Multimedia Project

4 05 2017

The Battle for Newton’s Future

Since early 2015, the Orr Building, a 100 year old fixture of Newvtonville Square at the intersection of Washington and Walnut streets, has been the latest battleground over the future of Newton. With the city population expected to reach over 90,000, Newton continues to see its population boom, with it having grown over 4% in the past five years alone.


This has spurred a surge in controversial development projects across the city. Yet, the proposed development for the Orr Building is the most divisive one yet. While proponents of the project argue its importance in providing housing for the increasing population, opponents paint it as a large monstrosity that would disrupt and change the character of Newtonville, one of the villages within Newton.

The three acre plot of land Washington Place would be built on. The Orr building is at the intersection of Washington and Walnut Street, at the bottom right corner.

  Rendered images of the Washington Place proposal. The proposal would be 4 and 5 stories in various sections and would include retail space as well as mixed income housing.

Mark Development, the company proposing the project, would replace the two story Orr Building with a 5 story development which would be named Washington Place. This development would sit on three acres of land, being built on a combination of the lots from the Orr Building and the connecting lots  Mark Development has acquired. It would contain 40,000 sq ft of retail space and 160 apartments, including 40 affordable units. These affordable units in particular are key in trying to gather support for the project, as Newton has not yet met its state requirement on affordable housing and faces potential state intervention into this matter. If Newton were to turn down any developments with affordable housing incorporated, Massachusetts General Law 40B allows the developer to petition the state for approval, where it would almost certainly be passed.

Essentially, the city government either has to reach a compromise acceptable to both developers and residents, or see their authority overridden by the state in favor of a unilaterally approved project. This has left the city with few options but negotiation, which has led to delay and numerous revisions over the past two years, including withdrawals and re-submissions of the proposal.

Yet, the city’s effort to compromise and work with developers has exposed a rift within Newton. As the public’s awareness of the project has increased, so has their outcry. Almost 300 letters of concern have been sent to the city council so far, with almost 100 in favor of Washington Place, and almost 200 opposed. These letters, along with all other submitted documents to the city, are public records and can be accessed here. However, despite the public’s overall disapproval of the matter, many aredoubtful the city government will listen to their concerns.

One such person is Bob Kavanaugh, a vocal opponent of the project. For Bob, the past proposals have hit very close to home, next door in fact, as Bob is living next to a development which was approved by Massachusetts General Law40B.

Bob’s house and the state approved development under construction next door.

So what do the members of the city government actually think? Marcia Johnson, a city Councillor from 2000 to 2016 and the former chair of the Zoning and Planning committee,

was the first person to see the plans for Washington Place in 2015 and a key figure in making initial changes to it. Like many Newton residents, both in favor and opposed to the developments, she sees a changing Newton. Yet, rather than fight this change, she would rather see the city work with it and try to direct it.

Yet, the most important voices in evaluating Washington Place must be those directly affected by it.

As on of the most prominent tenants in the Orr Building and in Newtonville Square, Newtonville Camera’s decision to support Washington Place has come as a surprise to many. From being one of the last people to find out, to being one of the project’s biggest proponents, Kenneth Roberts, Newtonville Camera’s VP, feels Washington Place will be good not just for business, but the community as a whole.

Newton’s battleground


For now, the project still remains in limbo, having been resubmitted to the city again in April for further review and an eventual vote. In the meantime, tensions continue to run high over this development and the future of the city.


Washington Place Video

27 04 2017

Washington Place Video


Video Proposals

28 03 2017
  1. There’s been some recent controversy in Newton about affordable housing developments. A new project, called Washington Place, is being proposed to be built on the corner of Washington & Walnut St in Newton, in an area referred to currently as Orr Block. Washington Place is meant to include mixed-income housing and retail space in the development. Support for the project has been mixed, with some feeling it will bring much needed housing, and other stating they believe it is an infringement on Newtonville, a village within Newton, and will rapidly change the neighborhood. At this time I see myself needing to further research the structure of Newton and the differences in jurisdiction between Newtonville and the city as a whole. I would also look to attend upcoming public events or hearings related to the project, as well as reaching out to both those involved in the proposal and the business owners and residents in the area, to gauge feelings and rationale behind the mixed perspectives. This is the main story I am pursuing.


2. Eversource recently asked the Department of Public Utilities to approve rate increases which would increase profits by about $300 million. AG Maura Healey intervened and asked the Department to reject the proposal. 1.4 million state residents us Eversource services and the estimated bill increases were expected to be at least $100. Healey believes consumers already struggle to keep up with costs of living and believes that Eversource makes profit margins unreasonably large for a public utility. Eversource claims their profits have largely gone towards improving the power grid and that rate hikes are required to keep improving. I have connections at a consumer advocacy group in Cambridge and may be able to get an interview with them, along with ones from consumers who use Eversource and a possible company representative. Essentially it would focus on the different perspectives and how such a drastic rate hike could affect everyone.

3. The last story proposal is more of a feature type story than hard news. A woman in Natick, Kristina Burkey had a car crash into her store front window on March 19, destroying it. However, many in the community have gathered together to support the woman despite her store being relatively new, at under a year old. About $7,500 has been raised in the 8 days since a gofundme page was created. I would look to focus on her story of what effort took into creating the store, how the crash happened, and what she’s doing going forward. I would also look to interview the community member who created the page for her along with other local business owners to see how they may be involved in the cleanup and what this means to them and their stores as well.

Story Proposal

22 02 2017

My main story I had in mind for my first project is a piece on one of the founders of the Brandeis chapter of Net Impact, a club which promotes the potential of business to be both profitable and a source for social and environmental good. Brandeis’ undergraduate chapter was originally envisioned by senior Heather Spector and with the help of her co-president, junior Jake Greenberg, they created the chapter during the 2015/2016 school year.

My main thoughts in this piece are potentially focusing on the background of what got Heather interested and involved in sustainable business practices, what sparked her actually decision to create an undergraduate chapter, and what problems and roadblocks she encountered in this process, along with highlighting her efforts to combat lack of awareness and involvement between the club’s core members and the business community at Brandeis.

  • Who instilled the lessons of responsible business practices in her growing up?
  • What made her decide that this is where she wants to focus her energy?
  • When was that crucial moment where she knew “This is what I want to be doing”
  • Where did she go to start embarking on such a project when there was no undergraduate precedent at Brandeis?
  • Why Net Impact? There are many similar organizations around the world, what made her connect her and her teams’ efforts to this one in particular?
  • How does she see herself and Net Impact moving forward? How will she handle the new struggles of growing something for others vs just creating something for yourself and like-minded individuals?

I hope to grasp a sense on how these values become so instilled in someone that they decide to spend so much of their free time involved in such efforts. I want a sense of the character of this young woman, the sorts of values, beliefs, and assumptions that drove her to where she is. How does the place, Brandeis, present some unique opportunities and challenges that may not always be readily apparent? Obviously I want the details of the background and process that brought her and Net Impact here. Emotion will be integral here, as this is a field where people often have to precariously balance their desires for improving the world with the sensibilities of turning over profits, trying to mend those seemingly divisive forces. This ties into the drama, where the internal struggle often becomes external, as the struggle of priorities one faces in entering this realm become struggles you encounter in others as you try to increase involvement.

Ultimately, I hope that these elements will come together to present a unique and insightful view into a member of the Brandeis community who is doing her part to change the way we operate and perceive business both in our communities and worldwide.

Introduction & Interests

14 02 2017

Hi, I’m Bryce Dreifus and this is my blog for EL 12B. One of my main interests in terms of journalism is stories that can help educate the public on matters that affect them. I think journalism can really have an impact on peoples’ lives and seeing that utilized is really something amazing. As such I tend to like feature stories such as those on personal finance education, healthy eating, and community involvement matters. I also have an interest in stories that expose some of the positive things that people don’t always see. Many people have an impression of news and journalism as often focusing on the negative, but I think there’s a lot of positive news that occasionally gets passed over in peoples’ minds.

A recent on-campus news story which I find interesting is when Susan Polgar, the first female Chess Grandmaster, came to visit Brandeis. The article discusses how  her main struggle  wasn’t that many wished her to not succeed because she was a woman, but rather how the idea of a female advancing so far in Chess was unheard of and how that shaped how she was treated and what others expected from her. Her discussion of both the struggles she faced as a female in a male-dominated field as well as how her father instilled a love of the game in her manages to be both informative and inspiring. This is a perfect example of the type of newsworthy but positive stories that I love.

An off-campus recent story which is intriguing is an article outlining the effects Trump’s discussed tariff on Mexican-made vehicles has had on the Detroit automakers and how it may further affect them. Pickup trucks have high margins which have have been recent profit drivers for American automakers, but if a high tariff is implemented, those margins may be eliminated for GM and Chrysler. However, Ford may benefit as their pickup trucks are all made in the USA. It’s interesting to see how a decision that may have cost Ford more in labor in the past may actually turn out to be an advantage due to changing political circumstances. It just goes to highlight the often unpredictable nature of politics and how it can affect businesses in ways they hadn’t previously predicted.

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