Shaping land development:
A consistent theme of Lisle's work on the Board has been to help shape the development of Newton's land.
An example is the Covenant Residences housing project below. Originally planned for ten stories, Lisle worked with the City, the nonprofit developer, and nearby neighbors to get constructed his much smaller, four story project, which includes much needed affordable housing.
One of the neighbors to the project, Bill Hicks, wrote about Lisle's work:
"I want to commend the work Alderman Lisle Baker has done to facilitate a compromise solution on the Covenant Residences in Chestnut Hill. A year ago, B'nai B'rith proposed a 132 unit, 10 story building on a 1.5-acre site that would have been twice as dense as any other 40B project in the city. The neighborhood was outraged, all 24 aldermen signed a letter saying it was too big, and even the Newton Housing Partnership said it should be smaller.
"Since then, Alderman Baker has mediated a compromise 57-unit project, including a 4-story building, that provides a total of 15 units of affordable housing. The new project has received an important commitment of $1.2 million in CPA funding. However, far more than that was needed to overcome the financial obstacles to cutting the project in half, and Alderman Baker worked tirelessly over the last year to find creative solutions to those obstacles. He sought out a housing expert to devise the idea of preserving and selling the units in an existing building on the site to help finance the project, rather than tearing the building down. This alone may have allowed a reduction on the order of 70 units.
"He dedicated hundreds of hours, meeting late at night and before work with neighbors and the developer. He encouraged the developer to negotiate a reduced purchase price for the land. And he convinced neighbors and the developer to stop fighting and instead focus on working together to reach a solution. B'nai B'rith also deserves credit for working hard on a compromise and accepting a reduced developer fee.
"Alderman Baker's devoted commitment to his constituents and his creative problem solving has been inspirational, and his work on this project has earned the respect of housing and neighborhood advocates alike."
Bill Hicks, Algonquin Rd.
Susan Gittleman, Executive Director of B'nai B'rith Housing New England, sponsor of the Covenant Residence project, also said about Lisle's work:
"This development would not be a reality today but for the leadership role that Lisle took to ensure that the project was responsive to the needs of the neighborhood."
- Susan Gittleman, on the occasion of BBNE and the City of Newton receiving the 2010 Urban Land Institute Jack Kemp Workforce Housing Models of Excellence Award for the project, as well as returning to the City $300,0000 in Community Preservation Funds the City had invested in the project.
R. Lisle Baker
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