By Richard Rouse/Special to the Gazette
It never fails to astonish me what generates response from readers of this column. I refer to last month’s commentary on three-deckers. Several devotees told me by phone and on the street about their emotional attachment to this uniquely local type of architecture. Like passionate Red Sox fans, their affection runs deep, with many describing their favorites and the fond memories made within these homes. While many are rehabbing their dwellings, local developers are submitting proposals to convert underused lots into new housing in Mission Hill.
Recently, I attended meetings relating to the proposed developments on the Clutch Works and Faxon Street sites. Frequently, builders attempt to maximize their return by building residential units only. However, truly responsible builders realize that they are creating human living environments. Attractive storefronts are vital to the success of urban housing for wide array of livability factors, such as increasing foot traffic, reducing crime, encouraging community interaction, increasing light, providing jobs and generating taxes.
The vision for the “Clutch” site improves the design of the originally approved project and will comply with the previously agreed-upon rental restrictions, which will not allow undergraduate students. This exciting project will fill in the “missing teeth” on Tremont Street, making this area a more thriving, safe and pedestrian friendly part of Mission Hill.
The project aims to create studios, and one- and two-bedroom apartments, which are currently in short supply in the area. Their architect spoke of his commitment to New Urbanism, which is reflected in the design changes they are proposing. The smartest of these modifications is to build two buildings on the clutch site instead of the large one as is currently approved. The massing of the buildings fit in better with the neighboring structures. More first-floor retail space will be provided, which addresses the sidewalk better with a greater opportunity for neighborhood-oriented retail.
In regard to students, let me report an unusual episode. College kids are often blamed by many (myself included) for the petty annoyances that befall the area. My particular pet peeve is the mysterious disappearance of dozens of the U.S. flags that Main Streets installs on the various holidays. Plants and flowers get torn out of merchant displays and public spaces and youthful drunken revelers are often the usual suspects. Thus, Lilly’s Pasta Express owner and technology buff Matt Postal installed numerous cameras throughout his store, which yielded interesting results. The fellow who snatched his staff’s tip jar was a well-dressed man in his 30s. On another occasion the cameras revealed a known local gentleman in his mid-50s apparently enjoying his cigarette at approximately 3 a.m., when he flew into a red-faced rage, flailing his arms and ripping the blooms from Matt’s window boxes. When confronted, the ashamed vandal apologized and sheepishly admitted to domestic difficulties with his bride of many years. Life is full of surprises!
During one of the recent summer downpours, I observed our assigned Public Works Department street cleaner Colin Talbot dutifully picking up litter amidst the torrent. The following day he received a Mission Hill T-shirt compliments of Main Streets.
In the last issue, I spoke of the challenge for soccer primacy among the Mission Hill eateries. The results are in. Flann O’Brien’s topped the Squealing Pig 1-0 in the finals of this “spirited” rivalry, which has all the earmarks (and legmarks) of an annual tradition. The only complaint rendered was that Mission Hill native and Boston Police Lt. Det. Bob Merner was a “ringer,” as he is not an official “regular” at Flann’s. An investigation is currently under way!
Finally, a great new rib joint named SoulFire has opened in the former Brigham Circle Diner next to Penguin Pizza. The brisket and pulled pork is outstanding and the hot sauce labeled “Fiery” will make your eyes water. At its most recent meeting, the Community Alliance voted in support of a beer and wine license and owner, Wyeth Lynch contends that the gracious welcoming he has received by everyone has been “delightful.”
The writer is the executive director of Mission Hill Main Streets.