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Residents Voice Opinions, Ideas for Needham Street Development

Newton residents gathered to share their ideas for a new Needham St. passageway on Thursday night.

Roughly 50 Newton residents gathered at 's War Memorial to participate in an open forum and share their vision for the Needham passageway on Thursday night.

Following a brief presentation by Planning and Development Director Candace Havens, the crowd was divided up into small groups to reflect on ways that the passageway could be better. The small groups were asked to list the things they liked about the current passageway and the aspects that might be improved by the major proposed renovations.

The community input meeting on Thursday evening was the latest step in a thorough planning process by the city of Newton. As part of a semester-long project, a group of first- and second-year MIT graduate students in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning for the passageway between Rte. 9 and Rte. 128.

Following the small group meetings, one representative from each group presented to the entire audience their respective visions for the new passageway. Common themes to emerge in the presentations concerned the area becoming less commercial and more aesthetically inviting.

Though the meeting looked to focus on identifying problem areas, many couldn’t resist offering up potential improvements, such as adding an enlarged sidewalk or possibly a bike or jogging path, as well as improving the landscaping bordering the street with new trees or shrubs.

Newton resident Myra Hugg felt that one of the major additions needed was to improve the look of the passageway, calling it “one ugly street.”

“There’s no vegetation, no tree lines, inadequate sidewalks, and the whole thing is just really poorly maintained,” said Hugg.

Another common theme among the groups was making the street more of a desirable destination, for all sorts of activities and to make it integrated better with the rest of Newton. Newton resident Don Nevwirth felt it was important to make the street a place people wanted to spend time, not merely pass through for a quick shopping trip or on their way somewhere else. 

 “This area has tremendous potential for a really people-friendly place where you go to eat, hang out, and spend some quality time,” said Nevwirth.

The last major theme concerned the functionality of the actual street and the intersections. According to many residents, the street requires improvement in terms of access to many of the businesses that line the street. The current three-lane traffic strip could be improved with better markings indicating the appropriate turns into desired businesses, as this is often unclear. 

At the conclusion of the meeting, Havens presented a preliminary timeline for the rest of the project. On June 1, members of the public are invited to give a five- to seven-minute presentation with their vision for the project, followed by a 10-minute question and answer period. In the summer of 2011, a draft master plan will be completed and finalized sometime in the fall.

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