Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Misfit Garage

From Dave Brigham:

Beautiful, isn't it?

Known as the Winthrop Square Garage, this squat little parking facility, which is owned by the City of Boston, has been vacant for quite some time. For years I've been reading stories in the Boston Globe about how developers are salivating over the prospect of blowing this eyesore up and replacing it with a gleaming office/condo/hotel/retail palace.

The latest Globe article points out that, while still likely to get done, a deal to buy or lease the land from the city has hit a few snags. Make no mistake, though, this place will fall under the wrecking ball, and yet another awesome monument to the upper middle class will rise in its place.

Don't get me wrong: I agree that this building is ugly and beyond its usefulness. But, although I've only lived in the Boston area for half of my 50 years, I have memories of how things were when I arrived here, fresh-faced and empty-pocketed, in 1990.

My first job in Boston was through a temp agency located just down the street from the Winthrop Square Garage. In subsequent employment I worked in mailrooms, and as part of those jobs, I delivered and picked up packages around the Financial District and Downtown Crossing, passing this site quite often.

I have no sentimentality around this building, but it's nice, on my occasional visits to my old work grounds, to notice things that haven't changed, because so many things around the city have been altered. It would be nice if the developer enlisted an architect who doesn't simply want to put up another glass box that looks like all the other glass boxes going up these days in the Hub of the Universe.

I'll keep y'all up to date as a project gets selected and gets under way.

Monday, August 10, 2015

UPDATE: Goodbye Reef, So Long Bill

From Dave Brigham:

We received more comments on a post I wrote about a former dive bar in Waltham, MA, than on any other piece we've done over the last 5+ years (see August 25, 2011, "Goodbye Reef, So Long Bill", and please scroll down and read the comments). Today I've got an update on the building, which also housed a few other small businesses.

First, some background. I'd driven by The Reef numerous times but never stopped in. In my biased view, I figured the place was kind of crappy and populated by old men in sleeveless t-shirts drinking Bud Light and eating pickled eggs out of a jar on the top of the bar. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Ignorant of the deeper history of The Reef, and so many other places in Greater Boston that I've photographed and written about here, I find it easy to forget that these places were once people's hangouts, homes, places of business. So I was more than happy when comments from former Reef regulars clued me in to what a great place the bar was.

The building sat empty for a few years, but I knew it was just a matter of time before the site would be redeveloped. Literally steps from a commuter train line and right around the corner from the dozens of restaurants and shops on Waltham's Moody Street, this site was ripe for change.

Sure enough, over the last several months it's been knocked down and built up. To be known as Waltham Landing, the building will feature 34 apartments and 8,000 square feet of retail space on the ground level.

I like that the architecture echoes some nearby homes, including a historic inn that was converted to apartments.

Here's what the place used to look like, from the opposite direction:

To Be Demolished?

Redevelopment is what this country is all about, so it's no surprise when a run-down building with a few small businesses gets torn down in favor of sleek apartments and shiny new stores. But it's unfortunate when working class gathering spots are sacrificed in favor of generic smoothie joints, frozen yogurt stores and coffee shops. There are still dive bars in Waltham, but with demographics changing more of them are sure to shutter.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Steak In the Future?

From Dave Brigham:

I am rarely a man of ulterior motives. Except when it comes to taking pictures of the backside.

On our recent vacation, my son mentioned wanting to check out Barnstable Airport in Hyannis. While his love of aviation is fading somewhat, he knew there was a chance to see some commercial flights at the small airfield. I agreed because I genuinely enjoy plane spotting with him, as we've done in various spots around Boston's Logan Airport and Connecticut's Bradley International.

But, and as Pee-wee Herman says, "Everyone I know has a big but," I knew that if I took Owen to check out the airport, I'd have a chance to take pictures of the long-abandoned restaurant directly across the street from the runway.

On a somewhat aimless drive earlier in the week, I'd driven past the airport after documenting some abandoned motels in Yarmouth (see July 26, 2015, "Cavalier Attitude About Motels"; also see July 21, 2015, "Bikes, Blessings & Buzzards," my first post about our vacation). I had been out a long time and didn't want to take the time to snap pictures of the eatery so I cruised on by.

Plane spotting was a bust -- one or two small, private aircraft. Owen checked the flight schedules on his phone and knew a JetBlue plane was slated to land in the not too distant future, but he didn't want to wait. Well, since we parked in the lot for the dilapidated restaurant....

Mitchell's Steak and Rib House hit the skids at least nine years ago, according to this March 2012 article in the Cape Cod Times. Fifteen months ago a developer bought the property. That developer, Stuart Bornstein, said at that time that he had “nothing concrete” in terms of a new use for the prominent properties along Route 28 across from the airport, according to a Barnstable Patriot article. “I’ve had half a dozen people express interest. I’m sure there will always be traffic issues. Whatever’s there will generate traffic. We don’t want to be held hostage [over that].”

I have no idea what will come of this property. For now, the seagulls seem to be the only ones interested in tenancy.