The neighborhood listserv is buzzing about 85 Centre Street. Darryl Settles, co-owner of The Beehive and founder of the Beantown Jazz Festival wanted to bring in a restaurant/bar to the address.
On Tuesday, the licensing hearing was slated for 10 a.m. at City Hall but in the wee hours before that hearing “the applicant (the Telsa Group/Darryl Settles)” withdrew “the application for a license at 85 Center St. at this time in order to conduct further community outreach." Three neighbors, according to Mr. Settles, within view of the address had successfully lobbied against the proposal.
The good thing is that this topic has generated a huge, polite neighborhood discussion. Many opinions are conflicting but people are civil. And it is pretty obvious that there is far more support in the neighborhood for this project than Mr. Settles believed.
The arguments against the project? The usual: noise, traffic, more people. Noise from traffic and people. People walking. People laughing as they leave the decent high end restaurant/jazz club after having a good time. In short, detractors fear the very things that are part of sustainable, stimulating, appealing urban living.
I, too, might be one of these people if I suspected that this restaurant was designed to attract a student crowd. Students drove me out of Symphony Road, they drove me out of Mission Hill. I tired of their drunken all night shrieking, their vomiting on my doorstep. Besides, I get my dose of drunken shrieking from the folks who frequent Fernandez liquor store and hang out in Cedar Park. But just as The Beehive and the jazz festival don't attract an immature, irresponsible clientele, neither, I believe, would this project. There will be naysayers regarding any thing new, but a decent food and music emporium for a mature clientele is a great way of providing an economic, social, and cultural boost to any urban neighborhood - especially this one.
Highland Kitchen in Somerville is a fabulous place in a really dense neighborhood with virtually no parking (six spaces, I think). It’s got great food and a great atmosphere and there is no increased “violence, drugs, brawl, out of town gangs, late night brawls, noise, traffic, pimps” as one of my Highland neighbors wrote he feared a restaurant/bar would bring. Scores of other sophisticated neighborhood joints could be added to the list of well run businesses that enhance their districts.
While I appreciate the concerns of the people opposed to the project, I can’t help but believe that much of that concern about the proposal is less “cautionary dissent” than reactionary fear and a provincial NIMBY-ism. Mr. Settles has a great track record as a good businessman. Given the chronic unemployment faced by the young people from this area, it is shameful to me that we dismissed him without any discussion or attempt at negotiation.
Just as I was finishing this piece, I spoke on the phone to Mr. Settles. I had called him to express my support and he was gracious enough to return my call. He said he has decided to abandon the 85 Centre Street project because it was a risk not worth taking when faced with such a negative reaction from a few people near to 85 Centre. He has many other opportunities. His advice was not to let die the conversation that we, as a neighborhood, had begun.
This project was a job-creating enterprise which would foster mingling and help boost the reputation of a misinterpreted neighborhood. The next time such an opportunity appears, at the very least I hope we discuss it before driving it away.