The City of Newton, Massachusetts is going through an extensive process to rewrite its Zoning Ordinance, which is a major undertaking since nearly three-quarters of the City was built before the establishment of the 1953 regulation. 85%-95% of the parcels in the city have a non-conforming aspect.
In a two-part forum for architects and designers held by the Newton Planning and Development Department and facilitated by Form + Place, participants explored the ramifications of proposed site and building design dimensional criteria in residential and village districts. On specific sites in Newton Centre, for example, the group asked questions such as whether one-story retail blocks are adequate to define a village center with significant open space, and how does one find the right balance between the pedestrian and the automobile in a location where there is multi-modal transit access.
One of the challenges for any city attempting a comprehensive rewrite of its zoning is to convince its constituency that the new ordinance will ensure future development will enhance property values and be compatible with the existing context.Newton has a unique opportunity at the moment to integrate some highly aspirational projects, and having an effective framework in place to allow for their visioning and execution is essential.
The Arsenal Project - Watertown, MA
Boylston Properties & The Wilder Companies
Zoning: Regional Mixed-use District [RMUD]
Working closely with Boylston Properties and The Wilder Companies, Form + Place led the effort to craft a new Regional Mixed-Use District [RMUD] for the eastern end of the Arsenal Street Corridor in Watertown, MA. The Town of Watertown’s 2015 Comprehensive Plan called for “innovative zoning” in an effort to incentivize transformative mixed-use development in this key gateway location.
Representing the Arsenal Project Team, and working in collaboration with Watertown’s Department of Community Development and Planning staff, Form + Place helped bring forward a new zoning amendment that updates key development variables, such as the allowable mix of uses, revised dimensional criteria and signage guidelines. The amendment also outlines a new Master Plan Special Permit process, whereby larger mixed-use projects can receive approval of a holistic master-plan concept, followed by individual Final Site Plan reviews that check for consistency as each phase comes on line.
This new zoning amendment, together with recent Design Guidelines and Standards adopted by the Town, are key components to the implementation of the Comprehensive Plan, and provide the necessary framework for Watertown’s future, facilitating progressive economic development and a vibrant public realm. The Arsenal Project is scheduled to open in 2019.
Winthrop Centre Business District Master Plan - Winthrop, MA
CBD Zoning & Design Guideline Recommendations
As part of a comprehensive master plan adopted by the Town of Winthrop in 2017, Form + Place made a series of recommendations for improving zoning and design guideline criteria in the Centre Business District [CBD]. The Metropolitan Area Planning Council [MAPC] helped to craft a new CBD zoning regulation in 2014 with the goal of facilitating mixed-use development in the core and promoting a high level of architecture and site design. While the MAPC regulation was designed to streamline project approvals and allow for larger-scale mixed-use development, there were additional criteria that Form + Place felt would guarantee a more vibrant and walkable environment. Many of the suggestions focus on encouraging development that contributes to the definition of block structure in the center through building siting [completing street-walls], lot coverage and both maximum and minimum building heights. With the Town hoping to facilitate redevelopment on the former Middle School site, it was suggested that a Smart Growth Zoning Overlay District [Chapter 40R] also be considered.
TOD Zoning District Regulation - Meriden, CT
City of Meriden
Master Plan & Zoning Regulations with integral Design Guidelines
As a first step towards implementation of Meriden's new Transit-Oriented development master-plan, Form + Place worked with the Planning Department, and other members of the City Staff, to craft a TOD Zoning District. The project was broken into three phases that were designed to identify key goals and strategies consistent with both the Plan of Conservation and Development and the new TOD Master Plan, write the new District regulation and facilitate adoption by the City Council.
An initial "mapping" process defined the overall boundaries of the District, proposing a series of sub-districts that allow for subtle variations in development standards in specific sections of the downtown core [Historic, Civic, Park, etc.] and contemplate an additional layer of articulation for key corridors [primary, secondary and tertiary streets]. A thorough analysis of the existing underlying zoning identified aspects of the regulation that needed to be addressed in order to promote development in the area within ½-mile of the new Intermodal Transportation Center that would be consistent with today’s TOD goals for density, diversity and walkability. Development standards that address strategies for parking, encourage mixed-income, mixed-use residential and rethink the approvals process were crafted to shape building and site design in a manner that is forward-thinking while ensuring compatibility with the existing community.
The final Zoning Regulation document was constructed as a “hybrid” Form Based Code that outlined specific development criteria, with a necessary degree of flexibility, while allowing for a great deal of certainly in the approvals process. This included the possibility of administrative approval for projects that adhered to the new by-right standards.
The Regulation became effective as of August of 2013.
Wayland Town Center - Wayland, MA
KGI Properties & The Congress Group
Master Plan, Mixed-use Overlay District [MUOD] & Design Guidelines
This new town center for Wayland involved an extensive entitlements process that included the crafting of a new Mixed-Use Overlay District with associated design guidelines and development regulations. The overlay regulation opened the door for a 375,000 sf mixed-use project in the heart of an historic New England community that saw the opportunity to get rid of the large office complex that resided on a 55-acre former Raytheon R & D site.
A very specific approvals process was outlined that required preliminary Concept Plan approval followed by a Master Special Permit approval and site plan approvals as each phase of the development took shape. Adherence to the intent of the original Concept Plan was critical.
The resulting mixed-use development master plan, anchored by a new Stop & Shop and BSC, provided an appropriately-scaled public realm complete with active streetscapes, a new town “green” and a trail network linking to the nearby Sudbury River. Aggregate size limits for commercial development, as well as the number of residential units permitted, were spelled out in detail in the regulation. Specific design requirements for parking, loading, landscaping and signage, to name a few, were also carefully integrated.
Ten years after the adoption of the zoning, the phased development of the Town Center project is still being undertaken.
Gateway Commons - East Lyme, CT
Simon Konover Development & KGI Properties
Zoning text amendment to PDD [Master Development Plan and Design Guidelines]
In collaboration with Simon Konover and KGI Properties, the Gateway Commons master plan was created to put forward a new approach to the development of the 200-acre Gateway Planned Development District along the I-95 corridor. The previous zoning mechanism limited redevelopment options by focusing exclusively on attracting a major corporate headquarters user. After an extensive review process with the ZBA, a Zoning Text Amendment and Master Development Plan process with architectural design and development guidelines was approved, resulting in the ability to design a large-scale mixed-use project with 425,000 sf of retail [small shop & large format] and office, as well as 200 units of residential in a variety of typologies. The development standards established bulk and dimensional requirements, street and sidewalk design criteria and guidelines for architectural style and articulation. The resulting master plan included commercial and residential environments that were somewhat limited in their integration, due to zoning constraints mandated by abutting neighborhood groups, but the project is unified by a main spine running the length of the site that spans a central wetland area.
Steelpointe Harbor - Bridgeport, CT
Bridgeport Landing Development
Master Plan & Planned Development District [PDD]
A Planned Development District [PDD] for this 50-acre section of the City of Bridgeport, CT was implemented to meet the City’s goals to create a public connection to its waterfront, activate streetscapes and create additional commercial tax base. Working with the development team, a PDD complete with design standards was executed concurrently with a General Development Plan [GDP]. The PDD provided a new zoning framework that defined both the architectural character of proposed buildings and the articulation of a new public realm.
The General Development Plan, consisting of a 2.7 million square foot mixed-use master plan, was generated to balance an urban approach to placemaking with a careful juxtaposition of a variety of building types. The resulting plan and framework provided a high degree of certainty for the City while maintaining the flexibility necessary to enable the Master Developer to move forward in securing key tenants. Each phase of the project was then required to secure approval of a Detailed Development Plan which, in turn, triggered a Land Disposition Agreement between the City and the Master Developer.
The PDD was executed in 2010 and the project continues to take form today as a phased development.