A pre­vi­ous col­umn here dis­cussed con­di­tions along the east sec­tion of Lexington Avenue, propos­ing the demo­li­tion of a cou­ple of build­ings there in order to build back with struc­tures more in keep­ing with the char­ac­ter of the neighborhood.

There is also a sec­tion of Lexington Avenue that lies between Main Street and Wall Alley that deserves a conversation.

It is great that the build­ings on the south side of this stretch of the street are in pret­ty good con­di­tion and are being main­tained and uti­lized for busi­ness­es.  The oppo­site side of the street is anoth­er sto­ry alto­geth­er, with the aban­doned for­mer state employ­ment office and the much old­er build­ing at the cor­ner, both of which degrade the appear­ance of the street and the neigh­bor­ing build­ings and businesses. 

The cor­ner build­ing, orig­i­nal­ly a church and lat­er a car­riage shop, has long out­lived its use­ful­ness and has become derelict despite cur­rent­ly hous­ing apart­ments.  In the 1950s, it housed a den­tist’s office and a chi­ro­prac­tor’s office on the first floor.

The employ­ment office was con­struct­ed in 1955 and was out of char­ac­ter with the sur­round­ings from its incep­tion, total­ly dis­re­gard­ing the his­tor­i­cal nature of near­by build­ings.  The hand­i­cap ramp was added in lat­er years, per­haps in order to com­ply with the ADA code, but does not do so.  Unfortunately, that accom­mo­da­tion could not occur inside the build­ing, and the resul­tant ramp has for­ev­er been a hin­drance to pedes­tri­an traf­fic along the walk there.

Removal of these two build­ings would free up approx­i­mate­ly 7,000 square feet of ground area.  Erecting a two-storey build­ing or series of build­ings there could pro­vide sig­nif­i­cant space for addi­tion­al street-lev­el busi­ness­es and sec­ond-lev­el apart­ments, such as exist direct­ly across the street.

While it is under­stand­able that there are still a sub­stan­tial num­ber of store­fronts in the down­town area look­ing for ten­ants, those store­fronts are grad­u­al­ly being filled with new enter­pris­es, and this sec­tion of Lexington Avenue could even­tu­al­ly become a wel­come addi­tion to such busi­ness­es, sta­bi­liz­ing the neigh­bor­hood and pro­vid­ing facades more in keep­ing with the his­tor­i­cal nature there.

And while this improve­ment is under­way a very slight mod­i­fi­ca­tion in the on-street park­ing sit­u­a­tion there is in order.

The porch over­hang and columns of the cor­ner build­ing are an imped­i­ment to dri­vers wish­ing to enter Lexington Avenue from Wall Alley.  This sit­u­a­tion is exac­er­bat­ed by vehi­cles being allowed to park too close to the inter­sec­tion at Wall Alley.  This some­times cre­ates a dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tion when it becomes dif­fi­cult to see traf­fic going west on Lexington Avenue.  The sim­ple solu­tion is to delete a cou­ple of park­ing spaces clos­est to the inter­sec­tion, improv­ing sight­lines.  When this is done, a slight side­walk “bump-out” could be added there, sim­i­lar to the one recent­ly added across the street, and this would pro­vide a mod­est improve­ment to pedes­tri­an safe­ty, a long-term issue at this location.

The Engine House Deli has become a well-rec­og­nized and well-attend­ed anchor busi­ness in this area.  It’s time to rec­og­nize the val­ue of this busi­ness to the down­town and do some­thing to enhance it and sup­port it through a thought­ful re-devel­op­ment of a cou­ple of build­ings that have become a detri­ment to the area.

  • Chuck Witt

    Chuck is a retired archi­tect, a for­mer news­pa­per colum­nist, and a life­long res­i­dent of Winchester.