The building with the large garage door at 2507 Beacon Avenue South has long been a concern for neighborhood residents. Previously, it was being used as a warehouse, and caused problems for local pedestrians, and for cars and buses right in front of the business, with delivery trucks and forklifts blocking traffic and pedestrian walkways. More recently, the building was vacant and bore a large “For Commercial Space Lease… For: Light mfg., Retails, Office” sign. Month after month went by, graffiti appeared on the door, and there was no sign of anyone moving in.
Until now. A new business recently set up shop in the site, and the activity has picked up. That’s the good news. The bad news? The new business, a hand car wash, is a pretty blatant zoning violation. The site in question, right on the junction of Beacon and 15th, is zoned NC2P-40. (Here is the basic zoning information for the site.) NC2P-40 means Neighborhood Commercial 2, Pedestrian-Designated Zone, 40-foot height limit. (Here is a city document that describes the various commercial zones.)
NC2, according to the city, is “A moderately-sized pedestrian-oriented shopping area that provides a full range of retail sales and services to the surrounding neighborhood,” such as a drug store, coffee shop, or a medium-sized grocery store.
The important thing here, though, is that this is an NC2P, not a plain NC2. The P indicates that it is a Pedestrian-Designated Zone. P zones have restrictions that other NC2 zones do not have. The intent of the P zone, says the city, is to preserve and encourage “an intensely pedestrian-oriented, retail shopping district where non-auto modes of transportation, both to and within the district, are strongly favored.” To that end, street level uses are limited to “pedestrian-oriented nonresidential uses that have the potential to animate the sidewalk environment, such as retail, entertainment, restaurants, and personal services. Drive-in or drive-thru businesses are prohibited.” A car wash would seem to be a “drive-in or drive-thru business” by definition, so this seems to be a straightforward zoning violation.
If the car wash gets shut down, the possibility exists that the 2507 site will be vacant for months again, and no one wants more vacancies in the North Beacon business district. The existence of an active business in that site is a positive thing for the neighborhood. However, a business that doesn’t enhance the neighborhood’s stated desires (in the neighborhood plan, the comments here on the blog, etc.) for a pedestrian-oriented business district is not necessarily a positive. Is it more important to have a business there — of any kind — than to have uses that match the neighborhood’s zoning? Please tell us what you think.
(And since it’s Friday, why not enjoy a musical interlude while you post your thoughts?)