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Allston is losing its grit

The Boston Business Journal ponders the Brooklynization of Allston now that people are paying $2,000 for a one-bedroom in a LEED-certified building and a neighborhood bro bar is being turned into an upscale market with a cutesy name.

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This area of Allston is one of the few parts of the city remaining that feels very urban (most buildings are taller than two or three stories, not full of surface parking lots) but has no pretentious, upper-class, expense-account vibe at all. (Compare to South End or even Fenway).

Yeah, it's full of loud students, but also immigrants and other ordinary working people. I lived in Allston during my first year in Boston and it still has a special place in my heart.

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Joshua Tree closes, and that's the beginning of gentrification in Allston?

When Joshua Tree opened in Davis Square (around the same time as the Burren across the street), that was the beginning of gentrification here.

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But all the pricey apartments in new buildings around the corner from it.

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You can pay $2,000 a month in a LEED certified building OR $1400 a month in a two-family with drafty windows and a $800 heating bill.

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There's nothing 'Brooklyn' about a LEED-certified building... architects in Mass. have been building these for decades now. I worked for an architectural design firm with several architects who were striving design buildings with improved sustainability. It's not a hipster trend.

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Yeah, the LEED stuff all by itself is just good for the environment.

But it veers into hipster/gentrification territory when when you tear down a bunch of garages in gritty Allston and replace them with a "green district" of buildings with 1-bedroom units going for $2K a month.

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It veers into "gentrification territory" when NIMBY obstruction of housing development causes rents to rise until the value proposition of redevelopment becomes overwhelming.

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LEED is marketing B.S. It has more to do with making money for the U.S. Green Building Council than it does for the environment.

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I was living in Allston when the first wave of attempted gentrification came through ("Allston Village" in the 90s) and I was glad that it failed (the name stuck but the neighborhood didn't really get gentrified until more recently). Allston was a great place to live when it was filled with used furniture stores and foam rubber outlets.

Unfortunately, you can't really fight the wheels of progress, and whenever you feel obliged to launch a "Keep Weird/Shitty/Quirky/Whatever" campaign, you've already lost the battle. I'm not sure how serious LN's suggestion was but I'm sure there will be earnest attempts to "Keep Allston Cool" that will fail completely.

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Just remember, Keep Allston Shitty is a polite way of saying that Allston looks like Glover's Corner in Dot with broke 23 year old college graduates instead of Vietnamese immigrants. The difference is that for most of these post graduation yearlings life changes and you move onto the suburbs and "normal" jobs with Allston being a purgatory / finishing school for many.

There is something to be said about the illegal tattoo parlor in an apartment on Gardner Street, having your photo taken with your id at Fathers Two(?) on Harvard Street each time you walked in the door, some of the Beastie Boys showing up at your now wife's apartment, or many of the Bosstones blaring Jump Around out the windows of an apartment window before it got adapted by the I'm really from Weymouth but act like I'm from Southie crowd.

The downside is the person coning out of the house on Chester Street with an axe after a drug deal went bad, Your stereo belonging to someone else because they broke in and needed cocaine and ecstasy money, the search for redeemable cans in the dumpsters outside your window at 5:30 on a Sunday morning and of course roaches, roaches, roaches.

Allston is being done in because of BU and the high amount of foreign students (read: idiotic gentry from second world countries) that decide that they need underground parking for their four years at the College of Basic Studies. Screw em.

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The number of people who love the Allston is Shitty idea and who actually live there are low. I live there and my neighbors are a lot of families and professionals as well as the students. A lot of the littering loud drunks breaking the law at 2 am are from other neighborhoods who come to Allston to drink and puke and fight before they go home to Brookline or Cleveland Circle to sleep in relative peace. I loved it when the Kells closed - they had good food and the antique oak bar was beautiful but the dbags yelling and breaking off mirrors on their way home will not be missed. With the 2 pending commuter rail stations and the promise of the Indigo line, the improvement to Allston will only increase. I'm not sad about that and I'm not willing to live in squalor for someone's nostalgic remembrances of their youth or some drunken student's excuse to misbehave like it's New Year's Eve or St Patrick's Day every weekend. I happen to think that Allston is great despite these things not because of them.

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I'm not a BU grad but I've been a regular at hockey games for years, and, judging from walking on Comm. Ave in the vicnity of T's Pub and Agganis Arena, BU is almost as Asian as Berkeley.

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Allston is being done in because of BU and the high amount of foreign students (read: idiotic gentry from second world countries) that decide that they need underground parking for their four years at the College of Basic Studies.

The underground parking doesn't come from the foreign students. It comes from the city zoning code, which requires 2 parking spaces for every residential unit in Allston. Yes, even studios and one-bedrooms require 2 parking spaces according to code.

Obviously, anything reasonable has to obtain a variance to that ridiculous rule, in order to be built. But they still usually force you to build 1 parking space per unit. Hence, huge underground parking garages jacking costs into the stratosphere.

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Boston has actively been trying to make Allston less cool for years. Gentrification will finally do the job for them.

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That particular block has certainly got shinier, but the actual store in question doesn't sound a whole lot different than Marty's, which sold gourmet food for 60 years a few blocks away.

If anything, it was Joshua Tree/Tonic/Whatever that never worked there.

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The Northeast Brewing Company. I really like the food, and the brews were pretty good too!

I'm curious about the new place, and will definitely step in to check it out. Then hop on the train and ride up the hill to my Brighton apartment. I did my time in Allston and paid my dues.

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I preferred the Armadillo Cafe, which occupied that spot after Play It Again Sam's but before the Northeast Brewing Company. At the time, NEBC seemed just a little too yuppie-in-training for Allston. Now, it would fit in just fine.

I've been out of school for almost twenty years and only just moved from Allston to Brighton. This area really is one of the last places in Boston that feels like an urban neighborhood. I don't want to keep it shitty but there's got to be something between slum and utter homogeneity.

But I'll still smash to pieces every space saver I see.

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I live less than a block away from this location in a basement studio apartment I pay $1250 a month for. I love Allston because it's a place in Boston that is safe, yet you can still find relatively affordable places to live. The neighborhood does have grit, and character, and great affordable, diverse food options. I am so scared I will be priced out of the neighborhood I love, but I know change is inevitable. If the gentrification stops at the "Green District" apartments, Starbucks, and Bees Knees, fine by me. They add some options to the neighborhood without taking anything away really. I love living in Allston and just really don't want to be forced out by changing demographics. Hopefully the B line will discourage future gentrification... I can dream, right??

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terrible, that's $50 more than I paid for a 2 bedroom there less than a decade ago. The rental prices are completely insane now. Everyone keeps getting pushed out.

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I've been hearing that Allston is being gentrified ever since I moved to Boston 11 years ago (and I'm sure it's been talked about for longer than that). It still hasn't happened. Maybe this Bee's Knees place is the catalyst to kick off that change, but I'm skeptical.

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And the nouveauish riche need parking, especially if the alternative is depending on the B line/66 bus to get anywhere.

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Look at Comm Ave: 200 feet wide and mostly asphalt. The sidewalks are 5 feet wide in front of the businesses. There's a few sad-looking trees, and the rest is parking or motorway.

There's tons and tons of parking, with enormous diagonal parking lots right in front of these businesses. Way too much parking. It would be nice to have a little bit more space for the actual people who live here to enjoy, rather than giving away everything to the "nouveauish riche" and their BMWs.

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There's no more parking on Comm Ave than on any other street in the city, unless you think the city should be encouraging double parking in the area.

Also, those businesses that have parking in front, you know what types of businesses those are? And you do know enough of the history of that stretch of Comm Ave to realize why such businesses are there, right? I mean, I could take the T the next time I need my brake pads on the Focus replaced, I suppose.

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I'm talking about Allston Village area -- near Harvard Ave -- where there are large double-sided parking lots filled with diagonal parking spaces, on-street. That's around where the new market "Bee's Knees" is opening. This section of Comm Ave is 200 feet wide and largely covered by asphalt, with 5-foot wide sidewalks in front of the businesses.

You seem to be talking about the old Auto Mile area, which is down by BU, and still has a scattering of automobile-businesses leftover, that have their own private off-street parking lots.

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Though Herb Chambers would still be around your stretch.

I always think of Brighton and Harvard when I think Allston Village. Still, there's only one row of parking on either side of the street. What goes on beyond that is another story altogether.

In short, I need to get over to Allston more. Or not, if the BBJ is to be believed.

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The gentrification of Allston would require the owners of large swaths of student rental housing to condo convert their properties. Part of what "holds Allston back" or covnersely "keeps Allston cool" is that it has a deserved reputation for quality of life issues associated with the large numbers of students living there. Until that reputation abates, I don't see the prospect of gentrification taking hold any time soon. The landlords of those apartments are doing quite well off the rents they are earning from students and I see little to motivate them to condo convert.

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Allston has a shitload of condos. Across the street from Bees Knees is about 3 blocks of condos along Comm Ave. There is a couple blocks of condos on Glenville. And so on. They happen to be condos with ~25% owner occupancy, condo conversion in Allston was all done 25+ years ago, so there's a big swath of the market already there.

From 2000-2010, according to the census, the number of owner-occupied units in Allston went up, and the number of renter-occupied units went down. Of course, no one noticed.

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That's interesting; I'm pretty sure the number of owner-occupied units in my condo complex (right in the area we're talking about) has been going down. (But I'd need to check on that with the condo board). Owners who had kids or wanted more space and could afford it kept their unit in Allston while moving further out themselves because it's a great investment the way rents have been going up.

I'm curious to see how the Bee's Knees does. The Starbucks seems to be doing well; I always see people in there when I walk by.

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I'm sure the high prices have absolutely nothing to do with the fact that the neighborhood association -- which consists almost entirely of people from the suburban-y parts of Brighton -- refuse to support buildings taller than three stories and without huge setbacks or gigantic parking lots, playing right into the hands of the slumlords who can jack up rents in response to demand without having to invest a cent in repairs.

I'm sure a refusal to increase supply during a time of high demand and rising prices are completely unrelated things.

It's worth noting that the few people from the urbanized part of Allston in the neighborhood association do support new and denser development. Perhaps it's time that Allston and Brighton split.

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What I always liked about Allston (I'm a former 8 year resident) is that most of the residents there are just stopping by on their way to a better place. Unlike some "gritty" neighborhoods where many people are stuck in some kind of cycle of poverty, in Allston most people are expecting more and soon find it and move on. Allston is not a rich place, but it's a place with lots of optimism and I hope that doesn't change.

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as long as it still takes the b line 45 mins from harvard st to kenmore and the rats are still the size of small dogs, i don't see allston truly 'gentrifying' anytime soon.

sincerely,
former allstonian
kelton & 'trashford' streets

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I should have read all the way to the end of the thread before my comment above...

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Unfortunately the BU kids have all but taken over the thrash zone and the areas surrounding it. Packards should just be re-named to BU West part II.

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Or, maybe Harvard buying up Allston is the cause for gentrification?

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I think the coming improvements in transportation and added parkland (or something) in Lower Allston are part of the driving forces. Plus, it's as close as Brookline but still much cheaper.

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Harvard bought land closer to the Charles in "lower" Allston, north of the pike (I'll never understand why its lower)

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You're welcome.

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Minutes of the most recent Public Meetings of the Boston Zoning Commission reveal much... requests for Minutes, email
zc at cityofboston.gov
http://www.cityofboston.gov/BoardsandCommissions/

Minutes of the most recent Public Meetings of the Boston Zoning Board reveal much... requests for Minutes, email
zba at cityofboston.gov
http://www.cityofboston.gov/BoardsandCommissions/

Advocate for online Minutes of the most recent Public Meeting of each City Board/Commission !
http://www.sec.state.ma.us/pre/prepdf/guide.pdf
http://www.mass.gov/ago/government-resources/open-meeting-law/attorney-g...

see also
http://listserv.syr.edu/archives/foi-l.html

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