The Wellesley Planning Department has issued a plea for those interested in filling vacancies on several town boards and commissions to step forward…
In case you didn’t have a chance to close read all 20 of our posts over the last week, we’ve curated the best and most informative to keep you current. Here’s what happened in town when you blinked:
Wonder Woman readies for Marathon
Wellesley’s own seriously legit runner and uber-fundraiser Carol Chaoui got some love in a nice segment on CBS Boston news. The mother of four, and her husband Amin, is prepping for this year’s Boston Marathon and raising funds for Dana-Farber cancer institute, while battling stage four breast and thyroid cancers.
The CBS film crews showed up at her home to catch Carol and dozens of friends as they ran through the streets of Wellesley for a regular trot designed to help locals get off their couches and run 5K road races. I joined right in that day as over 30 of us mugged for the camera crews and created a scene as we bopped along, laughing and chit-chatting. I’m a non-runner, but that didn’t matter, all were welcome. Anyway, I knew that the real fun would be the post-run refreshments back at Carol’s, a place as colorful as her personality and her clothes, a home decorated with a flair and vibrating with an air that makes it feel like a slice of Cambridge tucked away here in Wellesley.
If you’re as inspired as I am by Chaoui, click here to help her raise $65,000 in funds for metastatic breast cancer research through Dana-Farber.
Wellesley’s Mr. Revenue
Another Wellesley resident who got some attention was Mike Heffernan, who was appointed as the state’s new commissioner of revenue. You may remember that Heffernan ran for State Treasurer back in 2014 but lost his bid for that office. One of our Facebook commenters said about Heffernan, “He does my lawn. Just kidding. I know he’s the other one.”
Greineder home razed
Next, a part of Wellesley’s dark past was razed. 56 Cleveland Rd., the house where convicted wife killer Dirk Greineder and his family once lived, was torn down. The house where the former allergist and his family lived was, as are many split-level homes in town, knocked down to make way for a new home. The 4-bedroom, 3-bathroom, 1,867 sq. ft. house sold for a little over $800K in September, after last being purchased in 2002 for $655K, according to Zillow.
Historic home in jeopardy
In other real estate news, a house with ties to Booker T. Washington may be headed for the wrecking ball. From the Townsman: “The home, which according to commission historian Joshua Dorin once housed a school for boys that counted African American icon Booker T. Washington’s son among its students, could be marked for demolition with no legal barriers standing in the new owner’s way.”
Around the college scene, Wellesley College’s Clapp library was called out by architectural blog Mid-Century Mundane as a building that “lack(s) elegance but continues to serve students’ needs ably.” Faint praise, indeed.
Dropping the Interim at Fiske
Also in education news, there’s a new Fiske School principal. Rachel McGregor, who has served as the interim principal at Fiske Elementary School in Wellesley for the current school year, has been appointed as permanent principal now. She was selected from a pool of 53 applicants.
Au Revoir to Wellesley shop
In local business news, Your French Gift, the shop at 269 Washington St. in Wellesley that opened in 2013, is closing its brick-and-mortar location but will continue operating online. Signs hanging in the windows advertise space being available via Conviser Property Group. Au revoir to one of Swellesley’s earliest advertisers. We wish you the best.
Also in local business news, a new nail salon will be moving into the former LittleBits Toys shop space at 304 Washington St. Wellesley has about a dozen nail salons/spas, which might be gaining in numbers on banks, as one of our Facebook page commenters noted.
Bird’s eye view
You absolutely have got to check out Wellesley College’s Ravencam. Pauline and Henry have returned to their nest for the third year in a row. Pauline has laid a clutch of five eggs, and she and Henry are busy making everything perfect for their soon-to-be-hatched family.
This is one Wellesley teardown that will probably have few objectors: 56 Cleveland Rd., the house where convicted wife killer Dirk Greineder and his family once lived, is being torn down today.
The town earlier this month issued a permit to demolish the house. The 4-bedroom, 3-bathroom, 1,867 sq. ft. house sold for a little over $800K in September, after last being purchased in 2002 for $655K, according to Zillow.
The Greineder murder took place on Halloween day of 1999. Dr. Dirk Greineder was convicted of killing his wife, Mabel, at Morses Pond while the two were on a walk with one of their dogs. The allergist blamed an unknown assailant for the crime, saying that he found his wife unconscious after he left her to rest due to a bad back. But bloody gloves and other evidence convinced a jury to convict him of the killing in 2001. The Greineders’ three children supported their father during the ordeal.
While the Greineder children and their friends no doubt have many happy memories of the home, it also was the site of police searches that uncovered Dirk Greineder’s secret online obsessions, which helped to build a case against him. The seedy details of the case have been the subject of TV shows and books.
The new owners of the property will get a fresh start with a brand new home at 56 Cleveland Rd.
(Thanks to Swellesley reader RJ for this tip.)
As you emerge from your winter cocoon and venture out for a walk around town in the lovely spring weather, take a minute to enjoy the art installations that are a part of virtually every neighborhood in Wellesley. These post-modernist displays created from the humble, utilitarian Port-a Potty serve as not only sculpture, but social commentary when the time is taken to view them with the proper perspective. Not art, you scoff? Stick with me here, and consider the following about the Porta-Potty medium:
- They come in an artist’s palette of colors, all of which carry great symbolic significance. A green potty clearly symbolizes an environmentally conscious project, while an orange potty suggests a project blessed with energy and creativity.
- The very placement of the potty is worthy of lengthy commentary. For example, by observing the distance of the potty from the property line, one might reflect on the artist’s message regarding neighbor relations.
- By taking note of the way precariously perched potties are leaning, one might gain insight into what the artist is suggesting about the political leanings or either the homeowners, or the general contractors, or the Port-a-Potty supplier.
Now that you’ve considered several examples, don’t just leave it at that. There’s nothing like seeing an installation piece on-site to open your eyes to the many nuances that can be appreciated only by making a pilgrimage to the actual location, to see the piece as the artist meant for it to be seen. Perhaps to even partake in some performance art. Ponder what the artist has left unseen in the work.
Indeed, some of you are the lucky ones, who need only walk down the street or look out your very own family room window to enjoy the exhibit on an ongoing, long-term basis.
News Flash! It’s not getting any cheaper to live in Wellesley, according to the latest property tax review by the Boston Business Journal.
The BBJ crunches the numbers and finds that “Wellesley has seen the largest increase in its average single-family tax bill over the past decade” among Greater Boston communities. That would be a 70% rise since 2006 to just under $14K. What’s more, Wellesley is #6 in terms of highest average bill, with Weston leading the way at $18,762.
Of course the bills are especially large in Wellesley because so many homes are so pricey, and that includes those big houses that have replaced smaller ones. So the tax rate, at $11.83 per $1,000 in assessed property values, actually isn’t as high as in many other communities, including Natick.
The 900 Worcester St. Committee has had its chance to start reviewing three responses to a request for proposals to develop recreational facilities at the former St. James the Great site, and now it’s the Wellesley public’s turn.
You can view each of the three proposals online now on a page tucked away on the Wellesley town website here. The developers outline what sorts of facilities they would build, and address questions related to financing, parking, the environment and neighbors. As the Townsman has reported, the 900 Worcester St. Committee has begun its early evaluations and will hit the developers with more pressing questions in the weeks to come.
Beginning next week, you can attend a series of public meetings that will address each of the three proposals, plus neighbors’ concerns. All of the developers pledge to prioritize Wellesley residents’ and teams’ needs, and boast of experience in areas such as scheduling of space to optimize resources.
In a nutshell, here’s what the proposals include:
*Frost Realty Associates outlines a plan for two indoor NHL-size ice rinks and an outdoor lighted field suited for soccer, lacrosse, field hockey and football. Frost points to three other such forums that it has built over the past couple of decades. They’re looking for a 40-year, annual $100,000 lease from the town.
*Corbelis, led by Wellesley resident Garrett Solomon, pitches a 243,000 sq. ft. facility dubbed The House that would boast two NHL-size indoor ice rinks plus a small puddle rink, four “water bodies” highlighted by a 121×75 competition pool, an indoor field surrounded by a two-lane running track, and fitness space designed by Wellesley’s Train Boston. One unique feature: A 25-foot high climbing wall.
*Marathon Sports Group/West Suburban YMCA of Newton describe a facility including two full skating rinks, two pools (6- and 4-lane), plus an indoor field with turf as good as or better than that on the Sprague Fields. Marathon Sports Group points to relevant projects it has developed or is in the process of developing in Bedford, Middleton and Worcester.
All three proposals indicate facilities would open in 2018.
Here’s the schedule for public meetings:
*Tuesday, January 5, 2016, 7-10 pm @ Town Hall – Corbelis “The House”
*Thursday, January 7, 2016, 7-9 pm @ Wellesley Community Center, Babson Hall – Frost Realty Associates
*Tuesday, January 12, 2016, 7-10 pm @ Police Station, Kingsbury Room – Marathon Sports Group
*Thursday, January 14, 2016, 7-10 pm @ Town Hall – 900 Worcester Street Meeting with the Neighbors.
The Wellesley Planning Board’s Residential Development Subcommittee has created this survey to quantify public opinion of residential development in town. The survey includes 10 questions and doesn’t take long to fill out.
It’s become the norm around Wellesley that houses in the $600k – $1.2 million range will be bought up by a developer who will then read the building its last rites and send in the executioner, er, bulldozer who will then plow it into House Kingdom Come, if there even is such a place. It’s an interesting philosophical question, actually. Do all torn-down houses go to heaven? After all the work they do sheltering us, welcoming us, and providing us with a sense of place, they should.
We’ve had our fun tracking the trend in our Wellesley Teardowns, Before and After posts, all the while acknowledging the fact that these things happen in deep-pockets communities such as Wellesley where there’s virtually no buildable land in town, but a great desire to buy in, damn the expense.
You know where this is going. There is a house in town. It is old. There was an ill-advised addition tacked onto it at some point. It has stood empty since 2012. A licensed contractor just bought it from Bank of America for $677,000 in an online bid process. But this isn’t just any old contractor. This is Wellesley resident Jim Mealey, a married father of two kids in the school system. He has already purchased and preserved a few houses in Wellesley (70 Washington St., 12 Abbott St., and 12 Roanoke Rd., to name a few), all of which he rehabbed maintaining the original houses’ character. And by gum, he’s going to rehab that yellow 3-story, 6 bedroom, 4 bath Victorian on 309 Walnut St.
He plans to restore 309 Walnut by allowing its refined Victorian sensibilities to shine again – on the outside this means fixing windows (good-bye casements!), restoring the stonework, repairing the roof, and painting. On the inside it will mean keeping original woodwork, restoring the original floor plan where possible, and updating the baths and kitchen with classic fixtures in mind. Built in 1900, it predates the abutting former Warren School, which is currently used as the Wellesley Recreation Department. The plan is for the restored and revitalized house to be on the market in 2016.
He’s not a purist, though. In the interest of full disclosure, Mealey does plan to tear down a house next year in town to make way for new construction. That house, located at 16 College Rd., is a 1946 Colonial that sustained damage last winter and is unfortunately not worth saving for a host of reasons. However, Mealey is sensitive to building a house of the scale and type that suits the lot and the area and therefore, the new home planned is an Arts & Crafts style, not the typical New Colonial that is sprouting its multiple triangle roof-lines all over town, because that Colonial style house would not fit the neighborhood.
Mealey has had a great time getting right down to it at 309 Walnut St. He’s already ripped out all the overgrown bushes and fielded questions and comments from neighbors and passersby. “Tear it down!” shouted out a passing driver/heckler. Why, he wonders, when he can put in $250K – $300k and sell it for what the market will bear in 2016.
As for us, we still have our recurring nightmare that our cottage is the last one standing in Wellesley. In our dream, it gets torn down as we sleep. A mob of developers, realtors, and neighbors pick it apart by hand, piece by piece, carry us out, and force us to rebuild and install coffered ceilings, whirlpool baths, and a wine cellar. It’s just a dream…it’s just a dream…
Wellesley treasurer Marc Waldman says the town’s treasurer/collector’s office “has been trying off and on for about twenty years” to get a payments box installed at Town Hall, similar to one at the Municipal Light Plant. Finally, the deed has been done.
Waldman says that because the Town Hall grounds are park land, installation of the metal box required Natural Resources Commission approval. “This year I worked with NRC’s Brandon Schmitt and we got The Commission’s approval,” Waldman says.
“The box can be used for most Town Hall mail, except absentee ballots,” he says. “The idea is that people won’t have to use up limited Town Hall parking if they just want to drop off payments.”
As you might imagine, the box is super strong to contain some of those really big checks…
SLACKERS: Millionaires still minority in Wellesley
Wellesley houses in the $600k – $1.2 million range just keep getting bought up and torn down in Wellesley. There’s very little buildable land in town, so the choices are plain: either buy a house and spend a mint tearing out the previous owners’ atrocious taste in bathroom fixtures and kitchen tile, or just level the entire affair and call in the architects, builders, and design teams to finally get things right.
Lately we’ve been having a recurring nightmare that our cottage is the last one standing in Wellesley. In our dream, it gets torn down as we sleep. A mob of developers, realtors, and neighbors who have stepped out of their tastefully appointed brand-new homes for a moment stand outside our place with pitchforks and torches, cheering as it falls. It’s just a dream…it’s just a dream…so far.
Here’s a before and after look at a few homes that have fallen and risen in the past year or so:
Also of interest…