WSANA Mulls Washington Street at Mass. Ave. Retail Block

By Michael Coughlin Jr.

During its meeting on Tuesday, July 25, the Worcester Square Area Neighborhood Association (WSANA) had a discussion about how to reactivate and improve the Washington Street at Massachusetts Avenue retail block, an area in the South End that has seen several restaurant closures.

Just on the corner of the even side of Washington Street, where it meets Massachusetts Avenue, the neighborhood has seen the closures of Laz, Teranga, and Bar Lyon. Now residents are looking at what to do with the area, and WSANA invited Bud Larievy of Washington Gateway Main Street to discuss.

Larievy indicated that he had heard different opportunities discussed for the aforementioned businesses, such as a fish market and a reopening of Bar Lyon “in a different context” with the possibility of expanding it next door to the site of what used to be Teranga.

However, there seems to be some unclarity regarding potential plans to reopen Bar Lyon. “I have been checking with people who work with the organization as we know it, Bar Lyon, and they have yet to hear any progress as far as what type of thinking there is or, at this point, if there’s any more thinking of reopening of Bar Lyon,” said Larievy.

 Additionally, Larievy made the point that he thought this area was damaged further by the continued delay of the Alexandra Hotel, “People are reluctant to open until that is settled,” he said.

Keeping all of this in mind, Larievy tasked those in attendance at last week’s meeting with not only having a discussion then and there but also doing a survey of sorts by talking with friends, neighbors, and politicians about what people want in the area, what might be feasible and how the neighborhood can sustain it.

“The greater question is what type of businesses and services do we as a neighborhood, as a community, and as a district need, and which ones will be of the most benefit to us but the ones that we can help sustain during times of great turmoil,” said Larievy.

Before getting the ball rolling on the discussion, Larievy also mentioned the heavy population of restaurants and how costs have increased, and due to this, he alluded to the idea that residents might have difficulty in helping to sustain restaurants.

Once a discussion began, he also gave his two cents on what he would like to see in the area, like a hardware store or maybe even an ice cream parlor.

“One thing I really would like to see is a place that I can actually walk to, to get to a hardware store and buy basic things like a package of 10 screws and not 280 at Home Depot,” said Larievy.

Another resident chimed in and suggested a small grocery store in the area. “A small grocery store that was more geared to WSANA tastes might be nice. You don’t always want to have to walk all the way over to Foodie’s or Whole Foods to get something simple,” said the resident.

The same resident also thought Larievy’s suggestion of a hardware store or ice cream parlor would be a good idea.

As the conversation continued, residents then moved on to talk about the issue of rising rents and how it is making things difficult for small businesses.

“It just seems like kind of sad that we’re losing these local, very small businesses that don’t need much space, and then it’s just lying vacant for years,” said one resident.

Larievy compared the rent situation to that of the residential rental market, saying, “As we know, the rental units here in Boston keep going up. Where they would go up $50, maybe $75 a year — when they jump — what I’m hearing is they jump $600 or $700 a month — it’s pretty difficult to sustain a small business, especially if it’s a startup business.”

Another resident brought forth the idea of a grading system for landlords regarding the rent situation.

“When we support businesses, we don’t want to be supporting the landlords and their increasing rents. Perhaps we need to also target them to say, look, you got to be reasonable,” said the resident.

Overall last week’s discussion seemed to be a good start. However, the conversation about reactivating this area on Washington Street is one that, according to Larievy, is ongoing, but he made it clear he is willing to help.

“I really like the idea of all of us having a commonality where we can reach out to the politicians, like John (Moran), and say this is what we’ve come up with, can you support this with us, and that’s what I’d like to be able to do,” said Larievy.

“I’ll come back anytime you want, but I really look forward to working with all of you, and let’s get this done,” he added.

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