Wednesday, September 28, 2016

I sure don’t blame them, but…

A couple of years ago, the Unitarian Universalist Association sold their property on Beacon Hill and decamped to another part of town. Part of the property they sold used to house Little-Brown, the publishing company. Oh, the UU’s are still in Boston. So’s Little-Brown. But they’re no longer on The Hill, and their buildings are all set to become more high-end condos. Some of the condos in the old UU headquarters – can it be called the old UU Vatican? – even have separate nanny apartments.

I miss seeing the Little-Brown building.It was just up the hill, and I liked walking by, knowing that I was walking by Louisa May Alcott’s publisher. And Emily Dickinson’s. That L-B was the company that brought out All Quiet on the Western Front, Mutiny on the Bounty, The Last Hurrah, and Catcher in the Rye. And they were plunked right here in the middle of my neighborhood.

Same for the UUs, whose building on Beacon Street I passed nearly every day. Ah, the Unitarians. If I were going to have a religion – other than ex-Catholic atheist – I would definitely be a UU. When my husband – and fellow ex-Catholic atheist – died, I turned to the UUs for a place to hold his memorial service. Although there was one or two mentions of the “G” word snuck into Jim’s service – I think they were there in a song or two – they worked with me on making something near-perfect.

So I was sorry to see the UUs go.

But I get it.

They aren’t making any more real estate on Beacon Hill. And there are plenty of rich folks coming into town, looking for condos, who aren’t necessarily attracted to all the ab-fab high rise buildings going up. They want character more than they want a health club. They want charm more than they want a view. And there’s character and charm a-plenty on Beacon Hill. Take it from one who lives in a high-charm, high-character condo: them bones, them bones, them old bones are good.

All this translated into big bucks for the UUs. They got to move into cheaper digs, and developers got to develop more swank condos.

And now the Appalachian Mountain Club, which does things like maintain hiking trails in the White Mountains, is following suit.

After nearly a century of managing its trails, huts, outdoor activities, and conservation efforts from a group of brick bowfronts on Beacon Hill, the Appalachian Mountain Club said Monday it has sold its headquarters there and is hunting for a bigger space in Boston. (Source: The Boston Globe)

They’ve sold their digs on Joy Street for $15M, which will be going “back to their original residential use.”

Well, not hardly.

I doubt that the “their original residential use” included kitchens kitted out with Gaggenau ranges and SubZero fridges. (Not that there’s anything wrong with a SubZero fridge. Some of my best friends, in fact, have them. And, say, now that I think of it, there’s one in my kitchen. But there’s absolutely no Gaggenau range in there.) And the original residents were rich old Brahmin bankers, lawyers, and China-trade traders – not management consultants, hedgies, and bio-tech-noids.

Not that I begrudge more rich management consultants, hedgies, and bio-tech-noids coming into the hood. And the truth is, the more their money pours in here, the more my place will be worth.

Still, I’ll miss having the UUs and the AMC as part of the old ecosystem.

But the AMC wants more room. They want some outdoor-ness.They want parking. (Hey, shouldn’t the AMC not want their employees to drive????) They also want “a more diverse neighborhood.”

I’ll give them that. This neighborhood is quaint, charming, convenient (if you don’t have a car), and interesting. But it’s not exactly diverse.

And it will be getting less so, without having the diversity of organizations like the UUs and the AMC in our midst, I’m afraid.

But tempus does seem to fugit.

“The majority of the world is living in cities now, and if we don’t connect them to the outdoors we’re in trouble,” [AMC’s John] Judge said. “We’re the country’s oldest conservation organization, but how are we going to engage the next generation with the outdoors and leadership? For us, it’s a pivot point.”

To pull off his “outdoor city” strategy, Judge said, AMC needs to be louder and a more prominent member of Boston’s civic life. It must work more closely with Boston’s universities and corporations. It must recruit more aggressively. And it needs a new headquarters site that makes a statement — that isn’t tucked away, out of sight, on a tony Beacon Hill lane with millionaire neighbors.

When I moved to The Hill, 40 years ago, it was not all that tony.

Some of the old establishments are still here: the wondrous Gary Drug and the equally wondrous Charles Supply. And I think The Sevens Pub has been here forever, without spending a dime to reno its look and feel. It’s under new ownership, but the Paramount has also been here forever. (Wish there were no lines outside the door all the time. They do make a great grilled cheese.)

But it was quite a bit funkier – there were still rooming husbands (one of which my husband-to-be lived next to), and a lot of the funky old places. Those funky old places and most of the antique stores are gone, replaced by upscale restaurants and boutiques catering to all those millionaire neighbors of mine.

Wish that the UUs had stuck around, and that the AMC had stayed here, too. We’ll be more bland and ritzy with them gone.

Oh, boo hoo…

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