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New business district focuses on Charles River

This article was featured on Newton Wicked Local on May 27, 2015. You can
read the full article here.

The Newton-Needham Chamber of Commerce has partnered with the Watertown-Belmont Chamber, area businesses and local and state officials to forge a new business district centered on the Charles River as it winds through Newton, Waltham and Watertown.

Greg Reibman, president of the Newton-Needham Chamber of Commerce, said the new Charles River Mill District is similar in concept to the N2 Corridor straddling Newton and Needham.

Reibman said the public-private partnership’s objective is to collaborate and advocate for infrastructure and regional transit improvements and on the overall marketing and promotion of the district to innovative businesses.

“The best way to market and promote this was to get the building owners together and the three municipalities together to talk about this as a district,” Reibman said “because that’s what it is… like Kendall Square.”

A lot of the office space in the N2 Corridor is either being built now, or will be built in the future, but the office space in the new district is already in place. It’s made up of eight small office parks, most of them recently restored brick mill buildings.

“The goal is to get the municipal partners involved to work together toward bus route improvements or mass transit, or branding and marketing or bike paths or walking paths,” Reibman said. “The companies are already here, it’s more a matter of telling people about it.”

Reibman said that one of the biggest challenges is to find the kinds of housing that today’s younger workers want.

“These are people who don’t necessarily want a house with a garage and a big yard,” Reibman said. “They’re looking for a different kind of housing style and that’s why Austin Street and some of these different kinds of housing styles are really important.”

Reibman said there is a large development of this kind of housing being built on Pleasant Street in Watertown, but more is needed.

“Commuters find this easier to get to than Kendall Square and it’s cheaper here for a company,” Reibman said. “If you’re a company that’s five or 10 employees, and you’re looking to grow, this is a really logical place to come.”

Reibman said he has received nothing but support for the district at both the local and state level.

State Rep. John J. Lawn, D-Watertown, has been an outspoken proponent of the idea.

“It’s an area that’s changed so much in the last 10 years,” Lawn said “It needs to be reexamined in terms of transportation. It’s something that residents have been complaining about and I think, working together, we can be a loud voice to improve it.”

One of the office parks in the district is Chapelbridge Park located at 55 Chapel St. in Newton. It’s a meticulously restored mill building with exposed wood beams and brick, underground tunnels running between buildings, and filled with tech companies and history. Stanley Steamer, the famous but defunct manufacturer of steam-driven cars was once headquartered there.

The park was restored in 2012 and many period details remain. There are upgrades, too, though, like the elevators, coffee shop and heated bike storage room.

Seth Lieberman is the CEO of SnapApp, an interactive content marketing platform. He said this is the third company he has headquartered in Newton and is a huge supporter of the Charles River Mill District. He said he particularly likes not having to commute into Boston, being able to collaborate with his tech company neighbors, cheaper rent, and plentiful parking.

“I don’t think it’s worth $50 per square foot to be in Kendall Square,” Lieberman said. “There is more space and more amenities here.”

Seth Worby is the CEO of Champ Internet Solutions, a web design and digital marketing company. Worby said working in Chapelbridge park gives him more opportunities to network and collaborate.

“There’s a lot of opportunities here with like businesses that would like to grow,” Worby said. “The atmosphere is more conducive to our kind of work.”

The district’s free official kickoff event will be Thursday May 28, from 5:30 to 7p.m. at Chapel Bridge Park. It’s a networking event designed to introduce the people who currently work there – or might want to in the future – to the new concept, and to each other.

For more information visit:

PO Box 95240, Newton MA 02495 | 617.517.0733
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