by Pete Mazzaccaro
It’s hard to believe that 2012 is already over.
It’s 2013 – a whole new year, just when I was getting used to the idea that it was 2012.
Looking back over last year’s Local stories, I concluded that it wasn’t a particularly tumultuous period. There weren’t any big fights over zoning that typically mark the news in Chestnut Hill.
There have been dust-ups, from the fight over the Chestnut Hill Rita’s Water Ice that never was, to the rancor over the change in Hill parking from free lots to to Parking Authority kiosks. But even those stories were barely big enough to be more than talk of the town.
Instead, the big story seems to be more incremental. In order to see the big news, you need to put together smaller threads.
The overwhelming sense I get from looking at these stories is that Chestnut Hill is definitely in a period of substantial change. Old institutions and businesses are closing and new ones are taking their place.
There has been a steady stream of new businesses this year, from boutique shops like Green Design to the latest dessert destination, Chill on the Hill.
We’ve seen businesses that have been with us for a long time close for good, like Monkey Business, a thrift sop that had been run by volunteers to raise money For Chestnut Hill Hospital for nearly 50 years.
On the surface, it doesn’t mean much. Turnover is normal. But in the transition, you can see a certain tension — a move from the traditional and the neighborhood to a more contemporary and fashionable mode. It’s that kind of imperceptible change that prompts old time Hillers to shake their heads and say things just aren’t what they used to be. It’s also the sort of change, though, that makes others happy that the neighborhood is finally getting with the times.
Even the pressures caused by the change in parking from stickers to to kiosk demonstrates this. As good as the sticker system might have been – shop keepers used to buy sticker rolls that were used to validate parking in Chestnut Hill – it was not viable in a new Chestnut Hill where a diversified business ownership simply wouldn’t support it any longer.
(To be fair, it is true that many more Hill businesses are owned by larger concerns that aren’t always local, but local owners were just as likely to avoid buying stickers or paying parking assessments as so-called outsiders.)
For better or worse, Chestnut Hill is changing. Some of those changes feel like a real part of the neighborhood – a thing for which Chestnut Hill was identified – is lost, never to be recovered. It’s hard to avoid that feeling that it’s mostly for the worse.
We hope that most of the changes we saw in 2012 and what comes in 2013 will work out for the better. Todays new thing just might be that which we’re sad to see go in 10 years or 50. Only time will tell.
Happy New Year.