On a frigid January night, nearly 200 neighbors
turned out to the Beacon Hill Civic Association (BHCA) Zoning and Licensing Committee meeting Wednesday to voice their strong opposition against Capital One Bank’s proposed expansion to Charles Street.
The Virginia-based company has applied to the city’s Inspectional Services Department (ISD) for the zoning relief necessary to change the use of the Charles Street Market (formerly 7-Eleven), located at 62-66 Charles St., from an at-grade retail store to a full-service bank branch with ATM machines. According to ISD, a portion of the building lies in a residential district and subsequently requires a zoning variance to modify the location from one forbidden usage (i.e. a store) to another (a bank).
An informal poll, administered by Zoning and Licensing Committee co-chair Tom Clemens, determined that citizens in attendance unanimously opposed the bank’s planned move to the neighborhood.
“I think this turnout shows that we don’t need [another] bank on Charles Street,” said Alyson Lindsey, a direct abutter from River Street.
Capital One attorney Dennis Quilty said the Charles Street branch’s proposed hours of operation would be 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday.
Fearing the bank would remain dark and unoccupied after business hours and on Sundays, some residents raised public safety concerns and speculated that the now-active area around the site would be rendered a “dead spot” for extended periods of time.
“To take the heart of Charles Street and have it darkened…is like digging a hole in the middle of our heart,” Temple Street resident Susan-McWhinney-Morse said. “I’d be very sorry to see a darkened heart.”
Susan Symonds, president of the Beacon Hill Business Association, suggested opening a bank at the location could be detrimental to the “business culture” of Charles Street, which has traditionally eschewed national chains in favor of local and independently owned businesses.
Others believe closure of the Charles Street Market would come as a tremendous loss to Beacon Hill.
“That store serves a vital use to this neighborhood,” one Chestnut Street resident said. “Anything else there would be a detriment.”
Quilty said he was authorized to disclose at the meeting that Tracy Hollander, proprietor of the Charles Street Market, would reopen the business at another Charles Street location. (Hollander couldn’t be immediately reached for comment).
The Zoning and Licensing Committee voted 19-0-2 to oppose the city granting the necessary zoning relief that would allow the bank to open at the proposed Charles Street location. The decision was scheduled to go before the BHCA board of directors at last night’s monthly meeting for final approval.
Next, the applicant has a Feb. 28 hearing with the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals to review its request, Quilty said.