Thursday, December 28, 2017

History of the Town Green- Part II

Figure 1- Aerial View of Longmeadow Town Green
[click image to enlarge]
Opponents of the restoration efforts by the Longmeadow Historic Preservation Partners would have you believe that the proposed project to re-purpose the Brewer-Young mansion at 734 Longmeadow Street- built in 1885 would violate the trust given to town residents by Longmeadow's founding fathers.  However, nothing could be further from the truth. 

As Part I of this series has shown, it was the businesses located ON the Town Green that were removed prior 1831.  The land on the Green had been leased to shop keepers and when their leases expired, they were required to remove the shops from the Green.  According to an 1831 map of Longmeadow there were no business shops located ON the Green.

There were NO concerns expressed at the time about businesses such as the Cooley Store- now the Dr. Brooks/ Spa-on-the-Green (built in 1802) that were located AROUND the perimeter of the Green.

It is interesting to take a look back at the Green during the 20th century.  

It turns out that in 1894 after the split with East Longmeadow, Longmeadow leaders granted a franchise to the Springfield Street Railway to operate a trolley service from Springfield, MA to Enfield, CT with two sets of trolley tracks + electric power poles.  The path ran directly through the Green

See History of the Town Green- Part I for additional details, maps and photos.

It is interesting to study the Longmeadow Historic District during the 20th century and learn that there were at least 18 different businesses located in 8 different locations AROUND the Green (see figure 2 below).  Only two remain today- Dr. Brooks/Spa-on-the-Green and the Montessori International School. Remember... the Montessori School has been located for the past 20 years in the Old Parsonage that once stood at the location of the Longmeadow Community House.  This mid-19th century home was re-purposed from the First Church parsonage --> private residence --> private school (see additional information).
Figure 2- 20th Century Businesses on the Longmeadow Town Green[click image to enlarge]
One other point that should not be forgotten.  The Community House built in 1921 by the First Church of Christ for the Town of Longmeadow as a "community center" for all town residents was purchased by the Town in 1927.  In recent years the Town has utilized significant space in the basement of the building for conducting town business operations- quite different from the original intent of the building. You might say that a significant portion of the Community House was re-purposed.

WWI and WWII memorial monuments and a flag pole were added to the Green during the 20th century (see additional information).  It was only after the trolley tracks were removed by the Springfield Street Railway in 1940 that the commercial aspect on the Town Green returned to its mid-19th century appearance.

Question:  How does the restoration of the Brewer-Young mansion cause any effect on the so-called "pristine" nature of the Town Green?Answer: It doesn't.

Vote YES on January 25- Let's SAVE an iconic structure in our town.

6 comments:

Robin Kofsky said...

I don’t think that this is a good location for professional offices. We have space available at Bliss and Longmeadow Street that was formerly a location for hairdresser a dance studio a restaurant and more. Why the doctors can’t open practices there even though it’s slightly off the green would be my question. I don’t think we should’ve sold this property to the doctor and his partner without knowing their intent to create professional offices there and having a vote on that. The location and the mansion would be perfect for a bed and breakfast which I know the town did not want to entertain, but I think it would have retained the charm and the history and the structure with owned by a proper organization.
Longmeadow does need some accommodations for visitors more than it needs another professional physician office. We also have space available on William Street across from big Y in that shopping center in that office building. My vote is not to make the mansion into a professional office location. The traffic right off Longmeadow Street and Especially with the casino opening next year off of Route five is going to be busy enough there without creating a lot of in and out traffic.

Jim Moran, LongmeadowBiz said...

Robin,

I think that you have missed a couple of key points in this debate.

Over a period of many years, the Brewer-Young Mansion has fallen into severe disrepair and there has been NO interest from any RESIDENTIAL buyers after the house was offered for sale. Estimated costs for restoration are up to $2 million.

To preserve it, it must become self-sustaining and the re-purposing of the structure into a suite of professional offices (not necessarily doctor's offices) is seen by the Longmeadow Historic Preservation Partners group as the only way to ensure long term survival.

You are probably right.... there are other locations in Longmeadow suitable for professional office space but that does not relate to the current situation. There would certainly be concerns about impacts on the Town Green if the property had been sold to a developer interested in creating a "bed and breakfast" or event venue as you suggest. A change in zoning to "commercial" would be required rather than "professional" as currently proposed but such a change would allow a much broader commercial use in the future.

"I don't think that we should've sold the property".... This was a private real estate transaction and the town has no power or right to veto (or approve) a legal sale of property.

In addition to changing the street in front of the Community House to a one way street (north), it also changed the traffic light at the Storrs Library entrance to a blinking light which has impacted the traffic backup at the Williams and Longmeadow Streets. Without any changes at 734 Longmeadow Street, the town will probably need to resolve this issue by adding a new traffic light.

Robin, please reconsider your opposition to this zoning change and vote YES on January 25 at the Special Town Meeting.

Matt Henrey said...

The traffic is going to be critical and once zoned no one can control who the space can be rented out to. Dr. Brooks has already pulled out and he was supposed to take up two thirds of the space. There is much more space in town to rent and a bidding war was going on for the property when it sold this last time. Anything will sell and be restored for rhe right price.

Jim Moran, LongmeadowBiz said...

Matt,

Thank you for your comments...

You are right that traffic is going to be critical. As I mentioned in my previous remarks, the town will need to deal with the Williams St/ Longmeadow St. intersection regardless of what happens to 734 Longmeadow St.

I also don't think that Dr. Brooks/Spa-on-the-Green deciding to not rent 734 Longmeadow Street is a big deal. In fact it might be a positive development for you given the unknown "COMMERCIAL" tenant who might move in next to your house.

Forget the "bidding war" idea that there was one or more buyers interested in purchasing the property as a residence. There was a second interested buyer but this buyer sought to purchase the property for a commercial use- not as a residence.

If Longmeadow was Greenwich, CT, perhaps your last statement might be true. However, there are few people if any willing to make the required investment.

Using the argument.... the town will not be able to control who will rent offices at 734 Longmeadow Street if it is allowed to be rezoned is pretty lame, particularly since one of the owners lives next door with his family.

Restoration of the Brewer-Young mansion to its original grandeur will enhance (not detract) the appearance of the Town Green and increase the value of your property.

Please reconsider your opposition to this zoning change and vote YES on January 25 at the Special Town Meeting.

Scott Copland said...

I don't feel anyone who is opposed to this project such as myself and many others in the community are opposed to the restoration and development of this property as professional offices as outlined. As a matter of fact I feel it is welcomed that the developers want to step up and restore it to its original grandiose splendor! It would be great for the community as a whole! It is certainly their right to do so as the owners of this property and applaud their efforts to restore this iconic and magnificent property. There is a two fold problem here though 1. You can't sell part of the town green for private development and turn it into a paved parking lot! You can't put a price tag on that. Once you have done so and set that precedent there is no turning back you have essentially opened up Pandora's Box with no turning back because once you have done so you lose control over future development because you have set this precedent. You couldn't control it even if you wanted to. 2) It has become abundantly clear especially with recent communications that have become public where town officials have essentially told the developers don't worry we got this and are using legal bullying tactics and talking about different types of rezoning plans without public input. There is certainly a perception real or perceived that there has been some smokey back room deal with the developers. To make this work in my opinion the project needs to stay within the footprint of this property. To reference something from the 1800's is an interesting note but has nothing to do with this modern day situation.

Jim Moran, LongmeadowBiz said...

Scott,
Thank you for your comments.

I’m glad to hear that you are supportive of the project to restore this magnificent structure at 734 Longmeadow St to “its original grandiose splendor”.

However, you must be reading the opponents FB page who are broadcasting numerous mistruths and other falsehoods (aka “fake news”) in order to block this project.

Here are the realities….

1. You should know that there is no intent by the town “to sell part of the green for private development and turn it into a paved parking lot”. The proposed project will stay within “the footprint of this property”. The Longmeadow Historical District Commission- an official committee of the Town has the legal responsibility to make sure that the visual appearance from the street in the Historic District remains virtually unchanged.

2. It is the project opponents who are using bullying tactics such as filing open meeting law violations, calling for the resignation of the Town Manager, etc. to delay or stop the proposed project. They also appear ready to file a legal action against the Town of Longmeadow to overturn any zoning change voted at the upcoming Special Town Meeting on January 25. This will cost us taxpayers to defend a Town Meeting decision.

3. The reason for the 200+ year history lessons about the Town Green is to rebuke the “revisionist” history lessons being broadcast by the project opponents.

4. There is no “smokey back room deal with the developers”. Town voters alone – not the Town Manager, not the Select Board, not the Planning Board not the Longmeadow Historic District Commission, ,… will decide what will happen with the zoning for the property at 734 Longmeadow St.

5. One more thing… as the number of town voters supporting this project grows stronger every day, you can expect that the tactics by the opposition will get more ugly misleading.

I encourage you to continue to better understand what is being proposed and consider voting YES at the upcoming Special Town Meeting on January 25. You can do that best by reading this LongmeadowBuzz blog and following the Save the Mansion FB page (http://www.Facebook.com/SaveYoungMansion).