Skip to main content

Holliston - Local Town Pages

Town officials vote not to purchase 799 Washington Street

Former Gulf gas station at 799 Washington Street, Holliston. The Select Board voted 1-2 not to purchase the property, calling it ‘the right project at the wrong time.’ Image source: Google Maps

Select Board chair describes opportunity as ‘right project at the wrong time’

By Theresa Knapp 

At its meeting on Feb. 12, the Holliston Select Board voted to 1 in favor, 2 opposed, to not purchase the property at 799 Washington Street on which stands a former Gulf gas station in the downtown area. The town had been offered the opportunity to purchase the property for “up to $700,000.” 

At a meeting in January, Economic Development Coordinator Melanie Hamblen presented possible uses for the “blighted property,” which the board considered. 

The tally for the vote was Select Board member Tina Hein in favor and members Ben Sparrell and Chair John Cronin opposed. 

Sparrell said, “I think it’s an interesting project, an interesting idea to look at that; it is certainly a piece of property that’s disappointing to drive past on a daily basis, but I’m not sure I’m comfortable with the Town being the actor here at this time. I think it might be a timing issue, maybe at another time it might be a better option but I’m not comfortable, this doesn’t sit right with me for a variety of reasons. I’m looking forward to seeing what someone will do with it I’m not sure the town is the right actor to do it.” 

Hein was in support of the purchase. “For me, I see this as a capstone project for the work that we’ve been doing for a number of years in the downtown area. When youlook at Blair Square, the improvements there; when you look at Central Street and the improvements that are coming to the streetscape by way of sidewalks, crosswalks, and the like; and then the branding effort that will address wayfinding signage and so on; and then you look at what’s at the other end down at 9 Green Street with the new parking and EV [chargers], and the yet-to-be-brought-to-the-community the Creative Placement Workshop that will really enliven and reinvigorate the space to public art. So, this is a capstone project for all of that, the town has been committed to it, and the opportunity presented to us, although it came suddenly and not necessarily anticipated, it is one that we have to take seriously.” 

Hein also said this type of project is called out in the town’s Economic Development Plan, a plan that led to the hiring of the town’s Economic Development Coordinator. “So I am in support of this for those and many more reasons.”  

Cronin said the project had been discussed at Select Board and Finance Committee meetings, and the board had received a great deal of public comment. “All in all, I would say there was enthusiasm to do something with the property.”

“This evening, in Executive Session, I was explaining to my peers that, although I’ll be leaving the board in a few months, I’ll be leaving behind a very aggressive agenda that I’m sure they’ll be embracing over the next several years.” He listed numerous town projects in queue for the next three to five years, and said, “I characterize this project as ‘the right project at the wrong time.’” 

After the failed vote, Cronin said, “Again, with some regret, we hope that, down the road, the seller has some ideas about how to improve the property and will do so without delay.”