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Advisory Group Recommends Housing, Commercial Space for Austin Street Lot

The Austin Street Joint Advisory Planning Group issued its final report last week.

Affordable housing, economic development and "enlivening" Newtonville are some of things the Austin Street Joint Advisory Planning Group hopes will come to the Austin Street lot in a future development.

After three months of working together, the group turned in its final report to the Board of Aldermen last week, outlining its thoughts on what type of development should go in at the 1.7-acre Austin Street parking lot.

The 14-person advisory group was formed by aldermen in March to recommend reuse options to the city for the lot,  in December 2010. The members of the committee included residents appointed by both aldermen and Mayor Setti Warren.

According to the group's report, the "significant" focus points for the potential project include:

  • Acting as a catalyst for enlivement of Newtonville village center
  • Adding significant short-term or long-term revenue to the city
  • Help the city meet its goal of affordable housing stock (as stated in 2007 comprehensive plan)
  • Provide enough parking for current demand as well as any new development

The advisory group outlined several major areas throughout the report, touching on zoning issues, site plans, open space, housing and infrastructure.

Here are some highlights from the group's report:

  • The area should be re-zoned to Business 4 (currently set at Business 5 and Business 1). Although the group is not sure this is the best zoning option, it is the one that allows development the advisory group is recommending. Some concerns over this zoning include the fact that it allows up to an eight-story and 96-foot building with a special permit.
  • The committee sees the site to be "predominately" housing, with some non-residential space that will "enliven" the street during the day and night. 
  • The plan should retain at least 85 parking spaces of the 159 currently in the lot.
  • There should be a minimum of 5,000 square feet of commercial space. The Planning Department agrees with this number.
  • Five percent of the developed area should be designated as open space.
  • Of the new housing put in, 25 percent should be considered "affordable," or restricted to those residents who have an income at or below 80 percent of the area median income. The group said it understands this could be a challenge. Currently, the city ordinance requires 15 percent of new housing be considered affordable.
  • The buildings should respect the scale of the surrounding businesses and neighborhood.
  • The city should conduct basic traffic surveys as well as water/sewer capacity surveys to assess any infrastructure needs.

Overall, the group concluded that the city should issue a request for proposal (RFP) for development of the lot. 

For more details on the advisory group's recommendations, flip through the final report in our .pdf section above.

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