I’ve heard that some Town Meeting members are worried that the Harvard Street rezoning plan will displace local businesses. That’s an understandable concern and one I thought I would provide some context for. I’ve been studying Brookline’s commercial districts for years as head of the Brookline Historical Society (though I’m writing for myself, not for the society.)
I recently pulled together data on Harvard Street storefronts, from Brookline Village through JFK Crossing, from 2007 to 2023. Over this 16-year period, nearly 60 percent of Harvard Street storefronts changed hands at least once. Similar patterns can be seen through the very long history of the Harvard Street storefronts.
It may be cliché to say that change is the only constant, but it has certainly been a characteristic of Harvard Street for a long time. Zoning changes can have an impact, and I believe the proposed changes will help local businesses by bringing new housing (and new customers within walking distance) and new storefronts, and by growing our tax base to help relieve the tax burden on small businesses.
Brookline’s lively — and walkable — commercial districts are part of what attracted me and my family when we moved here in 1996. The proposed zoning changes will help see that they continue to thrive.
Ken Liss is a Brookline resident and president of the Brookline Historical Society.