The Making of a Smart Growth Community in Newburyport: A Timeline for One Boston Way
The journey to build One Boston Way, a Smart Growth development off Parker Street in Newburyport, began more than three years ago. Throughout the approval process that concluded when the Planning Board in May voted unanimously in favor of the project, MINCO Corp., a commercial real estate company based in Andover, Mass., has worked diligently with city officials to refine the plans.
The effort to reach consensus did not only include public hearings, but also direct community outreach as MINCO in the spring of 2015 published – and shared on Facebook – a series of informative blog posts on the details of One Boston Way and Smart Growth.
This timeline displays the key events that preceded the Planning Board’s decision:
April 2013: MINCO Corp. submits its bid to the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) to purchase 11 vacant acres by the MBTA commuter rail station near the Route 1 traffic circle. The bid is submitted with the expectation that the City will follow through on its plan to establish a so-called Smart Growth District in the area.
July 2013: MINCO is designated as successful bidder by the MBTA. As MINCO prepares to finalize the purchase and sale agreement, the company releases tentative plans for a residential complex that includes affordable units. In a Daily News article, Minicucci notes, “We look forward to having conversations with [the city’s] experts, and moving forward with the planning and engineering details.”
November 2013: The purchase and sale agreement is signed between MINCO and the MBTA. Purchase price: $1.43 million. Each unit permitted over 60 adds another $23,000 to the base payment.
2014: In preparation for the launch of a Smart Growth District initiative, officials from MINCO have ongoing discussions with the mayor, planning director, and other city representatives to refine the plans for One Boston Way, the official name for the Smart Growth development that the company is proposing to build in an underutilized parking lot off Parker Street.
May, 2014: At a meeting with MINCO officials, city representatives make several significant requests including raising the first-floor ceiling height and creating a mixed-use element while also increasing the number of affordable units from 20 percent to 25 percent. In order to make these requests viable, City officials suggest the possibility of adding a fifth story.
June 16, 2014: MINCO officials present for the first time a revised plan with five floors at a meeting with Mayor Donna Holaday and Planning Director Andy Port.
Dec. 2014: City officials launch an initiative to create a Smart Growth District around the Route 1 traffic circle and MBTA commuter rail station in accordance with objectives listed in the 2001 and 2014 Master Plan as well as the Newburyport Housing Needs Assessment of 2013. The state-sanctioned overlay district – Chapter 40R of the Massachusetts General Laws – is designed to create walkable, vibrant, and mixed-use neighborhoods in close proximity to transit centers.
Feb. 3, 2015: One Boston Way appears alongside Smart Growth District Plan Approval on the Planning Board agenda under “new business.”
March 4, 2015: A Joint Public Hearing and Informational Meeting with the Planning Board, the Planning and Development Committee of the City Council, and the city’s planning office takes place in the City Hall auditorium to discuss the Smart Growth ordinance and associated zoning amendments. The meeting includes several presentations by state and city officials on the benefits of Smart Growth and an overview of the proposed Smart Growth District. A conceptual rendering of One Boston Way is displayed.
April 2015: MINCO introduces a series of informative blog posts on One Boston Way and the benefits of Smart Growth. During the course of several weeks, the posts, which appear on social media and the company’s website, feature details on the scope of the project, architectural renderings, an interview with the architects, answers to commonly asked questions, and a look at the experience of other communities that have leveraged Chapter 40R. Readers learn, for example, MINCO’s proposed Smart Growth development will include approximately 80 apartments and 3,500 square feet of shared office space and live-work units as well as the preservation of 9 acres of open space.
April 22, 2015: On behalf of the Newburyport Chamber of Commerce & Industry Board of Directors, Kim Gobbi, then chair, sends a letter of support for the 40R Smart Growth District to Mayor Donna Holaday and the City Council. The letter states MINCO’s project will be part of providing additional tax revenue and much needed revitalization of the gateway to the city.
April 23, 2015: The Daily News publishes an opinion piece by Minicucci in which he details the One Boston Way proposal and spells out how Newburyport stands to gain from the creation of a Smart Growth Zoning Overlay District.
May 6, 2015: Members of the Planning and Development Committee of the City Council meet with the Planning Board and officials from the city’s planning office for a joint public hearing to discuss the proposed Smart Growth District.
June 17, 2015: The joint public hearing continues. The Daily News notes: “The 40R Smart Growth zone is being studied in part because MINCO Corp. has proposed building 80 apartment units adjacent to the MBTA station.”
August 5, 2015: The Planning Board votes to recommend the approval of the 40R Smart Growth ordinance to the City Council. The vote is taken following a joint public hearing.
September 15, 2015: The City Council approves the creation of a Smart Growth Zoning Overlay District. The approval means the city qualifies for zoning incentive payments of up to $600,000 in addition to a density bonus of $3,000 per unit constructed in the district. The payments come with no strings attached, enabling the municipality to allocate the money as it sees fit. A Daily News report from the council meeting observes the positive vote will likely pave the way for One Boston Way to start construction.
December 2015: MINCO submits an application to the Planning Board for the One Boston Way project. The application includes plans for a single multi-family, five-story, wood-framed building on the corner of Parker Street and Boston Way, featuring a total of 84 units. Twenty-five percent, or 21 units, will be designated affordable while four of the first-floor units will be so-called live-work with exterior access. The first floor also includes 2,500 square feet of common areas, comprised of shared office space and residential amenities.
January, 2016: The state formally approves the establishment of the Smart Growth District.
February, 2016: Public hearings on One Boston Way begin. An additional five hearings take place between March and May.
April 2016: Lou Minicucci sends a letter to Planning Board Chairman Jim McCarthy, providing additional information to affirm the project is right for the site. The last part of the letter is devoted to the numerous adjustments that were made to the plans in collaboration with the city’s planning office and the Planning Board, including five design iterations to define and refine the final appearance of the building.
May 18, 2016: The Planning Board votes 5-0 to approve One Boston Way. The decision reads, “This project’s architecture, landscaping, lighting, and pedestrian-oriented spaces have been designed to create a livable and vibrant new center in Newburyport. The Project, once complete, will greatly enhance the character of this underutilized area.”