Anyone concerned about the push for increased density in village centers may want to put the northwest corner of the Washington Street/Walnut Street intersection on their radar screen. Attorney Steve Buchbinder of Schlesinger & Buchbinder, representing developer Robert Korff of Mark Investment, is shopping around a concept/proposal (it seems to be in the testing-the-waters phase) to Planning and the aldermen. The idea is to demolish the circa-1900 Orr Building office block best known for Karoun’s Restaurant and Newtonville Camera, as well as other small businesses, and 241 Walnut Street and the buildings between Sunoco and Bailey Place (much of it occupied by Boston Ballet School), and build a five-story building with retail on the first floor and well over 100 apartment units on floors two through five.
According to the Assessor’s Database, everything highlighted in yellow below is owned by the same Nicolazzo family trust: 36,637 sq. ft. east of Bailey Place, and 47,032 sq. ft. west of Bailey Place. Add the J&M Realty property and Bailey Place (now public property, which looks to be about 9,000 sq. ft.), and it's a little over 100,000 sq. ft. For comparison, the Austin Street lot parcel is 74, 536 square feet.
Attorney Buchbinder promises an opportunity for full public discussion at a community meeting sometime this fall , perhaps in late September or early October. However, to me this seems another case of residents and existing businesses being left out of the loop until a developer and the Planning Department decide what they’d like to do. Some residents have gotten wind of this (you have to go to the right barber shop, apparently), but it doesn’t seem like the businesses have. Paul at Newtonville Camera was shocked. But it explained the mysterious “inspectors” who’d spent a day in the store testing walls and floors for lead and asbestos, which had been explained as being for “insurance” purposes, and another couple of days drilling holes in the parking lot.
This is being described as in the very early stages. No drawings are being handed out. Nothing has been filed with the city, but it sounds like it could be surfacing this fall, so stay tuned.