Student work in the course will principally address the section of Needham Street that stretches from its intersection with Winchester and Dedham Streets on the north, to the Charles River at the Newton/Needham line on the southerly end. The 2007 Comprehensive Plan (PDF - 6.3MB) acknowledges this section of the roadway as a transitional area. Once an active manufacturing and industrial section of the city, many of the original businesses along the corridor have moved out and been replaced with retail uses and numerous restaurants. The street features multiple curb cuts, a tangle of overhead wires, no bike lanes, incomplete sidewalks, and poorly managed circulation. Because of the poor conditions and lack of amenities, including those for pedestrians, it is primarily accessible by car and is appropriately categorized as a "commercial strip." Traffic is nearing capacity on this street, and it is especially congested at peak times.
Thoughtful consideration is needed to maintain the character of the residential neighborhoods that abut the commercial district while enhancing their ability to benefit from the amenities offered in the commercial area. There are three major questions that Newton would like answered in this project:
Within these major categories, some specific things will be critical to evaluate, including:
- Will the identity of Needham Street as a "commercial strip" change by applying new streetscape strategies, use regulations, and form-based planning rules to selected catalyst properties?
- Can traffic-calming interventions in selected locations serve to reinforce a new identity?
- Can the street support the traffic generated by proposed zoning and interventions?
Working under the direction of their instructors, and connecting with city officials, neighborhood residents, and business leaders, students will prepare a land use and enhancement plan of the target area. The Envisioning Needham Street Plan should address the question of redevelopment along the Corridor and the surrounding neighborhood by completing the following tasks:
In addition to officials from the Department of Planning and Development, members of the community, the Mayor, Board of Aldermen, Planning Board, and other interested parties will be invited to attend each meeting.
Students will meet with representatives of the city at the beginning of the semester including contact liaisons from Department of Planning and Development. Students will have the opportunity to coordinate interviews with members of these groups as well as area business owners, local residents, and other interested parties.