We Can Do Better: Examples Close To Home

Major developments like Northland are bound to involve conflicts of interest. The question is how they get resolved. It is entirely possible to create projects that will satisfy all parties – with of course some give on every side.  Here are two other projects happening nearby and currently that show what can be done.

  • Riverside: A very large project has been approved at the Riverside site along Route 128 on Newton’s west side. After intensive and thorough discussions, the developer and residents developed a plan acceptable to all. That plan was approved by the city council unanimously. There will be 611 Apartments instead of the 800 originally proposed. Commercial and retail space has been cut back in order to reduce traffic congestion. The Riverside project demonstrates that compromise is possible, agreement is possible, unanimous approval is possible. All this happened just months before the council voted on Northland. For Northland, by contrast, approval was far from unanimous. Seven councilors voted against the plan.
  • The Wellesley Office Park: This project was approved in 2019. It’s located just a mile or so away from the Northland site. The site is a bit bigger than the Northland (26 vs. 22.7 acres), but it will have fewer residential units (600 vs. 800), hence a much lower density. What’s remarkable is that although Wellesley will have fewer total units, it will have more units that are affordable (150 vs 140).
  Wellesley Office Park Northland Site
Acreage 26 acres 22.7 acres
Phased Development Yes – two phases No
Residential Units 600 units maximum at buildout.

·       Appx. 350 in Phase 1 and 250 in Phase 2

800 Units
Affordable Units At least 150 140
Building heights 85 feet maximum 96 feet maximum
Density (final) 23 Units per acre 35 Units per acre
Retail Space Up to 19,500 square feet 115,000 square feet
Commercial/office space Up to 700,000 square feet 193,200 square feet


Of course, every project has its own objectives and constraints. We don’t expect Northland to be exactly like Riverside or Wellesley; but surely it can be better in significant ways and at the same time get more unanimous approval from its neighbors and the city.