Possibility of rehabilitating 70-74, rue Main
Can we find buried treasure?
If you’ve been to TD Bank in Cochituate, you’ve probably seen the colorized Main Street photo mural in the 1920s. Did you realize that if you look outside the window you have the same perspective on Main? Street today? The historic buildings in the foreground on the left are gone, just ghosts of buildings where Middlesex Savings Bank now stands.
But to the right, the area’s last two 1800s-era commercial buildings still stand, sitting across from the Hannah Williams Playground. 70-74 Main Street, the building on the left, is currently buried behind vinyl siding and 1980s suburban windows. Can we uncover the story?
Article 28 of this year’s city meeting proposes to use CAP funds to help restore the historic facade at 70-74 Main Street.
In towns like Wayland, smaller older commercial buildings like 70-74 Main are often quiet, often overlooked – and usually more than a little tired. They have undersized retail space, and sometimes a few apartments or offices above. They are often located on small sites which limit their ability to grow or improve significantly.
For example, 70-74 Main Street has such a tiny site (just over 4,100 square feet, or a tenth of an acre), too small to do anything new, that it probably saved it from wrecking ball over the years. But the small size and limited rents limit how much a landlord can spend on the property, so left on their own, properties like 70-74 Main continue to limp around the neighborhood decade after decade.
But what if we worked with the owner to improve the property and discover part of Wayland’s history at the same time?
70-74 Main is one of the last historic commercial properties in Wayland, particularly Cochituate. It sits on the bend of Main Street, very visible north and south on Route 27. Its renovation would enhance the vibrancy of the streetscape, while uncovering the history of a bygone era. Every day, people who queue at the traffic light, visit the Hannah Williams playground, or stroll through neighborhood stores, banks or restaurants will be able to appreciate the details of the small retail building up close.
The Wayland Economic Development Committee (EDC) works in coordination with the owner of 70-74 Main Street, who has owned the property and taxpayer for 42 years. The proposal is for the homeowner to contribute what they would usually spend on a typical renovation to replace existing vinyl siding and windows (estimate $ 45,000). Then CPA funds would be added to bring back the historical details of the late 1800s / early 1900s, trim, multiple windows and storefronts (adding $ 125,000, for a total of 170,000 $).
Upon completion of the work, the owner would accept a property preservation restriction, agreeing to keep the historic finishes in place for at least 30 years, the life of the restored finishes. CPA funds would only pay for exterior façade work, which is in the public interest, and nothing on the interior. The owner would finish and pay for the work, then be reimbursed; the City does not take any construction risk. If the owner sells the building, the preservation restriction remains with the property, so any new owner must keep the historic finishes in place.
Some wonder if CPA funds can be used on private property? Yes, the public interest is the improvement of the historic facade, just as the CPA funds were used at the Wayland Center to restore the Trinitarian church / windows of the previous high school, and the exteriors of the first parish church. , because the facades of the buildings contribute to the historical fabric of the city. CPA funds have been used on private property in other cities.
But what if the owner turns over the property and makes a profit at the expense of the City? While the owner has owned it for 42 years and has no plans to sell, it’s a fair question for the taxpayer, given everyone’s love for HGTV before and after. The building has an area of 3,104 square feet. In Wayland, a house in the neighborhood is worth around $ 300 lb / ft2, so that could be a million dollar property. Add $ 170,000 to a dilapidated $ 800,000 house, then sell it for $ 1.2 million. Bonanza, right? However, not quite – commercial properties are very different animals.
Basically, commercial buildings are only worth what tenants pay in rent. Retail spaces at 70-74 Main are small, cannot accommodate food service, do not have a loading dock or street parking, and are not connected to high traffic users (note the hive of activity a block from Starbucks – this could be a different planet as well). These are quiet retail spaces that only generate “Class B” rents – small retailers and repairers in tight spaces. Likewise, the upstairs apartments are small units with no bedrooms, located on a noisy street, with no off-street parking. Tenants and rents are limited.
On this basis, the assessed value for FY 21 of 70-74 Main is less than $ 100 sq. Ft. ($ 336,000) – only a third of the nearby residential value – and the market value is only about $ 350,000. So any proposal to add $ 170,000 in historic finishes would mean tenants would have to pay 50% more in rent to justify the landlord spending 50% of the building’s value on improvements. Probably not; tenants willing to pay 50% more would go to Wellesley, Newton or rent next to a Starbucks instead.
Local retail brokers estimate that rents may go up 10-15% with upgraded finishes (whether simple or historic), which only covers the cost of vinyl renovations. The historic finishes are a benefit and convenience for the larger community.
But interestingly, playing devil’s advocate what if there is an increase in value with the historic finishes? Recovery by the City is already integrated: property taxes. If the rents go up, the assessed value goes up and the landlord pays $ 18.52 per mile, or about 2%, year after year. Without inflation, it would take about 50 years to pay off the increase in value; with an inflation of say 3%, it would be repaid within the term of a 30-year retention restriction.
So belt and suspenders, the City is protected in its investment, both with the restriction of preservation to protect the finishes for the long-term good of the community – and if there is added value by the historic finishes (not significantly expected, but say if there is), it is recovered through property taxes over time.
70-74 Main is a unique opportunity for the Town of Wayland. By learning about history, it can help uplift the neighborhood as a whole. It can go back to an earlier time and raise awareness of the heritage of the Cochituate shopping district and the history of Wayland. Maybe it could even inspire other people in the neighborhood to invest in their properties as well. Preserving the community is about preserving the gems among us, and 70-74 is a hidden gem, awaiting a good polish.
Rebecca Stanizzi, Wayland Economic Development Committee