Needham approves new vision for along I-95

Welcome to "Need to Knows," the new name for your four times weekly morning updates from your chamber.
 
This e-newsletter was nameless for more than a year. I suppose giving it a name means I'll be doing it a little longer. Thanks to everyone for the suggestions. (Favorite submission I didn’t select: “Extra! Extra! Reibman About It”).
 
Anyway, here's today's Need to Knows. 

 
Yes! Needham approves new vision for Muzi/Ch. 5 parcels
 
The second time was the charm for efforts to create new uses for two highly visible parcels along I-95 in Needham.
 
Town Meeting overwhelmingly approved new zoning last night for the parcels currently occupied by Muzi Motors, the car wash and Channel 5.
 
The new zoning would create a mixed-use district with office and lab space, along with limited restaurants and retail. It would also allow, but not require, up to 240 residential units by special permit.
 
The proposal (Articles 5 and 6 here) was scaled back considerably (from a failed 2019 proposal of 1.2 million square feet) to roughly 870,000 square feet, with maximum building heights of four stories. It’s not clear if the reductions will make the parcels financially attractive to a potential developer or, if or when, the current owners, the Muzi family and Hearst Media respectively, might look to sell.
 
But the rezoning eliminates a major fear that an e-commerce company such as Amazon might choose to build a distribution warehouse there, something that was allowed by right under the current zoning, but is not allowed under the measures approved Monday.
 
 
Gov Baker, please don't make retail & office wait until August
 
Gov. Charlie Baker says Massachusetts is on track to reach his goal of fully vaccinating 4.1 million residents within a few weeks.
 
He also boasts that the state is currently outperforming the rest of the country on COVID-19 shots by “leaps and bounds.”    
 
And yet, Baker's date for fully reopening Massachusetts is leaps and bounds behind other states.
 
New York, New Jersey and Connecticut will be allowing restaurants, offices, retail stores, theaters, museums, barber shops, amusement parks and gyms and fitness centers to operate at full capacity on May 19, officials in all three states announced Monday.
 
In Massachusetts, our "fully reopened" date is Aug. 1.
 
Baker has said the Aug. 1 date could be moved up based on “what happens in the month of May.”
 
Perhaps there are elements of the reopening that need to be held back. But it’s hard to understand why, for example, office and retail stores, are still required to operate at half capacity.
 
Even during the height of the pandemic, data showed that office and retail were never how the virus spread. So why keep the 50 percent restriction?

 
Is there an SBA program that can help your business?
 
The SBA hosts a webinar tomorrow (Weds) at 10 a.m. reviewing all of its current SBA Covid relief options, including the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, Shuttered Venue Operators Grant, Disaster Loans, Targeted and Supplemental EIDL Advance and PPP.
 
The program will also feature information from the IRS related to free tax preparation services, economic impact payments and recovery rebate credits, among others. Details.

 
Business leaders vow to combat Asian hate
 
Coinciding with the launch of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and an increasing number of racial attacks on Asian-Americans, a group of prominent Asian-American business leaders launched a $250 million initiative yesterday to support an array of AAPI causes.
 
The Asian American Foundation will invest its initial funding in three key areas: anti-hate programs, education, and data and research, the group wrote in an announcement.  
 
TAAF is holding a kick off event today (May 4) 3 p.m. Former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama will offering opening remarks. 
 
Locally, members of the Massachusetts House Asian Caucus are urging the public to shop at AAPI-owned businesses., reports State House News' Katie Lannan.
 
"Not only have these businesses been impacted by the rise in discrimination against Asian-Americans, this investment in our local economy is integral in recovering from the pandemic," said Rep. Donald Wong, a Saugus Republican who chairs Massachusetts House Asian Caucus.
 
Wong hopes consumers will also tag AAPI-owned business using @asiancaucusma and the hashtag #ShopAAPIMonth.
 
 
Your chamber needs a PT bookkeeper
 
The Newton-Needham Regional Chamber is seeking a part time (approx. 10 hrs/week) administrative assistant/bookkeeper to join our small, but busy organization. More information and application instructions here.
 

Indoor face. Outdoor face. Brookline face.
 
Did your mom teach you about using your "indoor voice" or your "outdoor voice"?
 
As of Friday, in Massachusetts we've been allowed to have our indoor face and our outdoor face.
 
Except in Brookline and Salem
 
 
Not all restaurants qualify for fed restaurant relief program
 
The application portal for $28.6 billion federal grant program for restaurants, bars, caterers and other food businesses opened at noon yesterday.
 
And, unlike some past SBA program launches, the portal seemed to hold up. (Let me know if you tried to apply and encountered any problems.)
 
Restaurants and advocacy groups lobbied Congress for months to get a dedicated relief program, which really could be a life saver for some operators looking to get back on their feet.
 
But not everyone.
 
The way the program is structured, some entablements won’t qualify because of calculation rules based on 2019 gross receipts minus 2020 gross receipts minus PPP monies.
 
“The gross receipts is the real concern of many because you almost were punished for hustling and working to grow sales in 2020,” says one local operator.
 
“And those sales came at a premium,' he added. "Additionally, PPP guidelines kept changing so some of us ended up burning through the money early on paying for unproductive labor or using funds for labor that wasn’t helping the business.”
 
Still if you operate a food business, we urge you to explore this program for yourself and see if you qualify. Watch this video to learn more.
 
 
Remembering Barry Hoberman
 
Finally this morning, our condolences to the colleagues, customers, friends and family of Barry Hoberman, cashier at Wellesley Books since the shop opened on Central Street in 1999.
 
“Considered by many the unofficial mayor of Wellesley, he took a genuine interest in those around him, warmly greeting customers (and their dogs) by name and recalling every detail of previous conversations,” according to a statement on Wellesley Book’s website.
 
“Barry was a gifted writer and a formidable scholar, possessing a deep knowledge of history, religion, baseball and music. He always relished the challenge of helping a customer track down some esoteric and often out-of-print treatise on one of his favorite subjects.
 
"We will miss his sense of humor, his affectionate banter, his freely-expressed opinions, his extraordinary intellect and his kind heart. Our community has lost a dear colleague and a true friend.”
 
Hoberman would have turned 70 next month. (Swellesley Report)
 
And that's what you need to know today. May the fourth be with you.
 
President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
617-244-1688
Your chamber is here when you need us.

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