Background Information

Existing Conditions

Parcel Information

The Parcel Map & Information page lists each parcel's land area, ownership, building area and current tax assessed value for the entire block bounded by Pleasant, Beacon, Harvard, Green, and John Streets (pentablock). Two parcels (labeled Durgin Garage and Waldo Garage) make up 1.1 acres of property in the heart of Coolidge Corner which is underutilized and/or poorly maintained.The other commercial parcels in this pentablock have vibrant retail storefronts, service uses and offices. Celebrating 50 years this year, the Brookline Booksmith is located within this pentablock along Harvard Street, and is one of the two anchors for Coolidge Corner (the other being the Coolidge Corner Theatre). 

The ongoing frustration of nearby residents and business owners about the condition of the Durgin and Waldo Garages is summarized well in a June 2011 Boston Globe article.

Historical Designations

The Massachusetts Historical Commission (MHC) designated the Durgin Garage as eligible for listing in the National/State Registers of Historic Places. Beacon Street and abutting parcels (including parcels identified here as Pelham Hall, Banks, and Stoller) are already listed in the National/State Registers. Federal and State Investment Tax Credits are available to National/State Register properties or eligible properties. Listed/eligible properties may be subject to further design review by the Brookline Preservation Commission, MHC, and/or other state/federal agencies if state/federal money, licenses or permits are necessary. The Brookline Demolition Delay By-Law can impose up to an 18-month demolition delay on eligible or listed properties such as the Durgin Garage (all buildings in Brookline may see a 12-month demolition delay). 

Photos

Photos taken of the site in June 2012 can be found at this "Dropbox" site and and at this picasa site.

Zoning  Analysis

As shown on the parcel map, the northwest corner of the pentablock, including the Green St. condos, the Coolidge Green Condos, the John St. parking lot, and a portion of the Waldo Garage parcel (the unpaved parking area north of the Waldo Garage building) is zoned M-2.0 Multifamily.

Most of the pentablock is zoned "General Business Coolidge Corner". The Coolidge Corner Designation at this site effectively means that there are additional standards, including:
  • new structures or alterations "shall be harmoniously related to nearby pre-existing structures and the street facade in terms of color, texture, materials, scale, height, setbacks, roof and cornice lines, signs, and design elements such as door and window size and location, door and window detailing including materials for sills, lintels, frames, and thresholds, and other major design elements;
  • above-ground structured parking counts towards the allowable FAR
  • residential development is permitted above the first floor
  • heights where preservation of facades or adjacent cornice lines is considered necessary to the preservation of the desirable visual quality of that part of the district.
Additionally, in 2004 the Planning Board adopted design guidelines applicable to  retail uses over 10,000 square feet in General Business Districts, including:
  • not displace existing smaller retail stores through redevelopment
  • reinforce character, pattern and building rhythm of surrounding business district
  • have a design adaptable for future multiple storefronts
  • provide public amenities, such as pedestrian friendly streetscape improvements, landscaping, high quality materials, overnight parking for area residents and/or indoor amenities, such as public space, web-interactive health information kiosks in pharmacies, and ancillary cafes in bookstores
  • encourage retail use at second floor level where appropriate
A parcel analysis summarizing maximum buildable area shows that the Durgin Garage parcel currently contains more floor area (although most of it is unfinished garage) than allowed by zoning, whereas other nearby parcels are well below the maximum Floor Area Ratio (FAR).

History of Durgin Garage

The Durgin garage building was built in 1926 with neo-classical ornamentation, as an auto garage with retail shops. The building has a concrete foundation and walls of cast stone ashlar blocks and brick.The architect for the Durgin building was Harold Field Kellogg (1884-1964). Kellogg was a 1906 graduate of Harvard and attended the Ecole des Beaux Arts in 1906-1910. After working for a number of prominent Boston firms he established his own practice in 1913. Major projects include the Longwood Towers in Brookline and the Batterymarch Building and Hatch Shell in Boston. He wrote an article with photos and plans of the Durgin Garage published on July 5, 1927 in The American Architect. The design of the building includes seven stores on Pleasant Street and five and one-half concrete floors of garage space accessed by ramps. At the time of its 1926 construction, there was capacity for 225 cars.

Charles E. Durgin operated this garage including the Wegmann Auto Laundry System. The original stores consisted of a candy shop, a confectioners, a ladies apparel store, a Chinese laundry, a shoe repair, a tire store, and an Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company grocery. 

Above information about the Durgin Garage is taken from Building Inventory Form, Preservation Commission, Hardwicke/Benka/Reed, 1995, except the date of The American Architect article has been corrected here.

Recent Timeline for Study Area

Link to word document of timeline of the study area parcels as of June 24, 2012. This was put together by Eunice White and Jean Stringham.

Coolidge Corner Planning Studies

Planning & Transportation Studies

Subject to a favorable May 2012 Spring Town Meeting vote, the Transportation Division will begin a transportation study (all modes) of Coolidge Corner. The study is likely to be limited to Harvard and Beacon Streets, 2-3 blocks in each direction from the Harvard/Beacon Street intersection. 

In addition to Brookline's 2005 Comprehensive Plan, there are four planning studies that will be particularly important for this Committee to understand: Coolidge Corner Transportation Analysis (March 2007), Coolidge Corner District Plan (not adopted by the Planning Board), Coolidge Corner Interim Planning Overlay District (expired in 2007), and the 2007 Three-Site Coolidge Corner Study.

The Town's Bicycle Master Plan is available here.

The Urban Land Institute's Infrastructure Council recently released their "Hub and Spoke Report", which highlights the MBTA system's core transit congestion and asks the state to "make the investments necessary to ensure that the MBTA can continue to serve a growing ridership, anchor transit-oriented development in cities and towns throughout greater Boston and support a prosperous regional economy."

Ground Floor Storefront Survey

Economic Development annually updates its database of first-floor storefronts. The information below is based on counting individual storefronts, not by aggregated square footage for each store. As shown in the information below, we know that Coolidge Corner tends to have a higher percentage of chain stores on the first floor, which is not surprising as our largest commercial area depends on a more regional base of customers than some of our neighborhood business districts. Over the last five years the percentage of chain stores and restaurants has held relatively stable in Coolidge Corner. The vacancy rate of first floor storefronts in Coolidge Corner is very similar to the Town-wide average, with a (hopeful) peak in 2009.





Demographics

The Brookline Community Foundation recently analyzed Brookline census demographics, which you can access through their webpage.

2010 Census Information shows that in Brookline, since 2000, there is a 10.1% increase in households with their own children event though there has only been 35 additional net units in that time period. Additionally, the 2010 census information shows Brookline has 10% more women than men and that 33% of Brookline's population has been here 10 years or less.


[to be verified and further analyzed by Committee]

Conceptual Ideas for the Area

  • In 1997-1998, 18 attached townhouses called "The Village" and accessed from Waldo Street were proposed for the Waldo Garage parcel (10 Waldo Street). The Board of Appeals approved 15 single family townhouses, which were never built.
  • James Carr, AIA (and member of this Committee) participated in the 2007 Coolidge Corner District Plan process, and at the time volunteered a conceptual vision for the pentablock.
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Kara Brewton,
May 3, 2012, 11:23 AM
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