NewCAL Senior Center


Issue summary

Parks and Recreation's stated policy on taking parkland for other uses:

Issue full description

Parks and Recreation's stated policy on taking parkland for other uses:

1. The Parks and Recreation Commission supports the long term preservation of open space in the City of Newton for the benefit of current and future generations of Newton citizens. Open space used for park, recreation and playground purposes should be diverted to other uses only as a last resort after all other reasonable options have been found deficient.

a) In considering the transfer of land for a proposed new use, the Commission will analyze the short and long-term need for the new use in balance with the public trust served by the existing public open space use.

b) The Commission will insure that the intrinsic long-term public values of park and playground open space are weighed explicitly and substantially in the balance and are not overridden by the expediency that publicly owned park and playground open space does not require purchase or eminent domain. The consideration of intrinsic public values will include an estimation of the costs necessary to provide equivalents to the existing park and playground open space. The fact that using park, recreation or playground open space for a new use would be less expensive is not by itself sufficient to warrant the transfer of the land or to reject another potential alternative.

c) The Commission will not divert park and playground open space to other uses unless there has been a compelling showing that there is no feasible and prudent alternative, including both publicly and privately owned potential sites, as well as potential sites that are not currently in open space use.


City Councilor Auchincloss's summation of NewCAL debate at this moment:

Senior center (NewCAL): Program, budget, site

One out of three Newton residents will be 60 years or older by 2030. Seniors are the fastest growing demographic in the city, and the senior center can't keep up. Built in the 1930s as a branch library, it is inadequate in both scale and scope of programming. To be an all-age-friendly city, we need a new senior center.

As with all public buildings, there is an iron triangle between budget, program, and site. All three must fit together. Broadly, the administration's process considered program, then budget, then site. The mayor proposes:

Program: Four times the current size. Thirteen rooms with space for a library, art, kitchen & dining, performance, and health & human services. There would also be a gym and a walking track.

Budget: $16 million

Site: Two acres of hardscape at Albermarle. On those two acres now are a pool, two tennis courts, a basketball court, and two buildings. There would not be construction on athletic fields or green space.


·       Enough space and parking

·       No land acquisition costs

·       Renovation of leaky Gath into an indoor/outdoor pool


·       Not in a village center or near good transit

·       Not a convenient drive for the south side of the city


The city council will debate into 2020. Since this proposal (unlike others that were floated) is not building on green space, I'm open to it. However, I'll also be asking my colleagues and the administration to consider the senior center from a different angle: starting with a site, then looking at budget and program.

Site: What about the Newton Centre triangle parking lot? (The one across from Johnny's.) It is walkable, and it is convenient by car and transit. The village and the senior center would be symbiotic. Stores would get more foot traffic and seniors would be in the center of the city, not the periphery.

Budget: Could the city partner with a public or private housing developer? Building senior housing on top would generate revenue and deliver much-needed units. Undergrounding the parking in Newton Centre would be expensive, though.

Program: The 37,000 sf proposed could not fit onto the parking lot in Newton Centre. Could the main program be in Newton Centre, while Albermarle hosts the gym and the indoor/outdoor pool? The senior services staff is concerned about a dispersed program. I'd like to explore benefits and drawbacks further.