Post by Jerry Reilly

I moved to Upper Falls nearly eleven years ago and immediately fell in love with the neighborhood. I love all the oddball buildings and houses from the 1800’s, I love my quirky neighbors, and I love being just a block away from Echo Bridge and the beautiful Hemlock Gorge.

There were only two things that I didn’t like about our new home.

* The village center is small and doesn’t have much, so I’m in my car more than I like for local errands.

* There were a couple of real eyesores in the middle of the village – the old overgrown trash filled abandoned railroad track right through the center, and just behind it, a vast expanse of derelict buildings and broken pavement.

Thankfully four years ago the old tracks were turned into the Upper Falls Greenway which is now one of the best features of the village.  The wasteland behind it remains. In the intervening years one of the abandoned building’s roof caved in. It and some other buildings were knocked down.

Two years ago when I first heard about the Northland project I thought it held it held out the promise of addressing both these neighborhood problems and be a real shot in the arm for the neighborhood.

Like many of my neighbors I was definitely apprehensive about the scale of the proposed project.  It is big, very big.  With any project that big there will inevitably be local impacts – some good, some bad.  There has rightfully been a tremendous amount of discussion about the potential downsides, the big ones being traffic and school impact.  (For me personally I worry about making that Feast of the Falls table 100 feet longer, but we’ll deal with it 😉 ).  There has been remarkably little discussion that I’ve heard in Upper Falls about the potential positive impacts for the neighborhood.

As my high school daughter said when she first heard about it “are they really going to make our neighborhood a destination just when I leave for college.”.

I look forward to a lot of things about this project.

  • I definitely look forward to having new retail district with a mix of stores within walking distance of my house.
  • I definitely like the idea of new housing there and think it will be a big boost for today’s village businesses
  • I think it’s great that they’re designing the whole thing in a very pedestrian friendly way and tying it into the Upper Falls Greenway.
  • I love that the view from the Greenway will no longer be the photo above
  • It’s great there will be some new neighborhood amenities.  Who doesn’t like a splash park, 10 acres of open space with pocket parks throughout, and a free shuttle to the T every 10 mins?
  • The beautiful and historic Pette-Mill will be preserved, restored and become a featured part of the whole.

If it was up to me, would it be this big? No.  I think a good chunk of new housing there is definitely a good thing.  800 units?  That does seem a bit overwhelming.

Do I think traffic will be an issue. Yes.  It already is and I can’t imagine this will make it any better.

All in all, do I think this will be an improvement to the neighborhood?  Absolutely, without a doubt, yes.

I will vote yes and I urge all voters, particularly my neighbors in Upper Falls to vote Yes.

A Yes vote is a vote to revitalize a woeful massive piece of Upper Falls wasteland.  A No vote is a vote to blow the whole thing up and go back to square one – the photo above.

If you Vote No, something will eventually be built there.  It may take a few more years of looking at that wasteland before it does.  I have no reason to believe that whatever would be built in its place is likely to be better for the neighborhood of Upper Falls.  Having just wasted a few years and millions of dollars on a failed project, the most likely course of action for the developer is to build either 40B housing or build commercial by-right. In either case, we’ll have nearly no input and the impacts on the neighborhood is likely to be substantially worse.   I’m not a gambling man.  Even if I were, that’s a gamble I wouldn’t take.

Read More