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Developer says he's going to build 21 condos in West Roxbury, the only question is whether he builds them on Centre Street or the city gives him a nearby parking lot to put them on

Rendering of 1905-1911 Centre St. proposal

1905-1911 Centre St. rendering.

Developer Gary Martell told residents last night that if the city gives him the parking lot at Corey and Railroad streets for his latest condo proposal, he'll gladly give up the decaying old Gilmore place and the small brutalist former bank next door on Centre Street so that residents can try to turn them into a history-oriented community center.

But if the city turns out not to be interested in giving up the parking lot - across from the commuter-rail parking lot and on the other side of the post office from a smaller municipal lot - he says he will tear the two buildings down and put up the four-story building for which he's filed plans with the BPDA - which, however, has yet to take any action.

Martell spoke at a sometimes contentious Zoom meeting, organized by the mayor's Office of Neighborhood Services, in advance of a hearing next week by the Boston Landmarks Commission on whether to give Martell's CAD Builders permission to tear down the two buildings. Demolition of any building more than 50 years old in Boston requires sign off by the landmarks commission.

Neither building is currently designated as "historic" on any government lists, but residents argue that the Gilmore building in particular is worth preserving because it was originally built as a post office in the 1840s or 1850s and is now one of the last examples of a Georgian Revival post office from that era left in the state.

Also, the building has key ties to local and even national history, they say. Postmaster William Keith, who had the house built after his appointment as West Roxbury postmaster by Andrew Jackson in 1836, played a key role in the development of what would become the town of West Roxbury. Robert Gould Shaw trained for the army at Camp Andrew at the former Brook Farm nearby and used the post office for his correspondence before assuming control of the famous 54th Massachusetts - while other notable figures, including Nathaniel Hawthorne and Theodore Parker, would also get and send their mail from there.

Residents have said the house - which was most recently a real-estate office before it was shuttered and started to fall apart - could be rebuilt as the sort of community focal point West Roxbury does not really have now. One resident said he's been in "back channel" discussions with a Boston-area group that works on restoration of historic properties that says it would be interested in working on a West Roxbury project, but only if the property were first deeded to either the city or a non-profit group. Other residents spoke of creating a fundraising drive for such work.

Martell, who builds in West Roxbury and Roslindale, said last year he'd spent $2.4 million on the land. He says he would not only be amenable to swapping the parcels for the municipal parking lot, he was the one who first proposed it.

Even aside from the historic issue, however, residents said they would continue to oppose Martell's developing the two parcels.

Local insurance broker Jim Hennigan, whose office is next to the Gilmore property, said Martell - a partner in turning the old West Roxbury Motors site into condos across from the Starbucks - just wants to turn Centre Street into "a tunnel of condominiums." Others said West Roxbury has done its part to ease Boston's housing shortage - just look at all the new apartments constructed or going in along VFW Parkway, they said.

Vincent Finn accused Martell of failing to get the proper city permits for some preliminary work at the Gilmore house. Martell said that's not true, then refused to engage with Finn further. "This isn't a trial," he said.

Other residents accused him of deliberately letting the house fall apart - for example, by leaving attic windows open so rain and vermin could get in.

Ginny Gass, president of the Bellevue Hill Improvement Association, said she personally would be opposed to eliminating the parking lot "because that's a parking lot that we all use every day." However, she emphasized she was speaking for herself. The group meets later this week on the proposal, she said.

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Comments

This is absolute absurdity. That Gilmore building has been falling apart for decades. There is nothing historic or redeeming about it. Same with the old bank building next to it. This is the usual NIMBY nonsense from a small, vocal group of West Roxbury residents. Build the housing there and stop listening to these people who oppose everything.

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Voting closed 81

Because famous people might have used it at one time even though there is literally no documentation.

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Voting closed 39

I think this just goes to show that it’s time to reform the process so that they get less input and more projects proceed by right. I’m personally getting really sick of these self appointed and unaccountable we-are-the-sole-acceptable-voice of the neighborhood types sticking the rest us with blight for years (remember the burned out inhaler factory?) while they clutch their pearls about the horrors of building housing in the area and harass (as one of them did in the chat box at the meeting) anyone who dares to disagree with their vision. Shameful.

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Voting closed 41

The building going up on the inhaler factory is pretty nice looking, too! Not the same fiberglass box with pop outs you see all over the place - there's actual rooflines and stuff. I'm happy to have it in the neighborhood, maybe we'll get some more foot traffic to the small businesses on this far ass end of Centre.

The Gilmore building is a couple years and a couple of good heavy storms from collapsing in on itself. I'm all for historic preservation, even when the building isn't necessarily important - put two units in the older building, build a bigger building connecting out the back - but the amount of original material that's likely to be in a salvageable state is pretty minimal, just looking at the damn thing. It's not historic preservation if you have to gut the thing down to the studs, replace half of those, and then put in all new materials anyway. That's just nostalgia fetishism.

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Voting closed 18

I’ll take 100 more Martell condos instead of planet fitness, family dollar, another “salon” or bank, the smoke shop (which attracts a criminal element of miscreants who refuse to park legally or use a trash receptacle) or any other business that provides nothing to the heavy tax payers of West Roxbury. At least his buildings are new, clean and improve the property values. Planet fitness will ruin centre st. There have already been issues in the “signup office” and no one has been in there yet. Nice work main streets. start working to make centre st improve lives of west roxbury residents.

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Voting closed 15

NIMBY. To be clear they don’t want Centre to be a “tunnel of condos,” they want it to be a six lane death trap race track, basically a bowling lane for the Westies’ Suburbans.

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Voting closed 72

Here's the developer - in his own words - showing what a great friend he is of this community; seems like a really swell fellow:

May 1, 2021, Boston Herald:

He said that everyone who lived there before the mid-’90s had the chance to weigh in on the last zoning change, and anyone moving in after should have cracked open the codes for the business district.

“You should have done your due diligence before you bought the house,” he told the Herald, responding to what he described as the “shenanigans” of the residents demonstrating.

“They have a right to complaint if they want,” said Martel, who said he’s paying $2.4 million for the project land. “The only way to fix what they’re angry about is to rezone the area. If you don’t like the zoning, then rally together and change it, and then I’ll follow that.”

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Voting closed 23

It's not even hostile, just matter of fact.

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Voting closed 68

All those West Roxbury residents who are totally fine with all the pedestrians getting hit by cars while cross Centre St. in that neighborhood. Imagine fighting so hard to make sure people can keep getting hit by cars...

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Voting closed 63

Can you hear my sobs on behalf of these poor nimbys?

Good for the developer, he doesn’t owe these nimbys anything. These crotchety old Westies can get stuffed. Heck, it’s almost funny that they haven’t figure out or are to dumb to work the zoning.

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Voting closed 52

he always seems to be able to get approval but then the plans just dont get built exactly as provided. He has 2 completed buildings on Centre Street; one in Rozzi and one in WR. The final build is a bit off the plan. Each building actually is built so close the the street that there are units with the traffic light right outside a window. He is smarmy. Gilmore property aside; Parkway residents have had problems with his development for years.

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Voting closed 14

Why is it always "NIMBYism" in West Roxbury but "community activism" in Jamaica Plain? When did the left become such ardent supporters of big developers, big pharma, anti free speech. The evolution of the left is such a strange thing to watch.

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Voting closed 15

The only point I sympathize with is the tunnel of condos. There's very little thought or investment or community partnership going into the first floor of these buildings. They're just there to check a box. They're not attracting the kind of commercial tenants that contribute to walkable, engaging "main street." Many are just sitting vacant. It's an understandable reason to question developers' design and investment. But it's not a reason to not build at all and these stupid arguments about historically insignificant buildings precent us from having more productive and thoughtful conversations about the shape of the neighborhood.

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Voting closed 15

I really feel like that's more related to the frankly ridiculous rates of commercial vacancy across the whole city, not just in new mixed-use condo buildings. There's empty storefronts everywhere - including all up and down Centre street already. This is an issue the city needs to solve with vacancy taxes and crackdowns on people keeping stores empty in the hopes of getting a bank and etc, etc - bigger solutions than one developer can solve.

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Voting closed 17

The newcomers have better taste then the crotchety Westies and we get more/better retail and food.

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Voting closed 13

por_que_no_los_dos.jpg

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Voting closed 23

nice touch.

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Voting closed 18

Everyone always complains about the supposed lack of parking. So let him build this on the Corey St parking lot and make this Centre Street double lot the parking that people are clamoring for.

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Voting closed 20

So quick to yell NIMBY and probably don't own any property or live in West Roxbury

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Voting closed 14

You’re so right, Katie Starlight! I live (own, since it apparently matters) on the other side of WR Pkwy in Rozzie, walk along Washington lamenting the parking lots and single-story retail that could be built up, resulting in a more vibrant neighborhood with more retail and food. (To be clear I think the same about Centre.)

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Voting closed 18

n/t

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Voting closed 20

I'm laughing that the NIMBYs are now faced with an impossible, heartbreaking choice: visible condos on a main thoroughfare that's already mixed commercial/residential at the cost of two ugly buildings, one of which is falling down anyway, OR loosing the most important thing of all - PARKING.

My tiny bitty violin plays for them.

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Voting closed 20