Letters to the Editor

35 birch road has not been sold

Dear Editor,

Due to a processing error at real estate data analytics firm The Warren Group, from which the Winthrop Sun sources its real estate sales, a recent sale at 33-35 Billows St, Winthrop, was incorrectly identified as a sale at 35 Birch Road Our database has been updated to reflect this correction.

The Warren Group

On DeLeo’s Greenworks Proposal

Dear Editor,

Speaker DeLeo’s billion-dollar GreenWorks proposal could offer much-needed support to Winthrop, other coastal towns, and all the Commonwealth’s communities as we face greater extremes of tides and weather. But as with any local distribution of grants, the details will matter. Will GreenWorks primarily help towns shore up their own local resilience to climate change? Or will the grants support reductions in carbon emissions that will mitigate the larger problem? Unless we stop adding more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, adaptation will inevitably fall short.

So Mr. Speaker, as your GreenWorks plan advances through the House, why not also support the 100 percent Renewable Energy bill? Let’s address our local needs but also make sure we are doing our part as global citizens to reduce our overall carbon emissions. Full carbon neutrality as quickly as possible is the only sensible response to this urgent problem.

Brent Whelan

WIHA Presents Gov. John Winthrop’s Sermon, “Christian Charity”

On Saturday March 9, from 1-3 p.m. this free special event will take place in the Barn at the Deane Winthrop House

Please join the Winthrop Improvement & Historical Association and the Partnership of Historic Bostons for this rare recitation of John Winthrop’s sermon “A Model of Christian Charity.”

Gov. John Winthrop gave this sermon to the colonists as they were sailing to America on board the flagship Arbella in 1630. Presented by Stephen Busby, scholar and one of the founding members of the Partnership of Historic Bostons. Winthrop’s sermon defines the test that we now call American Exceptionism. He said, “We shall be a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us.”

This sermon has been quoted as a source of inspiration by U.S. Presidents, including Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy. A recitation of this sermon in its entirety has rarely been heard.

John Winthrop was the first Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and had been elected 12 times between the years 1631 and 1648.

The event includes light refreshments and a tour of the historic Deane Winthrop House located next to the Barn at 34 Shirley St. Deane Winthrop was the sixth son of John Winthrop.

Pre-registration is recommended by e-mailing [email protected] as seating is limited.

Donations are greatly appreciated.

W.I.H.A. thanks the residents of Winthrop for their continued support of our events.

What A Special Town

Dear Editor,

Winthrop is a truly special town.  I know I am stating the obvious to so many of you who have lived here for generations.  For me, it was a new discovery, but one that continues to unfold and deepen as I slowly get to know the people, the places, and the rhythm of the Town.

Two and a half years ago when I relocated to Boston to be near my husband’s family, I was exploring the area and trying to find a place that felt like home.  We moved to the western suburbs to be close to our family, but having spent the last 18 years in Miami Beach, and growing up on Long Island, I was craving the sound of the ocean, the vibe of the seaside and the special character of people who gravitate towards living near the water.

One day, I found Winthrop on the map and decided to check it out.  I had never even heard of Winthrop! As I drove over the Belle Isle Inlet, looped around Pleasant Street and followed my GPS to the end of the map on Shirley Street, I couldn’t believe what I had found.  I parked my car, walked out on the beach, looked out at the ocean, and I knew that I had found my special place. 

At that point, I just wanted to learn as much as I could about Winthrop. And the more I learned, the more intrigued I became. It seemed to me that Winthrop could offer the best of everything: city access, suburban comforts, small town community, safe neighborhoods, good schools, great restaurants and all of it just a stone’s throw from the beach. 

I also found a positive energy in Town amongst folks who were excited about implementing the new Master Plan in the Center Business District (CBD), which focused on revitalizing the Center to position it for success for the next generation and beyond.  There seemed to be a recognition that even though change is hard, it is often necessary to preserve that which we cherish the most.  As I explored the CBD, I understood what the Town was trying to achieve.  While there are glimpses of greatness, prosperity and old school New England seaside charm, there is also an aging landscape, outdated infrastructure and in some areas, blight and vacancy. 

After learning that the Town was fully committed to supporting the new zoning code and upgrading the infrastructure in the CBD, I knew that I wanted to make a positive impact and be part of the next chapter of Winthrop’s story.  A few weeks later, my development partners (ENVELO) came to town and together we found “the old CVS”.  It was the most decayed building in the CBD, and had been vacant for more than 10 years.  It would be an extremely challenging project, but we knew that if we could revitalize this property, it could be a catalyst for other improvements in the CBD, and would set the stage for Winthrop’s success for many years to come.

We purchased the property in May 2017, and have been working diligently since then to finalize our development plans.  We were right about one thing: it has been a huge challenge!  We evaluated dozens of options and varied uses for the building. I could write an entire article just explaining all the permutations we considered.  For now, I will simply state our conclusion: based on the property size and composition, traffic and parking considerations, construction costs, and market analysis, the highest and best use of this property is to demolish the existing building, and construct a new mixed use building with commercial space and parking on the first floor and several floors of apartments above.  

Our initial Proposal to the Town presented a five-story 40 unit building with a modern boxy exterior that is very popular in nearby towns.  The response from the community was loud and swift! Notwithstanding all of our efforts, we had clearly missed the mark in both scale and form.  In retrospect, we realize that we had been so focused on figuring out the best use for the building, that once we arrived at our conclusion, we did not give nearly enough consideration to how it should look and how it would inform the design and scale of future projects in the CBD. 

This was tough medicine to swallow.  Not because of the negative comments on Facebook and not because we realized we needed to make changes.  It was tough because it presented the false impression that ENVELO doesn’t care about Winthrop, which is the exact opposite of the truth.  We are here because we care.  We are here because we can see a future vision of Winthrop that reflects the past but is ready for the future.  We want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

It became extremely clear that we needed to broaden our process and work with the community in order to get to the right solution.  We needed listen to the comments from our neighbors, business owners, town leadership, and anyone else who wanted to speak out.  We spent the last few months doing just that.  We gathered comments and feedback and ideas, and went back to the drawing board.  I also reached out to the folks who had been most vocal against our first proposal to learn how we could adjust and improve our design.  The suggestions we received were terrific.  We implemented as many as we could.

We are really proud of our new design proposal.  It’s now four floors, not five, has 30 units not 40, and has 29 parking spots.  But most importantly, it looks like Winthrop.  It is 100% New England.  It fits in. This building will elevate the CBD and can serve as the inspiration for future projects.  It’s a much better proposal and I want to thank all of you for pushing us to improve it to such a great extent. 

In addition to the positive impacts visually, The Somerset, as we are calling it, will have an extremely positive economic impact on Winthrop.  The building will bring approximately 60-75 new residents who will live, eat, shop and pay taxes in Winthrop.  This turbo boost to the local business community will filter throughout the Town and catalyze additional economic activity. 

By the time this is published, the Open House we are holding on March 6 will have passed, and I am hopeful that many of you are now sharing my complete enthusiasm for our project. We will be presenting these plans at Planning Board on March 11.   We look forward to the construction phase of this project with great anticipation.

Joanna Schwartz

Principal, ENVELO Properties

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