlager sounded rather Zen-like.

“We’re probably going to announce a leasing broker in the next 90 days or so, but that’s about it,” Schlager told the Observer’s Peter O’Neil.

“The honest answer is we don’t have any prospective tenants, When we began permitting the project it was a different environment than what exists today."

“We’ll sit back and wait to see how the market reacts to what’s happening with all the vacant space, the increase in interest rates and what appears to, unfortunately, be some defections from companies.”
Bulfinch purchased the former Muzi properties for $57.5 million in December 2021.

Read the rest here. And subscribe to the Observer’s free newsletter here.

Grab bag
  • The Needham Observer also has the details about the civil rights claim settlement between the town and Marvin Henry. In 2020 Needham Police handcuffed and detained Henry, a Black male, for approximately a half-hour after he was misidentified as a suspect in a shoplifting incident at the Needham Heights CVS on Highland Ave.

  • Newton Cultural Alliance hosts the annual Strawberry Festival June 17 at The Allen Center in West Newton.

  • Are you planning a grand opening or celebrating a major renovation or new location? Learn about the chamber’s ribbon cutting program and how each event helps a chamber member nonprofit. We’ll even bring the scissors

  • Although Friday's Spring Business Breakfast is sold out, we heard from a few folks late Friday who may need to cancel. Join the waitlist.

Have a say in the future of Washington Street 

The City of Newton is planning improvements to Washington Street (between Chestnut Street in West Newton and Lowell Avenue in Newtonville) and needs input. Please participate in one these online surveys:

They have more money than Uncle Sam

While we wait with fingers crossed that Congress will do the right thing an increase the debt ceiling following a weekend deal, the U.S. Treasury's cash balance is shrinking.

As a result a growing number of billionaires are currently worth more than the U.S. government, the Hill reports.  

BBJ warns plastic bans may hurt local businesses

Finally this morning, a Boston Business Journal editorial is calling on Newton and other municipalities to proceed cautiously before imposing bans on plastic products such as black plastic take-out containers.

“The motivation behind such bans is understandable — removing such items from our landfills is better for the environment,” they write. “But more often they are heavy-handed — hurting local businesses unnecessarily — when other means exist that could achieve the same goals.”

The problem, notes Steve Clark, head of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, is that “blanket bans inevitably cause supply-chain issues because not every item subject to a ban has a suitable alternative.

"We implore municipalities to work collaboratively with operators in their communities to readily identify the availability of cost-effective alternatives, rather than just issuing bans.”

That’s what you need to know today, unless you need to know that the only scene I remember from watching the film version Romeo & Juliet as a kid, is protected under the First Amendment. 
Be back Friday!

Greg Reibman (he, him)

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