I was happy the NHC voted as it did, but it is only temporary protection, and as one NHC member noted, even Robert Korff was not objecting to the delay, since it would take that long for any development proposal to be approved anyway.
These buildings are part of seven acres between Washington and Watertown Streets, owned or controlled by Mark Development or by Donato family trusts, that Robert Korff has big plans for. It was Robert Korff and his attorney who attended the NHC meeting and sat at the table, even though it's Donato trusts that own these parcels and are technically the ones requesting demolition permits. (And the Donato trusts will have to continue to be the owners for the 18-month demo delay period, or the clock will start over on the 18 months.) These buildings were submitted for demolition now because they're included in the National Register-listed West Newton Village Center Historic District, so the NHC can impose an 18-month demo delay, instead of the normal maximum of 12 months. More demolition requests can be expected in six months.
Councilor Chris Markiewicz, the ward councilor from Ward 4 (Auburndale/Lower Falls), attended and spoke in support of the delay, and saving historic buildings as part of any development plans.
To members of the Newton Historical Commission:
I hope that, at a minimum, you will vote for the 18-month-demolition delay on 1253, 1239-1247, and 1235 Washington Street. I have lived in West Newton most of my life now, but until recent years had taken for granted our vintage buildings that make our village center such a comfortable place, not flashy. I'm grateful that in 1988 someone cared enough to document these buildings and have them recognized as the West Newton Village Center Historic District. I don't want to see this district chipped away at, with each demolition being further justification for the next, as happened with Oak Hill Park.
It is amazing that in the Brezniak-Rodman funeral home, we have a building that has been in continuous use for the same purpose for over 150 years. It stands out as a local landmark in our streetscape. It also proves that old buildings don't have to look old if they're well cared for. I am disturbed when I hear people describe buildings being "tired" as a justification for demolition, as occurred with the Orr Block. This seems to be a kind of 'moral hazard,' rewarding neglect. I hope this is not said about 1239-1247 Washington Street. The cast stonework could use a cleaning, but having lived mostly in houses built in the 1920s and '30s, I believe this was a period of quality construction, worth keeping.
Gas stations don't get much respect, and expanses of asphalt parking areas in the front of buildings are now in disfavor, but the former gas station at 1235 Washington is reminiscent of the one on Rt 9 opposite Langley Road. How fortunate that the latter was preserved and incorporated into the Residences at Chestnut Hill. Here's a photo I found online of what that once looked like: https://www.digitalcommonwealth.org/search/commonwealth:2227mx02m Now instead of asphalt there is a small oasis of grass and trees on Rt 9. The same could be done with 1235 Washington, to preserve the architecture while also creating a landscaped plaza that would enhance whatever businesses move into the building, and provide green space on this section of Washington Street. This may not matter to the NHC, but I am grateful that the setback of the building at 1235 has allowed room for perhaps the best and widest canopy of any street tree in West Newton Square.
Thank you for trying to protect Newton's history. I wish you could do more than just an 18-month demolition delay.