Northland unveils new vision for N-Squared Innovation District

northland rendering

In the parking lot outside of the Newton-Needham Regional Chamber Offices on Needham Street, Northland Development Corporation recently unveiled a vision that will transform 27 acres of outdated buildings and windswept asphalt into a thriving village that has the power to remake the NInnovation District.

The preliminary concept calls for 950 market rate and affordable apartments located above 100,000 square feet of village style retail snaking along a mix of human-scale streets. The historic mill complex located on the property along Oak Street will remain and comprise the bulk of the nearly 175,000 square feet of commercial offices.

“Northland’s vision promises to add a critical missing piece needed to fulfill our efforts to establish an inner suburban innovation district along the I-95 and the Charles River,” said Newton-Needham Regional Chamber President Greg Reibman. “It provides the desperately-needed homes and amenities for the entrepreneurs and employees of the many innovation economy businesses that are looking to grow here.”

Northland’s vision takes full advantage of the Upper Falls Greenway bike and pedestrian thoroughfare, offering connections to MBTA Green Line and the now under-development Newton Nexus project, including a grocery store. It also comes at a time when more than $150 million has been committed to investing in the region’s infrastructure, including the Add-A-Lane project along I-95 and a complete renovation of Needham Street-Highland Ave, that includes bike lanes,better sidewalks and street crossings.

“We are very excited about what Northland’s concept brings to Needham Street and the Upper Falls community,” said Newton Mayor Setti Warren. “The combination of residential, retail, and open space has the potential to enhance the area by creating a space inclusive of what people love most about Newton’s villages: a community concept, green space, and access to amenities.

“The concept also fits within our vision for the NInnovation District and our recently released housing strategy and could meet the needs of residents in the decades to come by providing diverse housing, access to the innovation economy, shops, and recreational space,” Warren said.

Chuck Tanowitz, acting director of the NInnovation District, said he hoped Northland would also include “a collaborative work space and gathering place that is central to innovation district.”

“Innovation depends on bringing people together and giving them places to gather, both formally and informally. That’s exactly the kind of interaction that Northland has incorporated into this concept,” said Tanowitz. “The outdoor spaces proposed by Northland get at this beautifully. We need those collision spaces to create opportunities for people to meet both formally and informally.”

Reibman praised Northland for committing to keeping the historic piano mill brick and beam building formerly occupied by Clarks Shoes along Oak Street as office space. “That funky building is going to provide distinct offices for the innovative companies that are starting to locate here.”

“We are very excited to begin the public process, working with the City of Newton and the community, in creating a transformative, dynamic mixed use neighborhood with walkable streets and new green spaces,” said Peter Standish, senior vice president of Northland. “Our concept will serve as a fitting gateway to the City and the Needham Street corridor, while respecting the rich heritage and character of the Upper Falls area.”

Warren and Standish committed to an open public process as the project — which must also gain permitting approval from the Newton City Council — is refined.

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