History of Fort Hill, Part 2 (2008). Mural by: Loray McDuffie, Taylor Saintable, Edwin Perez-Clancy, Christine O'Connell, Julia Andreasson, Jorge Benitez, Divah Payne, Lucy Saintcyr, Laua Dedonato, Gregg Bernstein.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The concerns of the neighbors on Centre Street should be your concerns, too.

We’ve been told that the proposal for a bar/restaurant at 85 Centre Street has been withdrawn. If we get confirmation of that, we’ll post it.

This is not the first time for 85 Centre Street.

Even if the most recent proposal has been withdrawn, we still think it important to round out the reasons why this proposal is a bad idea. Every decade or so it seems a new proposal for a bar/restaurant crops up at 85 Centre Street. It was the Society of Vulcans at one time, and various private social clubs at others. Each time it seems the neighbors on Centre Street have to shout for their concerns to be heard.

Mr. Settles isn't the issue.

Given all that can be learned about Mr. Settles, he probably is the very best entrepreneur the Centre Street residents could hope for. If this blog hasn't shown high enough regard for Mr. Settles’s reputation—if not his approach to the neighborhood—here is a fine article from Restaurant Confidential on this "quintessential entrepreneur." But, Mr. Settles’s business reputation isn’t the issue. Once Mr. Settles has moved on to his next venture, the neighbors will still be living next to a bar and restaurant being run by the successor owner/manager.

A new bar and restaurant is the issue, not Mr. Settles.

Current aspects of the neighborhood

On the face of things, it should be easy to understand the neighbors’ concerns.

The neighborhood has a status quo. It is up to those who wish to change that to demonstrate why the lives of the Centre Street neighbors will be improved—not the other way around.

Here are a few characteristics of the neighborhood, some positive and some not so positive:
  • Residential
  • Families with children
  • Large number of long-term residents
  • Significant numbers of residents who moved to the neighborhood for its current character
  • Busy and urban during the day
  • Quiet and unhurried during the evening
  • Significant impingement by the immediate institutions and urban infrastructure (Roxbury Community College, Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center, the mosque, the Orange Line, Fenway Park)
  • Heavy day-time and weekend traffic
  • Heavy day-time parking
  • Vehicular traffic traveling too fast at all hours
Likely changes a bar/restaurant would bring

Here are a few of the negative changes a bar/restaurant would introduce to the neighborhood (We’ll leave it to proponents to list the positive ones):
  • A business establishment dropped into an otherwise residential neighborhood
  • A liquor license, with the inevitable noise and disorderliness
  • Increased day-time traffic (employees and liquor/restaurant supply deliveries)
  • Increased night-time traffic
  • Increased day-time parking congestion (employees)
  • Night-time parking congestion (customers and employees)
  • Noise from arriving and departing parties to the bar/restaurant
  • Noise from the normal business operation (music on the patios, kitchen exhaust fans, emptying of garbage into the dumpsters)
  • Odors from the kitchen exhaust fans
It would be surprising to learn of a residential neighborhood that would welcome these negative changes.

Commercial use up the hill isn't very popular either.

In fact, commercial use at 74 Highland/13 Dorr at Alvah Kittredge Square was recently turned down at a neighborhood meeting. From the distributed notes to that meeting:
The consensus was that although some retail or non-housing uses may be desired in the neighborhood (convenience store, laundromat, etc.) that the down side of these uses in terms of feasibility, security, traffic/parking and other concerns outweighed the benefits.
If these are concerns are to be respected two blocks away at Kittredge Square, they ought to be equally respected, just down the hill, on Centre Street.

In the next posts, we'll discuss the desire for a more urban amenities, and suggest ways this desire could be met. If the proposal for 85 Centre has been withdrawn, we'll post that, too.

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