Thursday, May 10, 2007

300 Square Feet, Magnificent Dog Park Views....

This magnificent space in a prime South End location is (or perhaps was) for sale. Imagine building your own South End townhouse, pied a terre or artist's loft!! The possibilities are endless!!
Actually, I can't figure out if it is for sale or has already been sold. There was a realtor's sign planted on the property for some time, which is now knocked over and lying in the dirt. Either it was sold or more likely someone with common sense kicked it down, overcome with disgust upon the realization that pretty much any plot of land in this part of town, no matter how small or poorly-located, will sell to someone. As my mom used to say (and generally not in a complimentary way), "every pot has its lid". In this case, every last available square foot of South End property has its Uggs-wearing buyer.
Any ideas for what "endless possibilities" (South End realtorese for "we don't know what the hell to do with it, either") await this prime piece of land? Could it possibly be used for anything other than motorcycle parking? I can only dream as to the following:
An heirloom tomato shoppe. A nail salon. An au pair suite. Valet stroller parking concession. Foie Gras "R" Us. "Artist Loft-style" condos for very small people. A dog-rolfing spa. A dog bar.
Readers are invited to submit their own suggestions.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

That spot cannot legally be sold. There was an agreement between the owner and the BRA that in exchange for something the builder wanted to do, that lot would remain untouched with the sycamore trees in place. He tried to sell it without letting the neighborhood know, but they found out and called his "attention" to the agreement that was made, and it was taken off the market.

May 11, 2007 at 1:22:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Correction: it can be sold but it cannot be developed. The trees must remain in place, and the lot must remain as open space.

Sorry about that.

May 11, 2007 at 1:23:00 PM PDT  
Blogger thesouthender said...

Thank you for your comment(s). I was wondering about the space. Its actually a charming little piece of greenery in the middle of the city and I'm glad it has to stay that way. Its nice to be pleasantly surprised every now and then. And even better to know it won't be some sort of gated, memebrs only martini bar.

May 11, 2007 at 1:35:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Only in Boston, Kids! said...

I was about to say, "move the Littlest Bar" that used to be over on Bromfield Street there but that idea wouldn't fly (too small!)

Leave that area as is, perhaps call it the Thinking Place/Peace and Quiet Corner. No strollers, no hip cafe, just a place for people to calm down and relax.

May 11, 2007 at 5:01:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The BRA has an open space restriction on this land (thank god someone is trying to protect our green space).....regardless of this fact, another greedy member of the "me generation" with visions of stainless and granite dancing in their head has put the property under agreement and is already trying to lobby the neighborhood to convince them that his personal desires are more important than the greater good of the community. Unfortunately, in the New World Order the trees, the quiet beautiful reflective spaces and the community itself are low in the pecking order when compared to the likes of walk-in closets, soaring ceilings, 2.5 baths and 6 burner stoves.....but my question for this person is ......Why? There are currently 467 homes on the market in the south end. Can't one of these be made into your dream home??? Please leave the sacred and protected green space for the rest of us to enjoy!!!

May 15, 2007 at 3:56:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The abutters in the building where Polka Dog is located are questioning whether this lot can be developed at all and if yes then how much. Apparently the owner is trying to get the city to nullify an open space designation for the property so it can be built on, and tried to do it a few years ago but was beaten back by the same neighbors. The owner this time got as far as getting the city to schedule a community meeting on it before the abutters were able to intervene and get it cancelled.

Lawyers are involved. This one will get interesting.

May 19, 2007 at 11:08:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous Alison said...

My Junior League friends and I are considering having our lawyers acquire this property for us so that we can create a pretty garden around this tree. And we have some great lawyers who are also members, meaning they are BOTH lawyers and women!!! (Snaps to Amanda, Esq. and Hilary, Esq.!:-) We plan to create a little piece of the Public Garden right here in the South End, with tulips in the spring and roses later in the summer. Unfortunately, we will need to erect a ten foot fence around it to keep out any animals and for our own security during occassional garden parties. (We normally have these parties on our roofdecks or the Vineyard, so it will be a first for us to hold one at street level in an "urban setting". We plan to have extra security consultants working, so do not get any ideas ;-) But you all are welcome to look through the bars at other times to see our pretty flowers!

May 19, 2007 at 5:52:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is nothing more than a case of selfish NIMBY people trying to scare off reasonable development so their own petunias get a little more fresh air and their unearned real estate profits grow fatter.

Unfortunately, these connected string-pullers have run into a sophisticated and reasonable owner who is going to put the smack down on their little games.

May 24, 2007 at 7:28:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous Emily said...

I've recently met the woman who bought this spot of land with her husband. They actually own this, and the lot next to it. The lot with the trees will remain as is, and the lot next to it they are building a home. I was told they are building a "green" home and are keeping all of the trees that are not dead. They are also planning on adding new trees.

May 25, 2007 at 12:02:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For what little it's worth, a local resident architect-type's comment (and from one who knows a bit of the site's history, too, though I've never been directly involved). All of these sites (and the adjoining park, but I'm not going there - for 'tis a nice park and amenity - even for the dogs, pace to our good blogger host, with whom I mostly agree - I'm pro-dog-park if private money's being raised to do it - not least as it tends to keep dogs happier and more docile when out on the public streets, and reduces the dangers of stepping in their leavings elsewhere...but I digress) used to be DENSELY developed as artisan-class townhouses which fell into decay and were torn down, fell down, or were burned-down over the years. Without reference to the historic maps, I'm not sure whether this site is just on the edge of solid land or on fill, but chances are 'tis the latter, so it was CREATED TO BE BUILT UPON, NOT OPEN. The South End is special urbanistically precisely because it's the largest SURVIVING contiguous desnse Victorian urban neighborhood in the nation - and its PLANNED urban park system was sensitively thought-out, by Bulfinch and others, on an English model (think London; rather than French as in the Back Bay) as it was being developed. Accidental open lots, such as this one and its neighbor, are NOT and should NOT be considered 'sacred green space' -they're houselots pure and simple, always were, always should be. In terms of park or garden usage, not the least of concerns is that this is a far from clean sort of site to use for children playing, growing edible plants, etc.: contaminated-waste charges for "urban fill" would be assessed to take out all that grassy topsoil were one to build there. The stuff is typically laden with over a hundred years of lead paint chips, oil, construction debris and other unknown contaminants - not to the extent a genuinely contaminated 'brownfield' would be, but certainly more beige than green...

If left open to the extent favored by the "Open Space at All Costs" lobby, these gap sites typically erode the order of the neighborhood, make dense streets less meaningful and charming [why is Acorn St. on the Hill one of the most photographed places in the city, ask yourself...not for having empty-lot "parks" at its corners], provide an undermonitored place for muggers to lurk [I have several friends who have been mugged or had attempts made in and around this area, on an increasing basis, in the past couple of years], WEAKEN the texture of the urban fabric and experience, and generally muddle-up the edges of otherwise pleasant, planned and maintained urban green space. Personally, I'd like to lead a crusade to BUILD on more than half of the little ill-thought-out corner and mid-block parklet lots in the South End [I will happily admit that the well-maintained one in the middle of this same block on Bradford is quite charming, but a rule-proving exception - I will REJOICE the day the Sahara and the vacant lot at Bradford and Waltham are redeveloped, I hope as densely as height and area limitations allow!!], and give over the resources expended on their maintenance to some of the undermaintained (and underpatrolled) real parks and garden lots around....[insert howls of protest from the kneejerk eco-Nazis here...].

In the case of this particular lot, yes, it has a couple of nice mature trees and it WILL be preserved by the new owners (and would have been by the prior ones), not least as it does have that BRA moratorium on it, but also because the adjoining lot is adequate to the new owners' needs and this can make a nice yard, which they do own and can maintain. By all informed reports I've heard, the building they plan to erect will be a handsome, 'green', sensitive, and appropriate one. But the BRA moratorium is only there in the first place because of politicking, not because of good urban design or thought: these lots could and really should be built solid with similarly-scaled houses to their neighbors. THAT'S WHAT THEY'RE FOR. Really, this would do a favor to the edge conditions at Peters Park and certainly to the 60s-damaged urban plan of the neighborhood. This would be restoration, not any form of encroachment.

One of the things that is going on here, of course, is that some well-connected perennial-activist residents in the Polka-Dog-building, are basically mau-mauing the system, hitting on all those hot-button PC words about sacred green space, etc., spuriously, in order to preserve their basically not-by-any-sensible-right views of the park, southern light, and ever-upward-spiralling real-estate values. They will claw, shriek, scream, obstruct, file frivolous suit, and do anything else in their power to make life difficult for ANY owners [that's right - private owners, property...among the foundations of American rights and freedoms...but, apparently in Boston some animals are now more equal than others...]of that lot to this end. They've done it for years with regard to this site, and I've personally, as a fly-on-the-wall at community meetings, seen some of them make life difficult for legitimate business development elsewhere as well. "How will it affect my [all-holy] property values" is the constant cry. JEEZ-us: six or seven years ago, prior to the sudden boom in million-dollar condos on SHAWMUT (remember what it was like ten years ago?! I sure do...), property values were sane, most of these people have since made an on-paper KILLING on their little midrise-tenement-building's units just by sitting-put, but, greedy, greedy, greedy (and NIMBY, NIMBY, NIMBY...), they want it ALL, and nobody in the City administration seems to have the guts to stand up to them and put them in their place, certainly not the BRA. The very worst thing about Boston neighborhoods is how a small, vocal, connected minority can put their own, often undeserved, prerogatives before those of good urban design and even the property rights of their neighbors. People who want to live in a green, leafy place and never have to worry about losing the light and space (which they enjoy but DON'T own) to reasonable development of their neighbors' property should take their insane property-appreciation profits of the past few years, shut the *$%&#! up, and move to bloody Newton/Weston, rather than insisting on bringing the suburbs here, ruining the urban experience for those of us who came here specifically for the grit and energy of the city, now, alas, all but sapped from Boston.

One to ponder, actually, the new "NIMBY" is "BANANA:" Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything."

Here endeth the away (grin).

May 31, 2007 at 10:57:00 AM PDT  
Blogger thesouthender said...

Actually, and I know that this will surprise you, but I'm basically on your side on this one - with a few limitations. We certainly feel the same way about the suburbanization of this neighborhood. I agree with what you said about the plot in question - it is completely underused and will always be underused, no matter how nicely landscaped. Its just not a lively space, it rarely gets good light, and its not inviting or even safe. In fact, I ofetn see crack being smoked just through the fence at that corner. All I was ranting about, however, is that knowing how things have been going in the South End in the last three years or so, and certainly due to an astronomical rise in peoperty prices, I shuddered to think what kind of business or public space might go into that plot of land (if that had been an option, which it apparently is not as I assume the purchaser intends to use it as residential space. And I don't care if it is a residential space, green, blue, red or otherwise, as long as I don't have to see another bank branch or martini bar open up. Let's just pray that the owners will have the decency not to wear Uggs and not to raise children steps away from crack-smoke central.

June 1, 2007 at 2:09:00 PM PDT  
Blogger thesouthender said...

Oh, and also, as you were wondering, the original "Boston Neck," which was the narrow strip of land connecting the downtown area with Roxbury/Dorchester, ran pretty much down Washington Street (right past the Red Fez and then Pho Republique) (but they didn't exist back then). Apparently, the Bradford Street and Harrison Avenue areas were swampy marsh area later filled in, northward up to the back bay.

June 1, 2007 at 2:13:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Totally agree, that site should be sensibly developed and some of the other ones around the neighborhood too. Save the trees though. The city should also pressure the Sahara owners to do something about that building as well and the lot behind it.

June 6, 2007 at 7:56:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gotcha, Southender, on basic agreement about the site, and I'm in TOTAL agreement with you on not wanting to see that plot become another MacLaren/Uggs dealer or Mortgage Broker for those wanting to take out a loan to buy heirloom tomatoes. The big trees are nice, to be sure, and I do think that the new owners will do everything in their power to make this a pleasant front/side garden to a very well-designed new townhouse on the buildable lot - so this is really the best of all possible situations - I was venting some steam at th larger issue of people who really should just live in the suburbs and/or be content with the obscene paper profits they've already made on their small Shawmut Ave. condos, rather than making life hell for well-intentioned neighbors.

I do know the basic parameters of the Boston Neck - just not the street by street extent w/o reference to a map - I was just judging by the style of the buildings on that section of Shawmut (earlier than most anything else around/once one moves up the blocks toward Tremont or Union Park, probably 1840s/early 50s, rather than late 50s through the 60s), that it's early fill, at very least.

In any case, bless ye, once again, for this blog and the cathartic opportunity to vent. This WAS such a great, vibrant neighborhood 8-10 years ago (and, for that matter, 30-odd years ago); now that all, and I do mean ALL of its potential has been realized, it's just not fun anymore. I'm off to another city that still gives some hope - and, yeah, it'll probably go the same way, but not 'til I'm in my 50s or 60s, at which point I'll need to start thinking 'bout the cashout money to survive my 70s and 80s as an older gay guy w/o offspring, etc.. Missed the boat here (though I enjoyed some of the ride), hoping I've caught it this time!

All best!

June 11, 2007 at 2:31:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Diane said...

Thanks for writing this.

November 10, 2008 at 6:05:00 PM PST  
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