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Potentially historic Newton development with 14 buildings wins key approvals

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While some fret the impact on traffic and infrastructure, others applaud the new housing—but the project’s not a go just yet

Aerial rendering of a multi-building development. City of Newton

What’s being called “the largest project of its kind in Newton history” has won key approvals from the Newton City Council.

Northland Investment Corporation plans to develop 14 buildings on 22.6 acres at Needham and Oak streets in the city’s Upper Falls area. The buildings are due to range in height from three to eight floors, and 140 of the apartments would be designated as affordable.

The project—at 156 Oak Street, 275-281 Needham Street, and 55 Tower Road—also includes 180,000 square feet of offices and 115,000 square feet of retail and community space. It would replace much of a strip mall that Northland controls.

The early December approvals from the City Council represent the culmination of a long back-and-forth with elected officials and locals. As with other Newton projects—and with many projects in the Boston area—there have been concerns about the impact of such a development on traffic and infrastructure.

Northland for its part is planning to offer shuttle service back and forth from the Newton Highlands stop on the Green Line, perhaps a sign of more privately funded public transit to come. And the developer will provide $1.5 million for work on a local elementary school. Plus, Northland will reserve 10 acres as privately owned public space.

These sweeteners won enough support for the project to ease through on two 17-7 votes in the City Council, including one on necessary zoning changes.

Even with the approvals in hand, however, the project is not necessarily a go. Opponents plan to try to force a voter referendum that would essentially nullify the council’s vote, per the Globe’s John Hilliard. Stay tuned.