by Grace Dempsey & Kiril Zhandov, News Editor & News Reporter
A nearly 15-acre parcel of land across from Newton South between Dudley and Brandeis Roads was recently offered to the City of Newton for purchase. Before putting the property on the open market, the sellers gave the city an exclusive window of time to consider making an offer. If the city acquired the land, they would be able to have some control over how the land is used.
On Nov. 3, 2022, the city reached out to developers to solicit interest from companies who would be interested in developing the land. In late January, a committee of city officials named three finalists from the nine initial plans and one as their leading choice.
The plan would build small-scale housing, both single-family houses and duplexes, in partnership with developing companies Civico and NOW Communities.
The plan for the new housing development would also include a community building or activity area and emphasizes an environmentally-conscious design for minimal disturbance to the land. 20% of the units will be designated as affordable housing.
The three parcels that make up the Dudley Road Estate include Lot 1, a roughly one-acre plot with a house at 85 Dudley Road; Lot 2, a 13-acre parcel of open space between Dudley and Brandeis Roads; and Lot 3, which has a house at 132 Brandeis Road.
The 15-acre expanse covers the wooded land across Brandeis Road from South, where Wellness classes occasionally frequent and students can gain access by foot to Route 9.
City Council Vice President and Land Use Committee Chair Rick Lipof was a member of the review team that studied the plans and informed the mayor on the various options.
He said that his knowledge of the area as a City Councilor for the ward containing the parcel of land and of the housing market as a real-estate expert helped him to look at a wide range of criteria when examining development companies.
Along with a team of city officials, Lipof said that he interviewed interested developers between Dec. 16 and Dec. 22, 2022.
“We spent hours reviewing them, ordering them, rating them for many aspects including, ‘Do they answer our questions? Have [they] done these types of developments before? What kind of diversity, equity and inclusion do [they] have in [their] company and the companies that [they’ll] work with to do this development?’” he said.
After rounds of review, the three finalist proposals included The Abbey Group’s plan for a 55+ adult housing community, Penrose LLC’s plan for constructing rental townhouses, and Civico and NOW Communities’ plan for small-scale housing.
In a Jan. 25 memo, the committee submitted their recommendations to the mayor. The board was unable to consider public opinion during the two-month long process to select a developer, but Lipof said there will be opportunities for the public to be involved in the coming months.
“If we are able to put the property under agreement, which means we’re going to buy it, that is the moment when we will go to the neighborhood, to the public, and have public hearings,” he said. “The public will be involved in the decision of what gets built there.”
Still, Lipoff said that as the review team evaluated the options, they prioritized transparency with the public by posting details of all of the proposed plans on the city’s website.
While the city attempts to increase collaboration, members of the South community have differing opinions about what should be done with the land, especially considering its close proximity to the school.
Librarian Jennifer Dimmick said she supports the need for affordable housing in the area, but recognizes that there may be consequences that affect the surrounding community.
“It would be nice if [the Dudley Estate] could be a mix of housing and include some affordable housing, but also some open space,” she said. “I think their traffic will increase substantially, depending on how much housing you put in there.”
Sophomore Ella Hurwitz said that while affordable housing in Newton is necessary, considering its overall impact is also important.
“I think [affordable housing is] something we really need in Newton, especially with all of the new high-end things that are being built.” she said. “It’ll definitely change traffic and the distribution of people in schools and things like that and the allocation of funding.”
Predicting an increase in traffic, sophomore Sarina Chand said the benefits of new housing would come with drawbacks and that South students would benefit from the land being turned into a public park or recreational space instead.
“Because there’s already so much of a traffic jam, they shouldn’t really add more houses to the area,” she said. “Personally, I think that they should keep some sort of pathways that South students can get through and make it something recreational, like a park, or leave it as a green space.”
Freshman Shinwon Chang said that she hopes the land will be developed to become more useful to South students.
“Since it’s so close to South, if Newton does purchase it, I would love to see it be somewhat tied to our school, and since a lot of students go through there to get home, for a proper [walking] path to be created,” she said.
As proposals continue to be a matter of debate, Lipof said the community’s needs have always been a priority in making the choice for the Dudley Estate.
“We can get land for the school. We can control what’s built there, and we want some open space. We want some walking trails, and we want the development to be controlled by us in the neighborhood,” he said. “We choose the best that can be there. That’s what the city gets.”