Residents went to the Needham Planning Board meeting on September 7th to share their concerns over the scale of the proposed project at the former Muzi site.
reported by Yuxiao Yuan
On Wednesday, September 7th, residents gathered at Town Hall to once again voice their concerns about the proposed development at 557 Highland Avenue, where the former Muzi Ford dealership was located. Real estate firm Bulfinch has proposed building an innovation center for office laboratory and accessory retail uses. The center would consist of a three-story building, a five-story building, and a five-level garage. Predominantly frustrated residents and attendants explicitly expressed their opposition to the current proposed scale and density.
This is not the first time residents asked the proponent to scale down the project. Although residents gave positive comments on Bulfinch’s community outreach efforts, many felt their true concern was not being heard, and wearing pins that said “It’s Too Big”, they wanted to make sure this time their message was clear. Evelyn Road resident Joan Schockett said, “We’ve been coming these meetings for almost a year, or over a year. We have said time and time again, “It’s too big.” Added Doug Fox, “You started with a low-end FAR of point-70. I want you to start from that. You know, you put that line in place. That has to be something feasible that development can be. What is the town getting to justify that 80% bump in FAR and traffic and conjestion. And the fact is, I don’t see much. Talk to your consituents. Are they clamoring for more office space and lab space in town? They are not. Are they excited about the pickle-ball courts and the walking trails? They are not.”
The project includes almost 1400 parking spaces and the developer says there will be possibly 1200 employees working on the site every day. Despite Bulfinch’s traffic mitigation plan, which includes street widening and measures that could encourage the use of public transportation residents were not convinced by the solutions. Especially for the cut-through traffic on nearby streets.
“So this is what I see when my kids are riding their bikes in the street,” testified Natalie Ho. “I have to tell them to constantly watch out for cars coming through and potentially not looking out for them. If this project’s going to go up, the amount of cars that are going to go into my street because they’ve have nowhere to go or their backed-up that street concerns me immensely.”
“Every street in Needham will be affected by this development,” warned Steven Sussman.”If you work there and you live in Westwood, Medfield, Dover or Sherborn, you are coming through the center of town. You’re coming through the center of town. The public trans, the biking–it’s a pipe dream. It’s not gonna happen. No one is taking public trans there. If you worked in this building and you lived in Malden, you’re gonna take the T into Boston and then the T out to Needham? I don’t think so.”
The planning board voted to continue the hearing to October 3rd for the board and the proponent to discuss possible revisions.
Planning Board member Paul Alpert concluded.”I need time to digest what we heard tonight, and to review again the changes that have been made to the plans. And to consider them and to possibly discuss amongst ourselves, and possibly with the developer, as to how this project may be able to be tweaked a little more to address some of the neighbor’s concerns.”