Here’s something you don’t see every day in Wellesley — a house on the market for $399,000. Located at 69 Edgemoor Ave., the single-family 720 square foot, four room home that includes three bedrooms and 1 bath was built in 1916, and sits on a 9,600 square foot lot. Taxes for 2016 are listed as $6,885. The home boasts off-street parking and a basement. The long-time owner passed away last spring, at the age of 80.
This Bauhaus-style house built in 1982 at 72 Great Plain Ave., in Wellesley is soon headed for the teardown graveyard.
The Zoning Board of Appeals earlier this year okayed the demolition of this non-conforming structure, which will be replaced by a colonial of less than 7,200 sq. ft. on a nearly 30,000 sq. ft. lot. Zillow describes the current home, sold for $635K in March, as a”bold, one-of-a-kind space… perfect for entertaining and flexible living.”
The new building will have a smaller footprint than the existing one, though will be about three times bigger. Still, it won’t be so big that it triggers the town’s Large House Review process.
A tree service company has already been onto the property and a chain link fence now surrounds the structure.
The Wellesley Historical Commission (WHC) is holding three public forums over the coming weeks to discuss the high number of teardowns in town. The public’s feedback on a proposed historic preservation demolition review bylaw will be sought.
Wellesley is surrounded by communities with such bylaws, and as a result, Wellesley is targeted even more by those tearing down historic homes. About three-quarters of residents surveyed late last year said they are concerned about the number of teardowns in town.
The public forums will be held from 7:30 to 9pm on:
• Thursday, 9/22 at the Warren Building, Room 008, 90 Washington Street
• Monday, 9/26 in the Great Hall at Wellesley Town Hall
• Tuesday, 9/27 at the Warren Building, Room 008, 90 Washington Street
Over the summer we got a few questions regarding Wellesley Public schools, mostly about two sometimes hot-button issues — Open Enrollment and grade-freezing at the elementary level. We’ve noticed that there is sometimes confusion between the two terms, so we decided to go to Superintendent David Lussier for answers.
Dr. Lussier has held the town’s top educator job since 2012. Before that, he was executive director for the Office of Educator Quality in the Austin, Texas Independent School District for six years. His move to Massachusetts was a homecoming of sorts: Lussier boasts some serious local chops, having grown up in Dracut. From there he attended UMass-Lowell, Boston University, and Harvard, where he collected various degrees befitting a top-dog educator.
The superintendent took time out of his day earlier this summer to discuss open enrollment, freezing enrollment at elementary schools, and when a small school is too small.
Swellesley: What is Open Enrollment?
Dr. Lussier: Open Enrollment is a voluntary mechanism or choice mechanism that parents can use to attend a school that is not their home school. So each year, for any number of reasons (such as a family’s need for a special education program that the family’s officially districted school does not offer) a student may go to a school that best serves that student’s needs. For example, we have an autism program at Upham. So a family that resides in the Fiske district may send a child to an out-of-home district, so to speak, to attend a specialized program, such as the one offered at Upham.
One scenario may be that a special education student has a rising sibling who does not require special ed services, but the family wants to have both kids in the same school. They could achieve this by requesting, through Open Enrollment, for the rising sibling to attend the school that is outside of their home district. If there’s space, it can happen. That’s the key.
Another example of Open Enrollment at work could be a family that’s moving within Wellesley, say a Sprague family moving to Schofield, but who would prefer that their kids stay at Sprague to finish their elementary school experience. The family could put in an Open Enrollment request, and if there’s space, we try to accommodate those situations. So that’s what the Open Enrollment process is.
Swellesley: What does “freezing” grades mean?
Dr. Lussier: It’s a reality that because of our space and enrollment challenges, and given the way that our elementary attendance zones are currently drawn, that in order to stay within class size guidelines that reflect the learning environment we like to see, in schools and grades we sometimes have to close grade levels.
That means that someone coming in might be assigned to a school nearby where there’s actually space, rather than in their districted school, so that we don’t go over guideline in those particular sections. So this year right now I believe we have eight sections, or grade levels, closed across all seven elementary schools. That means anyone who comes in after the point of classroom guideline, we work with that family very closely to reassign them. As of today, I think that only a single family has actually been reassigned, which also reflects the dynamic nature of it. I think there’s a lot of noise around this, even though it’s actually really affected very few families, and that’s because enrollment is dynamic. Even after we’ve closed a grade level, people move all the time for various reasons. For example, a spouse may get a job offer and be reassigned at the last minute. So we’re talking a school or a grade level that is closed at a certain school, even once it’s closed, if families continue to withdraw for whatever reason, space opens up. When that happens, when someone moves into town to register we would absolutely assign them there.
Swellesley: What about redistricting? Would that solve space problems?
Dr. Lussier: We looked at redistricting almost three years ago, and it wasn’t going to solve the problem. The reality is that we have very small elementary schools, and so even what appear to be very small incremental changes in enrollment, if you only have two classes at that particular grade level, you’re talking about three or four students, you say, wow that doesn’t seem like a lot of students. But if there are only two classes and you want to stay within the guidelines we have, three or four students has a disproportionate impact.
We looked at redistricting as a way to try and affect or improve some of those imbalances. We know that in some schools we tended to have much higher class sizes than others. The reality is that redistricting is a blunt instrument. It really allows you to affect gross changes, and it’s really not a useful tool for some of these more surgical needs, for very small neighborhoods where you might get only incremental change. So what we found when we looked at a number of scenarios was we’d basically be shifting problems from one school and one neighborhood to the next if we went with redistricting.
The reality is that redistricting is a blunt instrument. — Supt. Lussier
The only way redistricting will work is if our space changes, which is really the urgency behind the Hunnewell, Hardy, Upham (HHU) proposal and its solution. Until we have different space configurations at these schools, redistricting with the current inventory of schools doesn’t solve any problems, it only shifts problems from one school to the next. [Read more…]
Here are photos from perhaps the latest Wellesley teardown (it’s hard to keep up), which took place on Wednesday.
The well-maintained bungalow-style home at 15 Curve St. (as described by Swellesley reader DennisM) was built about 100 years ago, and stood next to another recent teardown (See “Wellesley home with Booker T. Washington history goes down”). The home at 15 Curve St., sold for about $1M earlier this summer.
As evidenced by this notice-less bulletin board in Wellesley Square, we’re used to slow summers around here. Summer of 2016 broke that mold. Let’s just say the news offered more than concerts at Town Hall and the newest flavors of ice cream on scoop. Check out the Top 10 Wellesley stories of Summer 2016.
For most people, the news that Wellesley’s youth are increasingly wandering the streets, faces buried in their smartphones doesn’t seem revolutionary. However, the advent of new app sensation Pokemon GO has caused a sudden shift in the behavioral patterns of millennials in Wellesley and beyond…
A short and wicked late afternoon storm that blew through Wellesley on Tuesday, July 18 downed numerous trees, damaged homes and knocked out power in parts of town. One minute a friend and I were sitting in my family room sipping tea and commenting on the hail coming down outside (“Oh my, do you think those nasty flying ice chunks will chip the paint on the Subaru, dear?”). An hour later I stopped by that same friend’s house, not even a mile away, to survey her hard-hit home in the Cottage St. area…
Against a backdrop of racial tension across the nation this summer, Wellesley finds itself addressing allegations of racial and ethnic harassment of its own involving high school students…
The Swellesley Report learned over the summer that the Wellesley High Track and Field project‘s completion will be delayed. The $3 million effort, which was undertaken in order to widen the field so that it could be used by more athletes and help alleviate the squeeze on other fields in town, and to rebuild a track that had seen better days, will not be ready for its original grand opening date of September 24…
Lieutenant Paul Delaney says he was “in the right place at the right time and glad to help” while vacationing last week on an Eastham beach when he and a doctor performed CPR on a 40-year-old woman who had gone into cardiac arrest. Delaney also used a defibrillator, handed to him by a police officer, to revive the woman by the time a fire ambulance arrived on the scene…
Every now and then we’ve heard the rumors: there are certain volunteers at the Wellesley Recycling and Disposal Facility’s Reusables Area who are practically making a living by scooping up and spiriting away all the good stuff that gets dropped off before anyone else can get to it, and selling it on Craigslist, Ebay, and at flea markets. Over the summer, the hubbub ratcheted up a notch with a casual comment on a closed Facebook page: “Anyone else notice that there never seems to be anything decent at the dump’s Take-and-Leave anymore?” And the conversation and the accusations were off and running…
The Wellesley Historical Commission is lamenting one of the town’s latest and most stunning teardowns: a 1929 Tudor Revival at 1 Kenilworth Rd…
If somebody left you almost a million dollars with the caveat that it must be spent on a certain project, not socked away for a rainy day, would it take you over ten years to spend it? It might, if…
Openings and closings
OPENED: Bluemercury in Linden Square
GETTING CLOSER: Cocobeet in Wellesley Square
GETTING CLOSER: Thirst Juice at the Bel Clare
GETTING CLOSER: Caffe Nero in Wellesley Hills to open soon
GETTING CLOSER: Luxotic Nails Bar in Linden Square, which will take over a former furniture store space.
ON THE BLOCK: Chico’s Wellesley Square space is available and Dorset Tea (both are still open for business)
OPENING IN ITS PLACE: Wellesley wonders, how do you say brow threading in French?
When we saw a listing late last week advertising that Dorset Cafe was for sale (the business only, not the real estate), we were surprised but not shocked. After all, Dorset has had a good run in town over its ten years here, and a bigger new coffee-plus shop called Caffe Nero is readying to open across the street at the Wellesley Hills train station.
We confirmed the listing with the broker, but when we contacted Dorset owner Sue Khudairi for further confirmation, she asserted in an email that Dorset is actually not for sale. According to Khudairi, “We are NOT selling the business even though the Town approved a new ‘European Coffee Shop’ literally 300 feet (across the street from us)…parking will become very challenging for our customers.”
Those conflicting reports struck us as odd since the listing’s picture and description of the business as a 750 square feet restaurant licensed for 24 seats, immaculate, and in move-in condition, located at 352 Washington St., matches the space. An additional source has confirmed that changes are occurring at that space.
At any rate, at this moment Dorset continues to serve its popular Afternoon Tea Service with various holiday themes (2pm-4pm), as well as breakfast and luncheon selections made in-house from scratch, and artisan teas and estate coffees. The business also provides gluten free vegan desserts to Whole Foods New England stores, Roche Bros., specialty grocery stores, local colleges, universities, and hospitals.
Fed up with the torrid pace of teardowns of historically significant buildings in town, the Wellesley Historical Commission has launched a petition online to gather support for a possible Historic Preservation Demolition Review Bylaw. The Commission cites adverse town character and environmental impacts related to teardowns.
In posting the smart growth petition to share with town government, the Commission refers to the town’s 2007-2017 Comprehensive Plan, which points out the challenges of maintaining Wellesley’s character in the face of teardowns and mansionization.
Wellesley has established a Large House Review process, but teardowns such as the one last week on Kenilworth Road continue to take place regularly. We’ve heard rumblings that some property owners have attempted to preserve historical homes but have resorted to teardowns when unable to get town boards to bend on proposed additions.
While the Historical Commission has no power to stop teardowns, it does try to at least make property owners aware of any historical significance if it becomes aware of possible changes to buildings. The potential bylaw would formalize a review process during which town officials and property owners might work out agreements that would preserve at least components of such structures.
As the Commission likes to point out, all of Wellesley’s surrounding communities such as Natick, Dover, Needham, Newton, and Weston have demolition review bylaws. Also, a survey conducted by the Wellesley Planning Board’s Residential Development Working Group late last year found that almost three quarters of respondents said they were concerned about the number of teardowns in town and the impact of new construction on the town’s character.
A Wellesley Townsman review earlier this year of the teardown situation showed that 95 teardown permits were issued in 2015, way up from 13 back in 1991 when a demolition delay bylaw nearly passed at Town Meeting.
The Wellesley Historical Commission is lamenting one of the town’s latest and most stunning teardowns: a 1929 Tudor Revival at 1 Kenilworth Rd., originally built for a cousin of Babson College’s founder and sold last October for more than $3.7M. Reportedly, the 4,800 sq. ft. home will be replaced with a bigger one, as is the prerogative of the buyer.
The Commission has shared a brief history of the home, as written by advisory member and local historian Joshua Dorin, on its Facebook page. The house was designed by George Marlowe, who also designed buildings at Wellesley College and Babson College.
The Commission, which seeks to preserve and protect the architectural and general cultural feel of Wellesley, can raise awareness of historical significance of buildings in town (as it did with the recently torn-down 24 Linden St. home), but doesn’t have the power to stop demolitions. The Commission has been in dialogue, for example, with the team converting the Wellesley Hills train depot into a new Caffe Nero, and that team has agreed to “treat the building with the respect it deserves.”
“There is very little ability to stop [teardowns of historically significant properties] from happening in Wellesley,” says Grant Brown, a Commission board member. “All of our abutting towns have demolition delay bylaws, the vast majority of our ‘peer’ towns do, and 148 in total across the Commonwealth have them. A bylaw would not prevent a homeowner from tearing down a property, but it might stem the current pace (which is 1 house demolished every 3.6 days).”
Wellesley came close to passing a bylaw in 1991 to slow down demolitions, which back then weren’t even all that common, and the Commission has designs on getting Wellesley to agree on some sort of rule changes next year. Dover, Natick, Newton and Needham all have such rules in place, as the Townsman documented in this article earlier this year.
If somebody left you almost a million dollars with the caveat that it must be spent on a certain project, not socked away for a rainy day, would it take you over ten years to spend it? It might, if first that project had to get the OK from Town Meeting, then you had to make nice with your neighbors and agree to disagree with your critics, as well as address the concerns of the Wellesley Planning Board, all before convincing the town to vote yes to kicking in about $5.5 million more to make the dream come true.
And if your benefactor’s big idea was a standalone senior center on Washington Street, a project that got its start with former Wellesley resident Billie Tolles’ $825k bequest to the town back in 2005, well, you would have broken ground on that dream yesterday in response to the Wellesley Council on Aging’s invitation and in front of a festive and raucous crowd of over 200, mostly senior citizens, who gathered together in an atmosphere that was part dignified ceremony, part tent revival meeting.
Gayle Thieme, Director of Senior Services for Wellesley scanned her assembled congregants and asked them to give up their praise. “Isn’t this terrific?!” she asked to a return roar of, “Yeah!” from the choir, which was everybody.
Wellesley resident Nancy Abuhaydar seemed to sum up the general consensus with, “A lot of good people have worked hard to bring this day to fruition. Some of us didn’t think we’d live long enough to see this day.” Most likely some did not, but were perhaps smiling down on the proceedings.
Billie Tolles may have been one of those. A picture of a young, smiling Tolles, her hair an unruly mop of blonde curls, tennis racquet in hand, BFF Evelyn Parsons at her side, looking very Swellesley, shared space on a table with framed plans of the Tolles-Parsons senior center. Famous for her penny pinching and disdain for spending money, she might have understood the decade-plus delay with the actual spending money part of the plan.
You see, Billie had kind of a reputation. She liked to collect the money. She didn’t like to spend it. She was the one you wanted to be the treasurer of your organization, because you knew the money would never go missing while Billie was in charge. Known around town in her day as a civic-minded individual, it is said that she bore no ill will toward anyone except the New York Yankees.
The senior center is expected to open in fall of 2017, undoubtedly during a ceremony in which the hardhats and shovels of yesterday will make way for the scissors and ribbon of a grand opening. And, as at the ground-breaking ceremony, the patience of Job will likely be mentioned a lot. Before the seniors storm their new castle and make it their own.