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Retail Strip in Newton Likely to Undergo Major Upgrade

If a local developer has its way, a major retail strip located in Newton will be getting a major facelift before too long. Although plans have not been filed with the city yet, Northland Investment Corp. hopes to do so within the next month or two. The proposed plans would retain the retail feel of the area while adding hundreds of new apartments. As a result, what has long been strictly a retail corridor could very well become more of a mixed-use area. Boston City Properties will continue tracking this story, so check back often for new updates.

In the meantime, let's take a look at the proposed project. Currently, the developer expects to raze two large retail properties along the stretch as well as several industrial buildings that are located behind them. In their place, Northland wants to add more than 200,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space as well as 950 apartments. In many cases, apartments along this stretch will be located above ground-floor shops and restaurants. Although plans are very tentative, they call for rebuilding structures on both sides of Needham Street to accommodate the new development.

If the project works out, the new development is expected to be positively massive. The developer expects that it will exceed 1 million square feet in size and that it will sprawl over an area of about 27 acres. As a part of the project, a new "Main Street style road," as it is being described by the developers, will be added. The road will run perpendicular to Needham Street and will lead up toward Upper Falls Greenway. In this way, the project is expected to change the entire look and feel of this section of Newton.

Meanwhile, the mill complex that is located along this stretch will be spared. However, it is going to be extensively renovated in order to make it fit in better with the rest of the development. The complex currently houses business offices, and that is expected to remain the case. For years, nearly all of the complex's more than 175,000 square feet were occupied by Clarks Americas, the shoe company. However, the company vacated the complex for a new one in Waltham, so there is plenty of space for new tenants. Developers are hoping that the new development will spur renewed interest in the complex.

Setti Warren, the mayor of Newton, has already expressed his support for the project. One long-running goal of the mayor's is to transform this section of Newton into a type of innovation district, where tech companies and other cutting edge companies would set up shop and breathe new life into the area. The mayor is pleased by the proposed project because with all of those new apartments, there will be plenty of room for young professionals. Now that the mill complex has so much free space, it is hoped that tech companies and other startups will move in over the next few years.

As eager as the mayor appears to be to have this stretch of Needham Street revamped, city officials have already stated that no tax breaks or incentives will be offered for the project. This suggests that they believe that businesses will be willing to move here even without incentives. It is unclear now, as well, whether the apartments will be strictly market rate or if affordable units will be included as well. Either way, this is already being reported as the biggest construction project in Newton in generations, so it should be interesting.

Boston City Properties has not received any detailed information about the apartment homes that will be added to this stretch of Needham Street. Plans call for the addition of 950 apartments, but it is unclear whether they will be luxury apartments. Given the ongoing popularity of luxury condos and apartments, however, it wouldn't surprise us one bit if these are higher-end units. Then again, the luxury apartment trend is mostly concentrated in Back Bay and downtown, so these could turn out to be slightly more affordable and slightly less laden with amenities and other perks.

Plans call for the razing of Marshall's Plaza and TJ Maxx. However, TJ Maxx already has plans to relocate to anchor another nearby shopping center, so fans of the store won't have to go far to keep shopping there. No word has been given yet about what other retailers are signing on for the development. However, the developer has stated that it intends to add retail and restaurant space, so this section will probably once again feature numerous small shops, a few larger anchor stores and several restaurants, bars and cafes. The new streetscaping that will happen should make the area better and safer for pedestrians as well.

No official word has been released about when the developer will file plans with the city. However, people who are familiar with the project have said that it will also add numerous pocket parks to the area as well as a massive "central square" near the heart of the development. Ultimately, then, this will be a mixed-use neighborhood that has everything from residential housing to offices to retail stores to restaurants. Thanks to the addition of all of the green spaces, it should be a lovely place to explore when the weather is nice.

Although initial plans call for around 950 apartments, the developer has already stated that at least a few townhouses are likely to be included too. The townhouses would be adjacent to the Upper Falls Greenway. If the apartments end up being more standard, it could be that the townhouses will be luxury units. So far, the developer has not mentioned condos at all, so it appears unlikely that any will be available. We wouldn't be surprised, however, if condos start popping up in this part of Newton before too long. This project is sure to spur renewed interest in the stretch, so we are likely to see more new developments in the years to come.

Once Northland Investment Corp. is able to file the plans with the city, the project should get rolling pretty quickly. As mentioned before, the mayor of Newton is already on board with the project, so it shouldn't take too long for the plans to be approved. Because so much razing, building and renovating will be taking place, this project is likely to take at least a few years to complete. Even if the city approves the plans within the next month or so, then, construction is unlikely to start until much later this year or maybe not until 2018. With this in mind, this project probably won't be done until 2020 or 2021.

Although it will be a while before 950 new apartments are added to Needham Street in Newton--along with new retail establishments--it is never too early to start making plans. If you are interested in eventually renting a new apartment in Newton, you should keep your eye on this project. The easiest way to do that is by connecting with Boston City Properties. We will bring you updates regarding this project as they occur. Should the mixed-use development come to fruition, we can also help you find an apartment home there when the time comes.

Boston City Properties is here to help you secure a great apartment. If you would like to rent one in this new development once it becomes available, you can easily find what you need with our convenient, searchable database of Boston real estate listings. It includes listings for apartments that are available for rent around the city. Once units in this development become available for rent, listings for them will appear in our database. Our search tool lets you zero in on specific neighborhoods, towns and cities, and you can dictate your preferences for size, price and other attributes. Later still, we can connect you with a real estate expert in Newton who can take you to look at apartments in this development. Call Boston City Properties for more information.