by Pete Mazzaccaro
As readers pick up this copy of the Chestnut Hill Local, 2015 will have just begun.
As we begin the new year, we look back at the one that just recently concluded with a capsule version of the top stories of the previous year.
Looking back over the issues of 2014, one is immediately relieved at how our winter has gone so far. Despite dire warnings that we were due for a lot of snow, we’ve seen little so far (knock on wood). By this time last year, we had suffered through a number of snowstorms that closed schools and knocked out power. And we were just getting started. By March we had set records in the city – records that hurt a lot of area businesses and delayed a lot of plans.
After more than a month of weekly blizzard photos on the front page of the Local, the weather warmed and so did the issues. Notable events covered here in our look back include:
1. Chestnut Hill’s Business Improvement District. The expansion of the BID, which collects revenues through an additional property tax on a predetermined area, was not without some controversy, as one of the Hill’s most prominent property owners, the Woodward Company, was not pleased to be included.
It took several months of negotiation, but BID leaders and the Woodward finally came to an understanding, and renewal of the legislation that created the BID passed City Council.
2. The long union protest in front of the Trolley Car Diner. The always popular IBEW (electrician’s union) and other union members picketed the Germantown Avenue front yard of Ken Weinstein’s Trolley Car Diner in a protest that seemed to have no end date in sight. The demonstrators were upset with Weinstein for not using union labor in the rehabilitation of a Germantown church that would house, among other things, the Waldorf School.
The union pickets persisted, even as three members of the Iron Workers Union were charged in February with crimes related to the 2012 vandalism of the Mermaid Lane construction site of the new Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting.
Weinstein stuck to his guns, and the union has moved on, but the long demonstration might be one of the more memorable bits of “background noise” in 2014.
3. The Moreland Avenue house controversy. Finally, at midyear, what might be Chestnut Hill’s biggest story of the year began when we learned that developer Sam Blake had purchased and planned to raze a 104-year-old house on Moreland Avenue that had been built by the well-regarded residential architect Charles Barton Keen.
The news began a heated debate between those who wanted to see the home saved – it had, after all, been called “significant” in Chestnut Hill’s application as a National Historic District – and those who felt the time to save the house had long passed and that Blake would be doing the neighborhood a favor by replacing the deteriorating home with new houses.
The debate sparked a petition to save the home and several neighborhood meetings in which the home’s fate was discussed.
And that was the first half of 2014. Next week, we’ll look at the second.