Hey, there! Log in / Register

At West Roxbury meeting on Centre Street condo proposal, the talk turns to all the empty storefronts on the street

Proposed condos on Centre Street in West Roxbury

Architect's revised rendering.

Residents who attended a meeting tonight on a 16-unit condo proposal for the old West Roxbury Motors site generally gave a thumbs up to a proposed design that eliminates an earlier exterior that residents found too modern for the area, too much like something built out of Lego bricks.

But when one resident questioned why the single ground-floor commercial space would be made off limits to a restaurant or coffee shop - in a building that would be across the street from the neighborhood Starbucks - other residents said that wouldn't bother them, because that stretch of Centre Street already has at least ten vacant storefronts.

Other residents agreed they'd love to see that stretch of Centre become even more bustling. But they said that from the empty space next to Rox Diner to the completely empty block of stores once anchored by Espresso Pizza, several landlords have decided they'd rather sit on vacant spaces than rent them out for some reason known only to them.

Gary Martell, one of the developers of the proposed West Roxbury Motors condos, half joked that he knew he could easily fill the building's commercial space with a bank. He quickly reassured the handful of residents who attended the meeting, though, that he and partner Greg Alexandris would be looking to sign a lease with a lawyer, architect or some other small professional entity rather than a bank, which he agreed Centre Street doesn't need any more of.

Architect Rick Schmidt said he redrew plans for the building to better blend in with the surrounding area of both Centre and Willow streets, right down to the double-hung windows that he said are more evocative of the residential neighborhood of Willow Street than the earlier windows, especially when coupled with the clapboard-like material that would cover the walls between the building's bay windows.

At the same time, he said, the design is more architecturally interesting than the plain 1960s-type apartment building next door and would play off the Starbucks building across the street.

Chris Tracy, project manager for the BRA, said BRA planners are paying close attention to the building's design because of its location at a key West Roxbury intersection.

"Even though it's a small project, it's an important project for West Roxbury," he said.

The 16-unit building would have 29 parking spaces. All the units would have two bedrooms; four would be duplexes.

When one resident fretted the proposed ground-level planters could become glorified ashtrays, Martell said the building would have a management company that would maintain the planters.

Martell and Schmidt added they wanted to try to incorporate some green into the project; Martell pointed to a new condo building on Robert Street next to the train bridge in Roslindale Square as an example of what happens when you have no planters "It looks horrible," he said of the Roslindale building. "It looks like the back of a building."

Neighborhoods: 
Topics: 

Ad:
Like the job UHub is doing? Consider a contribution. Thanks!

Comments

The original rendering doesn't look quite like that. Unfortunately, the projector they used was right in front of a support beam, so I had to take the photo slightly off to the side.

up
Voting closed 0

And now folks , Grad student housing proposed for Brighton property \

''The site of the old St. Gabriel’s Monastery in Brighton could be the start of a new trend in the Boston housing market: privately run apartments for graduate students.

A veteran local real estate firm is teaming up with one of the biggest student-housing developers in the country to turn the 12-acre site next to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital into a complex of buildings aimed at a booming but underserved population of 20-somethings.''
https://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2016/01/04/gr...

IMAGE(https://c.o0bg.com/rf/image_960w/Boston/2011-2020/2016/01/04/BostonGlobe.com/Business/Images/rathe_monestary_biz04.jpg)

up
Voting closed 0

sign a lease with a lawyer, architect or some other small professional entity rather than a bank

My understanding was the issues with a bank are that they're only open M-F 9-5 which creates closed and unused space during time periods (weekends evenings) when the neighborhood wants to be more alert and lively, and that they don't contribute to foot traffic draw or the streetscape in the way restaurants, retail, community oriented spaces do. People come to the bank do their business and leave. I don't see how a professional office would alleviate any of those issues? In fact I'd say a lawyer or architect probably have even less foot traffic than a bank does.

Unless the "NO BANKS" thing is just actually people getting sick of banks and not based on anything.

up
Voting closed 0

Martell, who's actually from the area, basically said he's had enough with banks, already. He said he was up at the Kinko's on Rte. 9 (well, I guess the FedEx now, but he's a grizzled local, so he remembers when it was an actual Kinko's) and was just amazed that three, three banks were being built right in a row next to it.

All of the residents agreed they want more foot traffic along a more lively Centre Street - the woman who wondered about a coffee house said residents should be encouraging retail in Martell's new space, not some professional office. Which is when other folks jumped in with complaints about all the empty storefronts. One woman said that, yes, while people in the South End don't mind living in buildings with retail on the first floor, in West Roxbury, people are going to object to buying a new condo in a building with any sort of food place on the first floor - due to the potential for rats, no matter how clean the place is. All the empty retail space, she said, sits in single-story commercial buildings, so that wouldn't be an issue there.

up
Voting closed 0

I understand where that woman is coming from, but it's so naive. The person buying this theoretical condo is probably not from West Roxbury and even if they were, West Roxbury isn't some homogenous place anymore. She likely means no-one she knows from West Roxbury, but then she probably lives in a single family bought 20 years ago.

Of the various people I know who live in West Roxbury, less than half of them are from the area let alone West Roxbury specifically. Now granted, I am a terrible yuppie immigrant but I certainly didn't know anyone in Roslindale before I moved here either.

up
Voting closed 0

Which is how she said she knows this.

up
Voting closed 0

I imagine any kind of restaurant requires a more complicated HVAC system as well as space for trash and deliveries. It's a much more custom fit-up than for professional office or retail.

up
Voting closed 0

Are those apartments on the first floor or some kind of common space situation?

It will be interesting to see how Roslindale and WR evolve over the next 10 years. On one hand, the interest rates going up means large construction projects are less appealing to build I guess, but it seems like there is relatively easy money to be made by taking one story structures and replacing them with 4-5 story apartment buildings. This article points out the weird side effect of that potential which is that landlords might hold out for the home run sale to a developer vs. renting out the current space. This is what happened on Belgrade in that block across the street from Stash Pizza, right?

Anyways, this looks Ok and is certainly better than the very ugly apartment building immediately the left of this spot.

up
Voting closed 0

It was a dealership, never an existing structure.

up
Voting closed 0

The one that's across from Stash which has a big 'for sale' sign on it. It used to have a dusty old liquor store and a dry cleaner? Next to the Northeast Rescue Systems building, on the corner of McCraw Street. This is a yet to be developed property.

up
Voting closed 0

That dusty old package store used to be across the street before it got dusty .
Think of the insanity if people would live above commercial on the first floor. Picture Centre street from Redlands Road back to the Holy Name School at 4 levels. Dorothy Muriel would be aghast!

up
Voting closed 0

The person that owned the liquor store and the old electrical store died and then his son died soon after which is why it's been empty. The dry cleaners closed earlier last year and the catering company behind it also closed. Belgrade is a huge wasteland of empty store fronts.

I still don't understand why landlords are allowed to earn tax breaks when they are bringing the rest of the community down. Most of the empty store fronts on Belgrade look like shit holes.

up
Voting closed 0

What kind of tax breaks are they getting?

up
Voting closed 0

Could they be talking about

  • New Markets Tax Credits - Federal program created to stimulate economic development in low-income communities.
  • Neighborhood Stabilization Loan Fund (NSLF) provides revolving acquisition/construction loans and lines of credit to approved non-profit and for-profit sponsors for the acquisition and rehabilitation of foreclosed and abandoned properties
  • SRC: http://www.mhic.com/products.cfm

Or Passive Activity Loss?

If so, I think they may be incorrect for this neighborhood. I think it has more to so with things listed in these articles on why Landlords leave properties empty.

up
Voting closed 0

I knew one generation of ownership , not sure of recent developments. The property et al might be tied up in Probate or whatever court, It is not too difficult to get rid of an off premise license, throw in the real estate, cha-ching cha-ching. Although the squirrels against other people developing stuff with their own money might give potentialists cause to hesitate, the squirrels would rather impede and then be able to complain of the blight. There are , or were , a lot of old three deckers over there, wonder how they are making out .

up
Voting closed 0

The one that had empty first-floor space for a long time. It's now filled - with a lawyer, an optician (optometrist?) and a yoga studio.

There's possibly a similar situation to Centre Street in Roslindale Square. A number of the buildings started out with two or three stories, then had their tops chopped off (such as the Redd's/Tony's building) back in the bad old days when the square nearly got killed off by the Dedham Mall. They're still zoned for three stories, so right there you have some interesting development potential. Same for Belgrade Avenue and Washington Street up by Forest Hills.

up
Voting closed 0

It looks like they're starting to work above Redd's unless that roofing material always came over the sides of the budding?

I bet we see more upper level development soon barring a total collapse of the Boston economy. Wall Paper City seems like an easy one as there are no immediate neighbors with second stories. I'd bet developers have approached the owners of that building to gauge interest in selling. Hopefully the store owns it so they can make that decision.

up
Voting closed 0

Looks like a tornado hit Brighton in about 1975 and picked that thing up and dropped it in West Roxbury.

The architect spent a fair amount of time discussing how he tried to revise his design to make his building better fit into the surroundings - and he kept ignoring that building and discussing the funeral home on the other side. At one point he said something like "there's not much architecture there."

up
Voting closed 0

Same as how people cry about almost any mid-sized apartment building in Roslindale, yet there are tons sprinkled throughout the neighborhood, like the ones on Washington between Albano and the hardware store, or along Hyde Park Ave.

up
Voting closed 0

Another building where my first impression is that it looks unfinished, the insulation board still exposed. But no, that blue stuff is actually the exterior siding.

up
Voting closed 0

The redesign and reconstruction of Centre St in WR that took place a decade or so ago in hindsight was a missed opportunity. They kept the two lanes in each direction in place instead of creating a Main Street with one lane in either direction and wide walking areas and bike lanes and bringing back the angled parking. Centre St is a speedway and dangerous to cross, especially for the many seniors that frequent the establishments during the day. A big reason (though not the only one) that it does not flourish as it could considering the money in the area and has empty storefronts. It's not walkable and inviting.

up
Voting closed 0

Maybe I drive up and down Centre St. at the wrong times, but with all those red lights, and the right lane usually blocked by trucks or double-parkers, speedway is not a word I would use to describe it.

At rush hours, it's more like a parking lot, with all the commuter traffic.

up
Voting closed 0

Crossing Centre Street by the police station or near the Real Deal at any time of day and you're taking your life in your hands. I know someone who got hit in a crosswalk because one lane stopped and the other did not. Rush hour brings more congestion but the traffic still zooms between the lights and people run them frequently. Maybe speedway is not the best term but it's certainly not pedestrian friendly.

up
Voting closed 0

That seems like something that on lane diet would solve. One could say the same thing about West Roxbury Parkway between Holy Name School and Church, and that's one lane each way.

As for the Real Deal, the issue with that is that people tend to ignore people in crosswalks. BPD does enforcement from time to time. I would imagine it is a great revenue boost.

up
Voting closed 0

Unsignalized crosswalks usually are a bad idea on a 4-lane road. The correct solution is closely-spaced traffic lights.

It's possible for crosswalks to work on some 4-lane roads, but the road has to be designed properly (a median refuge, good visibility, etc), and traffic conditions have to be right for it (reasonable speeds, gaps in traffic).

up
Voting closed 0

There are several crosswalks on Center because lights are spread pretty far apart in places. I don't feel comfortable crossing at them because cars are rushing to get through the next light. Nice speed bumps at these crosswalks would help. The city can help design streets and put traffic calming measures in place so drivers will naturally slow down.

Having a lot of people on the street is also a traffic calming measure. Drivers naturally slow down when they see many pedestrians. If there are too few pedestrians they start to be seen as intruders on a through street for cars. The fewer the people, cars drive faster, they expect too see pedestrians less and then it feels even less comfortable to walk. So then even less people walk. Businesses then don't feel good about setting up shop with out lots of parking for their customers. Combine this with suburban style development like drive through banks and the CVS parking lot that is very unwelcoming to a pedestrian, and pretty soon, you've converted a healthy walkable neighborhood into a strip of autocentric suburbia.

And yes, there are a few annoying double parkers. But traffic still speeds around them.

up
Voting closed 0

I think about that every time I walk through there. Cars drive far too fast down Center St. There are no traffic calming measures in place. In fact, the city has encouraged speed by having unnecessary turn lanes for Roche Bros, thereby putting driving lanes right next to the sidewalk. When it rains or in the winter it's hard not to get splashed or sprayed with slush.

As for empty storefronts, they don't stay empty for long. Espresso Pizza and Canon Eyecare were kicked out so the landlord could do something else with that space. Of course, not caring about the neighborhood, the landlord has done nothing.

The more people on the street the better. It would be great if the city cooperated and put in a few improvements to make it more pedestrian friendly.

up
Voting closed 0

We absolutely need more retail storefronts to attract foot traffic. Yes, the block anchored by Espresso Pizza had all it’s tenants kicked out (Great pizza place that had to go out of business because they couldn’t afford to relocate, Canon Eyecare, computer repair, etc.), and we don’t know what the landlord plans to do with the space. But how is that a reason for not having storefronts in the new building? Maybe the landlord here wouldn’t unceremoniously kick out long term neighborhood gems. Storefronts don’t stay vacant for long here, assuming the landlord actually wants to rent the space.

Walking past a blank space is death to walkable neighborhoods. Storefronts are critical. The lady who said no one will buy a condo above a storefront needs to be ignored.

As for architecture, why mirror the Starbucks across the street? It’s an ugly building that should be ignored, as is the apartment building next door. I prefer the modern design. Too much uninspired architecture in this town.

up
Voting closed 0

I think it's actually been established that it's a GOOD idea to put your independent espresso place near a Starbucks, to catch the overflow. That West Rox Starbucks is frequently packed, with long lines and noplace to sit. If the indie place was actually good, maybe it would do OK.

up
Voting closed 0

Banks (and real estate agencies) are the deaths of pedestrian traffic. (And, yoga studios.)

Yes, the storefronts may remain empty for awhile if the landlords wait for a restaurant or coffee shop but I don't agree there should be limits.

Or, do the neighbors not want a donut shop like Dunkins where there is double-parking, etc. (Much like the complaint on Tremont St in the South End?)

up
Voting closed 0

This would be a great project for Centre Street. It would be great to have more people in the area and this would be a good way to bring that about.

up
Voting closed 0