Town Common Renovation Project

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To see the full draft concept presentation as well as design changes, please see the linked documents below.

*With the Town Common project's final design changes approved and the construction partner under contract, the construction phase is soon to begin! Check back for updates!*

PLEASE NOTE: The Town Common and Garrity's Way will be closed to the public for the duration of construction, but a handicap-accessible ramp will be open leading up to the front entrance of Town Hall. 

Overview


Planning for the Town Common project can be traced all the way back to 2010 and 2011, when the Town Hall building was renovated. Staging for the construction had left a footprint on the Common that prompted Town staff to consider going beyond simple repairs and to take the opportunity to make some aesthetic improvements in the process, such as realigning the walkways. The need for intervention became clearer when it was determined in 2013 that many of the older trees on the Common were failing due to disease. This included the original Blue Tree, which was ultimately replaced in 2015. In response to this issue, DPW staff drafted new planting plans and concepts for modest tweaks to the Common's irrigation system and layout. 

When planning for the streetscape improvement project known as "Downtown Phase I" began the next year, talks about a Town Common renovation resurfaced. An exploratory committee (a Design Review Team) was formed in 2017 to identify what sort of redesign could be done that would integrate with the Downtown Phase I improvements. These talks concluded with a decision that funding should be sought for a more major and comprehensive renovation. Meetings with the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) resulted in design funding being secured at Town Meeting in 2019, which was used to bring BETA Group on board to develop the vision for the Common. A Steering Committee of Town partners and BETA consultants steadily revised and advanced the design through Select Board and CPC approvals through 2020 and 2021. After construction funding was granted at Special Town Meeting in May of 2021, further design revisions were presented to and accepted by the Planning Board later that year. The construction bidding process in the spring of 2022 resulted in the selection of M.J. Cataldo as the project's construction contractor. Minor design modifications meant to realign the project with the budget were approved by the Design Review Board in June of 2022, finally paving the way for the construction phase of the project to begin. Construction will continue throughout the remainder of 2022.

Conceptual renderings of the finalized design can be seen above. It reimagines the current radial layout by opening up the center of the Common and relocating the walkways to the edges of the space. This creates a seamless integration with the surrounding streetscape and the ongoing improvements in the downtown, making the walking experience more pleasant and convenient. It also supports opportunities for shaded seating and varied activities around the perimeter of the Common that look inward at the newly-created "Great Lawn," an attractive area for passive recreation and gathering in front of the Blue Tree. The paved central "terrace" can be covered with a tent for a shaded refuge on sunny days, while the catenary lights illuminate the space at night. Lastly, the addition of new trees will refresh the Common's aesthetic and make it a place that people will want to linger in.

These improvements are meant to give the community a focal point downtown in which to come together, enjoy the outdoors, and connect to the Needham institutions and businesses all around them.

Project Team and Contributors, Past and Present


This Town Common Renovation Project is a product of several years of planning and collaboration. Throughout this process, contributions have been made by Town staff (across many departments), experienced design professionals, and members of Needham's committees, boards, and the public they serve. These include:

  • Ed Olsen, Project Lead and DPW Superintendent of Parks & Forestry
  • Justin Savignano, DPW Project Manager
  • BETA Group, the engineering firm selected to design the project, led by P.E. Bob Mackie
  • M.J. Cataldo, Inc., the construction/landscaping firm selected to perform the construction renovations, led by President Joe Cataldo
  • The Design Review Team, comprised of representatives from DPW (Parks & Forestry, Engineering, Water & Sewer, and Building Maintenance), the Town Manager's Office, Planning Dept, Building Dept, Health Dept., Police and Fire Depts., ITC, PPBC, Conservation Comm., and Comm. on Disabilities
  • The Steering Committee/Town Common Working Group, comprised of representatives from DPW (Parks & Forestry, Engineering, Highway, and Admin), BETA Group, the Town Manager's Office, the Select Board, the Design Review Board, Planning & Economic Development, ITC, the Historical Society, and Comm. on Disabilities
  • The Select Board, Community Preservation Committee, and Planning Board
  • Needham Residents, who helped to shape the goals of this project from its inception through public comment at committee, board, and Town Meetings
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BETA logo
MJ Cataldo logo

Design Development Documents

Project Timeline

  • 2013–2014: Initial Concept Planning by DPW
  • Spring 2014–Spring 2015: Blue Tree Replacement Process
  • Spring 2017–Summer 2017: Town Design Review Team Exploratory Discussions
  • Winter 2017: Project Designated for Public Bidding and Full Design/Construction Process
  • Spring 2018–Spring 2019: Concept Plans are Presented to and Revised by CPC
  • Annual Town Meeting May 2019: CPC Recommends Design Funding, Granted
  • Spring 2020: BETA Group Selected as Design Firm, Steering Committee Formed
  • Spring 2020–Fall 2020: Design is Developed by BETA/Steering Committee for Presentation for Town Approval
  • November 2020: Design is Presented to Select Board, Approved
  • Winter 2020–Spring 2021: Design is Presented to and Revised by CPC, Approved
  • Special Town Meeting May 2021: Select Board and CPC Recommends Construction Funding, Granted
  • Summer 2021–Winter 2021: Design is Presented to, Revised, and Finalized by Planning Board, Approved
  • March-April 2022: Bidding Process to Procure Construction Contractor
  • May 2022: M.J. Cataldo Selected and Contracted with as Construction Firm
  • June 2022: Final Design Revisions are Presented to Design Review Board, Approved
  • Early Summer 2022– Winter 2022/2023 (projected): Construction Phase of Project
  • Winter 2022/2023: Town Common Renovation Project Complete

Recent Project Updates (reverse chronological order)

  • June 6, 2022
    • Final design modifications to realign the design with the construction budget (substitute walkway materials and trees, below)  were approved by the Design Review Board, allowing construction to get underway.

      Final design revisions to pavers and trees, presented to the DRB
  • April 12, 2022
    • M.J. Cataldo was awarded the contract to construct the project. The Dept. of Public Works began work on formally contracting with the vendor so that a construction schedule could be finalized ASAP.
  • April 7, 2022
    • The submitted construction bids were opened and publicly read aloud at 12:00pm at the Public Services Administration Building. M.J. Cataldo, Inc., a construction and landscaping contractor from Littleton, MA, was determined to be the apparent low bidder.
  • March 17, 2022
    • The Invitation for Bid documents (developed by DPW and their BETA partners) were  posted to the Town website and sent out to contractors, giving them 3 weeks to put together their bids for the project's construction phase.
  • December 8, 2021
    • The Project's special permit was granted at a meeting of the Planning Board, allowing for BETA's design to be finalized and for the drafting of bid documents for the construction phase to begin.
  • October 26, 2021
    • The Project was brought back before the Planning Board to present small revisions to its design, including:
      • Attaching the overhead hanging light features to permanent poles on the shade structure rather than the poles needing to be removed
      • Adding a podium to the seat wall to store sound equipment for events and gatherings

        Oct 26 Design Changes
  • October 2021
    • Project Lead and DPW Parks Superintendent Ed Olsen presented the CPC-approved design to the Planning Board for their approval/public comment
  • May 1, 2021
    • The Select Board and the Community Preservation Committee presented an Article at Special Town Meeting for $1,364,000 in construction funding for the project, which was granted
  • March 2021
    • Project Lead and DPW Parks Superintendent Ed Olsen presented the most recent design to the Community Preservation Committee for their approval/public comment
  • December 2020
    • The design and project plan was filed with the Community Preservation Committee for their consideration
  • November 2020
    • The most recent design, developed over the course of several Steering Committee meetings in the summer and fall of 2020, was presented to the Select Board for the first time and was ultimately approved pending review by the CPC and the Planning Board
  • October 2020
    • BETA, in conjunction with its Town partners on the Steering Committee, decides upon a plan for the arrangement of trees, either relocated or planted as part of the project

      Tree Planting Plan