Saturday, August 11, 2007

They tore the blue house down

I had seen the letter from the zoning board of appeals. Someone wanted to build something on Green Street. I made a note of the address and went to see what structure we were talking about. It was a large blue Victorian house, next to the Temple. I knew it as an alternative high school, with its small sign that said "Beacon High School" with funky cars parked out front and somewhat outrageously dressed students. I remember thinking that the house, while maybe being a bit run down, was a handsome structure with great potential. I assumed the new construction would be a rehab and reuse of the existing structure because it was, after all, a nice old house. Wrong.

One day last week the green construction fence went up around the house. The next day, a front end loader was ripping off huge chunks of the back of the building. I stood on the sidewalk and my jaw dropped. I still held out hope that the ripping would stop and that the front part of the blue house would be spared. The next day I walked by and the front end loader was on top of a tall pile of debris, dust was billowing in large clouds. The house was no more. I was stunned and saddened and wondered how this could have happened.

What will go up on the site of the Big Blue Victorian? Will it be a bland, stark box, built to the edge of the lot, harsh with no trees or greenery? A structure with no beauty or ornament, no front porches or attractive roof lines? One that maximizes the square footage and therefore profit potential of the lot now made available? I am not hopeful.

I should have gone to that meeting. But for me, night meetings are virtually impossible. So where does that leave the concerned citizen? How are we to keep track of these proposed changes to our neighborhood? The letter announcing the zoning board meeting did not mention demolition. I had naively had faith that the zoning board would press for preservation and adaptive, sensitive re-use. In other words the right thing, being sensitive to the neighboring homes. Did the people living across the street and next door go to the meeting? Did they know that one day they would wake up and the blue Victorian they had gazed out their windows at for years would be reduced to a pile of rubble.

How quickly and easily the destruction happened. The machinery made a home seem like a pile of tooth picks. As I stood on the sidewalk, stunned, looking at pile of wood boards that were once a home, dreading what was to take their place, I wondered if anyone else cared. I could not help but lament my lack of attention to that letter about the meeting I couldn't attend. And I could not help but think there must be a better way to inform citizens about these important decisions and to allow us a chance for input in a way that is more straight forward and convenient than the tedious and arcane zoning board meeting.

They tore the Big Blue Victorian down. [where: 74 Green St, Brookline, MA 02446]

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