Capital One turned out to be one bank too many for Beacon Hill.
Boston’s zoning commission approved a new rule on Wednesday that would require banks, real estate agencies, and other professional offices to go through the zoning board of appeals before opening in a first-floor or basement space along Charles Street and the south side of Cambridge Street. City councilor Josh Zakim says the so-called “conditional use” requirement is already used in a number of neighborhoods, including Roslindale and Mattapan, to spur more vibrant retail and restaurant uses at the street level.
The zoning change might not have happened if not for the incursion of Capital One, the Virginia-based banking giant best known for its credit card business, into the Boston area. The bank in 2012 dropped its plans to open in a storefront on Charles Street, as part of a Boston expansion, after neighbors protested. After standing by as banks took over a few prime retail spots in recent years, a number of residents and merchants decided that Capital One would be a poor replacement for the Charles Street Market, a shop that had been at the corner of Charles and Mount Vernon streets. (The shop had, in turn, replaced a 7-Eleven that had been there for years.)
Zakim took up the neighborhood’s cause soon after he started his first term as a city councilor earlier this year. The ZBA process would give neighbors more of a say in what kinds of businesses open in these street-level spaces. The city council quickly approved the zone change in the spring, and the change received the Boston Redevelopment Authority’s blessing last month, Zakim says. He says a Peet’s Coffee & Tea will be going into a portion of the former market instead. (Persona, a jewelry shop, opened in September in the other portion of the former market space.) Capital One has partnered with Peet’s for other Boston branches, but Zakim says the bank would have no presence in the building now.Jon Chesto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.