1903 map of Brookline
A Brief History of Hancock Village
At the end of World War II, there was a shortage of housing. The town of Brookline was interested in an innovative type of “garden village” development, which were then rare in the Northeast. The town worked with the John Hancock Insurance company to develop the Weld Golf Course in this fashion. Some of these discussions are summarized in minutes from the Town Planning Board. “Officials and residents of the town were properly determined to safeguard the community character” (Paul Clark; President of John Hancock Insurance; see p. 24 of Brookline-Hancock Agreements pre1984). Therefore, in 1946 an agreement was entered between the town and the company in which rezoning and development of the present Hancock Village were granted in return for restrictions on the type and scope of development, an example of contract zoning. Specifically stipulated were a townhouse, garden style development with over 80% green space and buildings lower than 2.5 stories. Also agreed upon was a single family buffer zone (the S-7 district) between existing houses and Hancock Village. Unfortunately, this agreement did not have a time frame and it was deemed to have expired due to a default 30 year limit.
In 1958, John Hancock Insurance Company asked for a zoning variance to build 50 parking spots off of Independence Drive. The Zoning Board unanimously denied the variance.
In 1967, new ownership of the renamed Westbrook Village applied for a variance to build 93 parking spots in the S-7 district. The variance was denied because of opposition from abutters, citing the 1946 agreement establishing the S-7 buffer zone, because of lack of need on the part of the developer, and the availability of alternative sites for increased parking.
In 1986, Hancock Village was purchased by Chestnut Hill Realty (CHR). CHR redeveloped the Shops at Hancock Village.
In 1989, CHR proposed at development on the West Roxbury side of Hancock Village. This proposal featured a 17 story tower that would have been the largest in West Roxbury. The Boston Redevelopment Authority stated “It’s too ridiculous to even review. The proposal has no relationship with what is allowed by law and what would be an acceptable proposal.”
In 1995, with the end of rent control in Massachusetts, CHR converted the affordable units to market rate, resulting in the loss of affordable housing in South Brookline
In 2006, there is record of an inquiry to develop a parking lot at Hancock Village. It was ruled that a special permit was required (at least; more likely it would require a variance or rezoning).