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Riverside Visioning Process

CivicMoxie presented its final Riverside Vision Plan to the public on April 30, 2019 at Williams Elementary School.  View the final visioning documents.


At the urging of the Lower Falls Improvement Association, the City of Newton launched a “visioning” process in December 2018 to find out what residents and other neighborhood groups would like to see at the Riverside site—currently an MBTA train station, bus depot, and parking lot—that has long been eyed for development.

Our aim was to produce “design principles” for any potential development at Riverside, not to respond to any specific proposal.

The LFIA’s Riverside Committee articulated a list of topics that should be addressed during the process and voiced two concerns: that the two-month period allotted was too short, and that having the developer pay for the visioning process could undermine its credibility.

The Newton Planning and Development Department hired the planning consulting firm CivicMoxie to manage the process. Close to 300 residents attended the first open house, on February 10, 2019, and a smaller but equally passionate crowd attended the March 28 meeting, where draft principles were described. 

We were dismayed to discover that Mark Development had filed for a special permit to build a massive mixed-use complex at Riverside even before the visioning process had concluded (and that was nearly unchanged from the plan presented in September 2018), suggesting their lack of commitment to heeding neighborhood input.

Despite our best efforts and active participation, as well as important feedback from residents throughout Newton, the LFIA Riverside Committee was ultimately disappointed in the outcome of the visioning process and felt it did not reflect the many concerns of Lower Falls and Auburndale, the two neighborhoods that will be most affected by the Riverside development.

For more information on visioning:

  • Visit the City’s website on the visioning process. 
  • Check out the draft principles from the March 28 community meeting.
  •  View   the "takeaways" from the February 10 community meeting.
  • Get summaries, slides, and other Riverside visioning materials on the Civic Moxie site.

The LFIA requested that the city conduct a visioning process for the Riverside site. The city agreed to a process to be  completed by March 2019. The development of Riverside is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and it should be done right. A number of higher-level questions need to be answered before any project is designed:
      • What size development would leave Riverside with the capacity to accommodate new MBTA services including the Indigo line or expanded bus service?
      • What level of increased traffic is Grove Street capable of accommodating without creating gridlock in Lower Falls , Auburndale, and important intersections in the neighborhood?
      • What are the real needs for housing in Newton? 
      • What resources could harnessed to increase the percentage of affordable housing units beyond the required 12%?
      • What the role can commercial housing models like ‘turnkey' apartments, urban dorms, etc. play in a housing mix.
      • What city resources would be required to meet the needs of the new residents of the development and the adjacent neighborhoods of Lower Falls and Auburndale?
      • What would a truly walkable "20-minute neighborhood" with access to housing, schools, recreation, and essential services – look like?
      • How can access to open space and recreation be assured?
      • How would this new neighborhood be integrated into the social and political fabric of Lower Falls and Auburndale?
      • How would Ward 4 representation be changed by this development?
      • Given these issues what would the optimal design of the site be?

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Newton Lower Falls, MA 02462 

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