More broken promises, more developer demands at Riverside T Stop in Auburndale

Riverside T stop development Korff

Mark Development once again wants to wriggle out of the agreement they forced through on Auburndale residents. Quoting Fig City News:

According to the report, “Over the last four months, increased construction costs (they have gone up by 25%) and rising interest rates have stalled the project. Once Mark Development has financing in place, it will be 9 months before they have a shovel in the ground. This means that there is no start date for the ledge blasting or Hotel Indigo demolition.”

The Liaison Committee also reported that residential units may be developed first, before any laboratory space, saying “it could take a couple of years for the market for lab to come back so Mark Development is exploring building the residential component of the project first,” even though they believe they have a great location and a strong partner in Alexandria Development.

The company, operated by Newton luxury apartment developer Robert Korff, was supposed to pay the MBTA $25 million next year. Now he is demanding an extension.

Is anyone surprised? This is the third or fourth time a Riverside developer has reneged on its agreement with Auburndale and Lower Falls residents, pleading poverty or “changed conditions” or something else to get more profits or rights at residents’ expense.

A few years ago, when Korff & Co. and his friends in City Hall were in the midst of maneuvering to overcome the sensible objections of Auburndale and Newton Lower Falls residents, I said the deal should be rejected on principle:

The impact would be especially hard on residents of Newton Lower Falls and Auburndale, who thought the Riverside deal was settled five years ago but have since learned the negotiation was merely a preamble to yet more aggressive demands from developers. No one cares about preserving an MBTA parking lot, but there’s already a signed deal that developers, residents, and politicians agreed to. Developer Korff’s attempt to renege on it should be shot down not only on principle, but also to avoid setting a precedent for other real estate deals signed by Korff and other developers throughout Newton.

It’s time to consider other options for this parcel. No one forced Robert Korff to pay premium prices for development rights in Riverside, and then expect Auburndale and Lower Falls residents to accommodate its endless demands for more profit. Mark Development clearly can’t be trusted to follow through on the promises it made for Riverside. And it makes me wonder about Korff’s other promises for Washington Street, from West Newton to the Lake.

Newton should also use eminent domain in cases where Newton developers demonstrate they are not up to the task. Unfortunately, the role of the MBTA makes that impossible at Riverside. Besides, in recent years, eminent domain has only been invoked for nature preservation on the south side of the city in the mayor’s back yard. When it comes to the northern villages, Newton City Hall applies a different set of considerations.