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NEWTON, MA-All permits are finally in hand for a 300-unit multifamily development that will be built by Avalon Bay here on Needham Street. The company, which filed for a comprehensive permit for the project, has been pursuing the necessary approvals for over 15 months. Construction is set to begin this spring.

The site of the 294-unit luxury development was formerly home to the New England Concrete Pipe manufacturing plant and was zoned for a mixed-use development. But the comprehensive permit–which necessitates that the project includes a 25% affordable housing component–enabled the company to bypass the local zoning laws. But Bill McLaughlin, vice president of development for Avalon Bay, tells GlobeSt.com that circumventing the local laws was not the reason the company filed for a comprehensive permit. Rather, he says, the zoning board “was just the straightest path to go.” Newton, he notes, has inclusionary zoning laws anyway which would have required an affordable housing component. “From a community standpoint, the project would have been identical,” points out McLaughlin.

Despite the recent increases in vacancy rates and the lower rental rates, McLaughlin insists that the local multifamily market in this area remains stable. “The market has clearly softened,” he acknowledges, “but for a luxury development like this in this kind of location” he is not worried. McLaughlin also notes that even with a minor market setback, multifamily housing remains solid as a long-term investment.

Avalon Bay has over one million sf of housing currently under construction within Route 495 and another million sf in the pipeline. Other major multifamily developers–such as Equity Residential Properties Trust and JPI–also have a number of multifamily developments in planning or under construction in the Greater Boston area. Some of the marginal investments will not occur and some of those projects, says McLaughlin, are leftovers from the “scorching hot market” of 1998 to 1999. “There is a real lag time” for these kind of projects, he says. But basically this area is a fairly stable market for multifamily housing, notes McLaughlin, and the myriad of projects are indicative of that stability.

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