How one Massachusetts town is tackling vacant storefronts

Re “Proposal could charge landlords for vacant storefronts” (Metro, April 4): As a cofounder of the citizens group Support Arlington Center, I wanted your readers to know that Arlington established a vacant property bylaw in 2016 and that it has already made an impact. The goal of the bylaw is to reduce the number of long-term commercial vacancies in Arlington and to activate storefronts during a period of vacancy by creating an incentive for property owners to display artworks in unused commercial windows.

Thus far, the 17 vacancies identified in Arlington Center in June 2015 were reduced to five as of September 2017. Since the bylaw was passed, commercial vacancies have plummeted to 1.2 percent townwide as of 2017.

What differentiates Arlington’s bylaw from similar vacant property bylaws and ordinances in Massachusetts is its focus on commercial properties and economic vitality. In addition, the bylaw allows the town to waive the annual registration fee for property owners who either can demonstrate financial hardship or choose to display public art in their vacant storefront.


The bylaw requires property owners to state their efforts to fill the vacancy and to maintain a code-compliant property. An annual registration fee of $400 is required. Property owners who do not meet the bylaw’s requirements face a fine of $100 per day.

Alyssa Krimsky Clossey