Redeveloping Brookline’s Commercial Areas - A Cautionary Tale, by Linda Olson Pehlke
There are some folks in Brookline talking about building housing over retail space as a strategy to add housing. But what about the existing businesses? What about the lack of design standards? How would such a redevelopment process impact our Town? What would this look like? Well, we have a proposal from a developer to give us a preview. A redevelopment project has been proposed for 14 Green St., which is the site of OSAKA restaurant. Even though this site is off of Harvard St., it still is zoned G - 1.75, meaning the site is in a general business district and can have a square footage of 1.75 X the size of the parcel, which in this case, the parcel has 6,201 sq. ft. of land, so a commercial building could be up to 10,852 sq.ft.
The current use, a popular two story restaurant occupying a 7,700 sq. ft. building that occasionally had comedy entertainment as well, is a key contributor to Coolidge Corner’s night life and business vitality. What does the new building offer for space for a commercial business? The proposal is for a 450 sq. ft. space which is located across the facade on the first floor. Incredibly, the proposed commercial space would be only 9 ft. deep! Hardly a usable business space. The proposal also has 5 luxury condominiums. So, a 7,700 sq. ft. busy and popular restaurant would be replaced by a virtually useless 450 sq. ft. “commercial” space. In this case the building owner sold. The proposal also needs all kinds of zoning relief from our current zoning by-law, prompting our Planning Department to suggest changes to reduce the non-compliance. We need to think long and hard before we broadly change our zoning to allow this kind of change, the impacts to our local businesses and the vitality of our commercial areas are just too devastating. The Brookline community needs to reflect on how important to the livability of our Town our business areas are. We should not be taking steps to devastate them with haphazard proposals like this.