There is a big building at the junction of Beacon and 15th, a large building that seems as if it ought to be a major retail destination in our North Beacon Hill business district and urban village. But it’s not. It’s a warehouse. There is nothing visible inside but piles of boxes, and a small paper sign.
This is interesting, because the site is zoned Neighborhood Commercial 2 P 40. Neighborhood Commercial 2, or NC2, is “a moderately-sized pedestrian-oriented shopping area that provides a full range of retail sales and services to the surrounding neighborhood.” Typically an NC2 land use might be a coffee shop or drugstore. 40 means that the zoning allows 40-foot tall buildings to be built there. P means that it is a “P-zone” — a pedestrian-designated zone, which is designed to encourage pedestrian activity in a neighborhood business district by requiring ground floor uses that attract pedestrian activity and interest. This means things like retail stores, restaurants, hair salons, etc., but not research labs, administrative offices — or warehouses.
Regardless of the building’s P-Zone status, warehouses and wholesale showrooms are not allowed in NC2-zoned sites. This building has been used as a warehouse for some time now. The business based there, Hui Intertrading, is a rice wholesaler and importer, who supplies many local restaurants with their rice.
Hui Intertrading’s use of the building as a warehouse has been a thorn in some folks’ sides for quite a while, as was the earlier similar use of a building directly across the intersection. And people have filed complaints over these violations of the land use code, in August 2004 and May 2008. For a while, a land use notice board appeared on the building, listing a proposed change to retail use, but the board eventually came down with no noticeable change in the use of the building.
After the earlier complaint, the building failed 11 city inspections before finally passing one in February 2008. After the most recent complaint, it took 4 inspections before it finally passed, and the case was closed — in other words, it’s no longer considered to be violating land-use codes. But, have you been by there lately? It’s still a warehouse. Nothing has changed.
Oh, wait — except for that small paper sign I mentioned earlier:
It’s just a pile of boxes behind the sign, with no sign of any retail activity or retail fixtures.
Could it be that putting up a sign like this is all you need to be a retail business and get the Department of Planning and Development off your back? Business owners, take note!
On the other hand, despite appearances, maybe it is a retail shop. Has anyone tried to shop at this “food grocery retail store”? Please tell us how it went.
Complaints to the DPD may be filed online.
(Can you imagine this building as an old-style movie theater with a nice big neon marquee? I’ve always thought it looked like it should be one.)