Monday, October 30, 2017

Longmeadow's Long Range Plan Anticipated Brewer-Young Project

About 17 years ago the Town of Longmeadow sponsored an intensive study of long range issues facing the town.  The report issued in 2004 highlighted and recommended the possible need at some time in the future to allow selected conversion (repurposing) of large historic homes on Longmeadow Street to professional office use.

[click to enlarge]

Here is some background information about this study...

In May 2000 a task force of 14 people- including both town residents and elected officials was formed to study long range issues facing Longmeadow.  There was $60K of funding to hire consulting companies Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc. of Watertown, MA and RKG Associates, Inc. of Durham, NH.  The Pioneer Valley Planning Commission of Springfield, MA also played a key role in this study.

A public forum held at Bay Path College in February 2001 which I as well as many other town residents (120+) attended in order to provide inputs to be considered by the task force.

After almost four years and many hundreds of hours of effort a 116 page report: Longmeadow Faces the Future: The Longmeadow Long Range Plan (click link to view full report) was issued in April 2004.

One of the issues studied and detailed in the report was Housing.
Here are some details developed by the task force and the professional consultants.

Longmeadow Street Overlay Zone
"In the future, if large houses on Longmeadow Street no longer prove desirable for single family residences, and either do not sell as residences or begin to fall into disrepair, the Town may wish to consider an overlay zone with strict design guidelines to permit some homes to be converted into professional offices, bed and breakfasts, or condominiums. Creative site and design review would preserve the historic character of the area."

"The third strategy considered for this analysis was to allow certain properties on Longmeadow Street to transition from single family residential to office or mixed-use over time. There are many stately and historic homes located along this corridor, and there is strong support in the community to preserve the historic character of Longmeadow Street. There is also no evidence at this time to indicate that these homes have become too expensive to maintain as single-family residences. Property values on Longmeadow Street are high and the corridor remains a desirable residential location."

"It is not the Town’s preference to change Longmeadow Street into a commercial corridor. However, offering property owners the flexibility to locate office uses within larger homes on adequately sized lots may be necessary in the future, if the cost to own and maintain these residences continues to escalate. The consultant team proposes that the Town consider allowing some commercial uses along the corridor, in strictly controlled cases, within larger structures and on lots with sufficient area to accommodate off-street parking." 

"There was a recognition by the group that most houses on Longmeadow Street were either too small in size or lacked sufficient land to be consider for a home conversion to professional offices." 

[click image to enlarge]

It is interesting, possibly only coincidental, but the above diagram showing a potential home conversion to professional office points to 734 Longmeadow Street- the Brewer-Young mansion.  

Figure 7 (see below) from the Long Range Plan report shows a possible conversion of this property with suitable landscaping and necessary to maintain the look from Longmeadow Street.  

This design is very much in keeping with a similar design proposal being offered by the Longmeadow Historic Partners, LLC group.
 [click image to enlarge]

The plan outlined by the Longmeadow Historic Partners to preserve the 132 year historic Wolcott-Brewer-Young mansion and repurpose it to professional office use is in keeping with the recommendations as outlined in the Longmeadow Long Range plan issued in 2004.

Let's allow the property at 734 Longmeadow Street to be rezoned to Professional


wintjc said...

Hello Jim,

You state " the design is very much in keeping with a similar design proposal being offered by the Longmeadow Historic Partners, LLC group.. However I don't see a 36 spot parking lot and parking lot lighting and curb cuts for the plan as reportedly needed for office space. Are you saying that the current plan looks like th picture above. Either way can you post it so everyone can see rather than take your word for it.

Jim Moran, LongmeadowBiz said...

Hello wintjc,

As I understand it, the design of the proposed parking lot for the Brewer-Young project has not been finalized. The design "intent" (not necessarily the specific design) is similar to that shown in the Long Range Plan report. The final design will obscure the view of the required parking lot from the street via a curved driveway entrance and large bushes. I also understand that it is possible that a variance may be forthcoming to reduce the required parking.

wintjc said...

Thanks Jim for your kind response. . I think a variance is not a good idea, they should have to be self supportive of their parking needs and not infringe upon the towns needs and is a bad precedent.
I think most will agree that putting the parking directly BEHIND the mansion is the BEST solution to limit visibility of cars from the street. I believe that is a longstanding tenet of the historic district , to limit the view of cars. I guess thats why the basic design from 2004 put most of the parking BEHIND the house.

Jim Moran, LongmeadowBiz said...

Hello, wintjc,

In the past, variances for required parking have been granted by the ZBA for numerous businesses in Longmeadow depending upon the actual needs of a business. Recently, there has been interest in the former Huke Lau restaurant location for a new restaurant venture. It turns out that the Huke Lau restaurant had been issued a variance that reduced the amount of required parking but because the location has been vacant for more than one year, the new business will have to apply for a new variance.

I believe that the 36 parking spots for the Young Mansion project are prescribed based upon the sq footage of the business office space rather than the nature or actual volume of clients. The ZBA can reduce the requirement by up to 25% or 9 spaces --> 27.

Contrary to what the SAVE OUR GREEN advocates are claiming, Longmeadow will lose a landmark building and an important part of our town's history if this project is blocked.

wintjc said...

Thanks again Jim for clarifying things, So it is a MINIMUM of 27 parking spots (at best) if they are able to get a variance and use the towns spots for parking a commercial private owned property that has no on-street spots of its own. The town then will bear the burden of maintaining those spots for the property in perpetuity? Why should the town bear this cost and inconvenience?
Let's be reasonable and admit that the 36 parking spot lot is likely what is going to happen.

One another point....

You and others seem to keep stating that the building will be lost. " Longmeadow will lose a landmark building and an important part of our town's history if this project is blocked." are the words you use here.

Can you comment on this further the notion that if the plan is defeated the property will be lost?

Are you saying that if the plan is defeated that the new owners will rip the property down?

Why is it seemingly presented by those who support placing a commercial zone in a residential district as an all or none proposition?

Jim Moran, LongmeadowBiz said...


Within the last year, the town created an significant increase in public parking spots in front of the Community House by changing the flow of traffic to one way and the angle of parking on the west side of the street. Since this is a public way, the town is already obligated to maintain the street. The increase in parking has been embraced by the Town Manager and Select Board so I'm guessing that it will be maintained for the foreseeable future.

Not too long ago, the B-Y mansion was close to being CONDEMNED by the Town and Building Commissioner because of the collapsing front portico and its danger to town residents as well as first responders should a fire or other emergency situation arise. J.P. Morgan Chase which was the previous owner injected $125,000 into the house to fix this deterioration of the structure.

The house will continue to deterioration and unless there is a significant infusion of renovation money, the future looks very bleak for the B-Y mansion.

The Longmeadow Historic Preservation Group has offered a plan to town residents to SAVE THE YOUNG MANSION. They have not issued any ultimatum about what would happen if the rezoning request is rejected.

Lastly, the zoning change is to "professional" not "commercial" which limits the business use of the property. It cannot be turned into a retail store, art gallery, event venue, Starbucks coffee shop, etc.

You should plan to visit the B-Y mansion during the public open house on Saturday afternoon, November 18 to see first hand. Perhaps you will become a supporter of the SAVE THE MANSION initiative.