About 50 West Roxbury residents gathered along Centre Street this morning to protest a developer's plan to raze a house that predates the Civil War and a pillbox-style abandoned bank branch and replace them with a 21-unit condo building they say is too big, too bland and too wealth-extracting for the neighborhood's main shopping street.
Most stood with signs in front of Jim Hennigan's insurance office, which would be next to the new building. Hennigan said he's not in a compromising mood: He urged residents to work with him to simply kill the proposal completely and to fight for either a smaller building with more commercial space or something completely different: A historic parklet, focused on the house, built in the 1850s for longtime local store owner, postmaster and railroad depot master William Keith, which could provide some green respite on a street that currently has none.
"This is just the beginning of the battle," Hennigan said. "Our objective is to stop this project."
The house, most recently a real-estate office, and the former Peoples Federal Savings Bank branch, on Centre at Park:
CAD Builders of Canton, which was a partner in the smaller condo building down Centre that replaced West Roxbury Motors, across from the Starbucks, and which is currently building a 29-house subdivision at the end of the bird streets off Washington Street, recently filed revised plans for the building, although the only change was in the exterior look of the building, which had met near universal derision of its original design. Otherwise, the plans remained the same.
Although CAD's representative has insisted the building can go up without any zoning review, residents disputed that today. Joe Impellizeri of the Highland Neighborhood Civic Association, said the building would tower over the neighboring one-story buildings along Centre and would be taller than the three-story maximum he said is allowed by the street's zoning. There are also issues with its parking plan, he said.
With just one tiny proposed commercial space, the CAD building will do nothing to improve the Centre Street business district; in fact, by being so awful, "it will extract wealth from the abutters," he said.
In contrast, he pointed to a series of business upgrades along the street over the past couple of decades that have enhanced the street, such as the way the Real Deal and Sugar replaced Steve Slyne's Deli and Hanley's, the way West on Centre replaced Buck Mulligan's and the way the block with the Continental dog-grooming place sprang up - although after a devastating fire in the old Tai Ho that killed two firefighters.
Hennigan addresses residents: