Kevin Cullen of The Boston Globe wrote an excellent piece about the controversy at 19 Piedmont Street, Boston yesterday entitled “Cocoanut Grove plaque shoved down the street“. It seems as though a plaque was laid in the sidewalk in front of the site of the old Cocoanut Grove nightclub back in 1993 but was removed at the behest of the developers of a new residential condominium building. A tragic fire took the lives of 492 souls at Cocoanut Grove on the night of Saturday, November 28th, 1942.
I can imagine a discussion between the two principals of Piedmont Street, LLC that might’ve taken place as they were huddling around the plaque in the sidewalk shortly after they bought 19 Piedmont Street, Boston for $1,700,000 on the brisk afternoon of December 28th, 2012.
“We just bought this property at the site of one of the deadliest fires in American history and we plan on building eight luxury condominiums that will sell for at least $1,000,000 each. Sigh…”
“I don’t think anybody will want to pay that money for those condominiums if they’re constantly reminded of the specter of 492 souls taken on the site of this property.
“They won’t necessarily care but they’ll be worried about resale value just like we’re worried about resale value. What do we do?”
“Let’s just dig it up! Nobody will notice.”
“No! Don’t be such an idiot! People will notice! Let’s petition the Bay Village Neighborhood Association.”
“We’ll agree to reinstall the plaque at its original location after all the condominiums have been sold. Lulz…“
I wonder how many of the original buyers knew that the property was the site of the Cocoanut Grove fire before they decided to make offers? I wonder how many of the original buyers knew that their was a plaque previously embedded in the sidewalk in front of their new condominium? I wonder how many of the original buyers knew that the plaque would eventually be reinstalled?
I bet many of the eventual original buyers knew nothing about the Cocoanut Grove fire. Nothing. I bet many of them never knew that it happened in Boston. I bet many of them never knew that it happened on the site of their expensive new condominiums.
There’s power in a place. Standing in the footsteps of the people who’ve come before us in a historic or ignominious location is a powerful feeling. To be where they were. It gives us a sense of connection. People report a sense of being in the presence of Michelangelo when they look up at the paintings on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
It reminds me of that famous monologue in Good Will Hunting by Robin Williams.
Some may want to compare the removal of the plaque from 19 Piedmont Street to a similar situation at the Vendome building, located at 160 Commonwealth Avenue, which is located at the corner of Commonwealth Avenue and Dartmouth Street. The Hotel Vendome fire killed eight Boston firefighters on June Saturday, 17th, 1972. The site of the new Vendome monument, which was dedicated on Tuesday, June 17th, 1997, allows for introspection and peace as visitors are allowed to inspect the monument amongst the grass and trees in the Commonwealth Avenue Mall with the ability, due to its location, to peer up at the Vendome building. There’s no such availability for a location like that on Piedmont Street because it’s such a tight street. There’s no comparison between the current site of the plaque commemorating the fire at Cocoanut Grove and the monument commemorating the fire at the Vendome Hotel.
Jasper Bhogal, the developer at 19 Piedmont Street, has had previous experience working on Piedmont Street. He was one of the three principals of the 12 Piedmont Street, Boston development. The three principals of 12 Piedmont Street were: Gerry DiPierro of DiPierro Construction; Jasbir Bhogal of Gibson – Sotheby’s International Realty; and Nicholas Colavito, Manager of Urban Property Management Corp.
Three of the five condominium units at 12 Piedmont Street, Boston are currently for sale, unusually, only a few years after the completion of the project and eventual sale of the five units.
- 12 Piedmont Street, Unit 2, Boston is on the market at $1,550,000
- 12 Piedmont Street, Unit 4, Boston is on the market at $1,299,000
- 12 Piedmont Street, Unit 5, Boston went under agreement on June 22nd, 2016; it’s on the market at $1,199,000
Is it a coincidence that 60% of the units at 12 Piedmont Street, Boston are on the market?
Jasbir Bhogal and Thomas Calus are working together for a third time on Piedmont Street since they recently bought, through their Piedmont Street, LLC, a property at 57-59 Piedmont Street for $4,000,000 in 2015.
Moving the plaque away from the site of the revolving door of the old Cocoanut Grove nightclub at 19 Piedmont Street, Boston, wherein those revelers stepped in for a night of dancing and fun only to rush out in fear of their lives, to a location down the street from the site of the tragic fire removes any sense of place. I disagree with the Piedmont Park Square Condominium Trust and the Bay Village Neighborhood Association. Maybe the City of Boston should intervene?