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About Us/Riverside Timeline

Who We Are

Since 2018, the LFIA Riverside Committee has been working on behalf of neighbors to advocate for an appropriately sized project at Riverside that minimizes traffic and other negative impacts, provides access to affordable housing, preserves and creates open space, welcomes people of all ages and backgrounds, and benefits Lower Falls, Auburndale, and the City of Newton. We are continuing the work of many dedicated community members during the previous development approval phase (from 2006 through 2013). 

Our Original Goals 

  • Educate the Lower Falls and the greater Newton community about current and future plans for Riverside.
  • Investigate the impact—social, political, economic, legal, transportation, environmental, educational—of development at Riverside.
  • Advocate for the interests and needs of the Lower Falls community.
  • Coordinate our activities with other neighborhoods such as Auburndale and other entities committed to smart growth strategies in Newton.

LFIA Riverside Committee Members: Randall Block, Ted Chapman, Debbie DeBotton, Nancy Finn, Barbara Gruenthal, Cyrisse Jaffee, Erin Kandamar, John McElduff, Liz Mirabile, Debra Ruder, and Kit and Charles Stover. We are grateful to Phil Wallas, Norm Sieman, Bob Schreiber, and other neighbors for lending their expertise on Riverside matters.

Riverside Project Timeline

    The LFIA Riverside Committee continues the work of many dedicated Newton Lower Falls and Auburndale residents who began meeting in 2006, when the Riverside MBTA station site–which had opened in 1959–came under consideration for development.

    2006: Community meetings about the future of the Riverside Station began.

    2009: The MBTA authorized an 88-year lease for the Riverside property with developer B.H. Normandy LLC, who filed a plan for a mixed-use development on the site.

    2010 to 2013: The Lower Falls Improvement Association (LFIA) and other neighborhood groups organized to provide input and express community concerns.

    2013: The City of Newton granted a special permit to build a development consisting of:

    •  290 apartments (15% affordable), with 438 parking spaces
    • 225,000 feet of office space with 571 parking spaces
    • 20,000 feet of retail space
    • 11,000 feet of community space
    • 1,000-car MBTA parking garage

    The project eventually stalled, partly over a stalemate between B.H. Normandy and the MBTA about paying for the garage construction. 

    2018: Mark Development (MD) partnered with B.H. Normandy on a new, 1.5 million square feet proposal—more than double the size of the previously approved plan.

    June 2018: Lower Falls neighbors revitalized the LFIA Riverside Committee to assess the implications of the new proposal and advocate for the best interests of the neighborhood.

    December 2018 to March 2019: At the urging of the LFIA Riverside Committee, the City of Newton conducted a “visioning” process to gather feedback from residents. Visit the Visioning page for more info. 

      2018 to 2021: Our Committee mobilized as active participants and advocates, including: attending and speaking up at City Council Land Use, Zoning and Planning, and full Council meetings; organizing and sharing information at community sessions; conducting a neighborhood opinion survey; maintaining a website; raising awareness through letters-to-the-editor, signage, emails, and social media; and participating in numerous meetings with city officials and the development team. 

      June 2019: To counter MD’s zoning proposal, we submitted an alternative zoning amendment for a smaller development of 650,000 square feet and 441 residential units, with more open space and sufficient commercial/retail space to offset city costs and support future Riverside residents. 

      (For more details, you may download the slides and narrative we presented in June 2019  to the Zoning and Planning Committee, as well as the text of the zoning petition and the memorandum filed in support of the petition.)

      October 2020: Although our zoning proposal was not approved, we continued to advocate and negotiate with MD. Eventually, the City Council approved MD’s special permit for a 1.025 million square-foot Riverside project. It included housing, offices, a hotel, retail spaces, public transportation areas, and green spaces. 

      During the lengthy process leading up to this approval, the LFIA Riverside Committee helped to:

      • Shrink the overall size from 1.5 million square feet to 1.025 million square feet, which we believe will lessen traffic and the burden on public services such as schools, roads, sewer, police, and fire. 
      • Decrease building heights to lessen their visual and environmental impacts, including: the hotel (from 18 stories to 6 stories), the office building (from 14 stories to 11 stories), and building heights on Grove Street.
      •  Increase the percentage of housing to 60%—including 103 affordable housing units.
      • Mitigate the impact of the development with measures that provide safe pathways for cyclists and pedestrians; enhance access to nature; and improve the experience of residents, office workers, visitors, and commuters. 

      January 2021: MD proposed several changes to the approved plan, including replacing the planned hotel and office space with lab/life sciences buildings. We provided feedback on these significant revisions.

      March 2021: After MD filed amendments, we attended and spoke up at the city’s new round of public hearings on building heights and design, traffic, noise, lighting, lab safety, and so on. 

      August 2021: The city’s Land Use Committee approved the proposed changes to the Riverside zoning and special permit. Read the Committee's report here.

      September 2021: The City Council approved MD’s revisions to the Riverside special permit. See details on the Facts and Plans page.

      January 2022: The newly-established Riverside Neighborhood Liaison Committee, formed by the City Council to address questions and concerns during construction and opening of the Riverside project, began meeting. 

      Construction schedule: MD expects to demolish the Hotel Indigo in Spring 2022 and begin work on the parking garage, highway ramp, and roundabout (on Grove Street near Asheville Road) in early 2023. 

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      RightSize Riverside  - LFIA
      91 Cornell St.                           

      Newton Lower Falls, MA 02462 

      The Newton Lower Falls Improvement Association is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

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