Sense of Place: Brookline, MA

The red outline marks the borders of Brookline and the dropped pin represents my house!

Brookline Massachusetts is a town just outside of the city of Boston that spans over almost 7 square miles of land. My family has lived in the center of Brookline for almost 200 years; an area of town dubbed “the Village” by townies and town workers. My younger sister and I attended the same highschool as my parents and their parents, the only highschool that lies within the borders of town. I would call the economic, social, and cultural values/aspects of Brookline diverse. The town has several different housing projects or assisted living properties spread out around the district. In recent years, there has been an increase in minority populations. There are eight K-8 elementary schools in the district, all with rapidly increasing numbers of students and renovation demands from parents and town meeting members. While I attended elementary school and high school, the Metco program was implemented, transporting students from low-income living situations to Brookline schools to encourage diversity in education. Since the time I entered elementary school to the time I left, the population of students in my particular elementary school alone, doubled from 450 to 900 students.

The population increase is evident in more than one way. With more and more families streaming into Brookline, property values have increased and the towering buildings associated with the downtown medical district continue to encroach passed our borders. One of the more recent, ‘progressive’ changes to the village area has been the addition of NETA (New England Treatment Access), a marijuana dispensary two blocks from my house. After transitioning from providing medical-use marijuana to a legal dispensary, the company (and the town) has received quite a lot of backlash for its establishment and legalization. The building occupies a corner at the intersection of one of the busiest streets in Brookline. The legalization of the dispensary has made the traffic in town unbearable. Even the sidewalks are flooded with younger people that crowd the streets, bringing unwanted attention to NETA. 

The installation of the dispensary, along with the encroachment of medical office building and parking garages near Brookline Village has consequently distorted and fragmented my sense of this place. Seeing as my town is so close to the center of Boston, green space is already limited. As more buildings go up, trees come down and the lack of a natural landscape is evident. One feeling that I noticed had changed my perception of Brookline in recent months was the feeling of alienation. Before I had really begun to notice the sudden industrialization/contemporization of my surroundings, I felt secure in the small bubble that was my town. Recently, the flood of new families and younger weed-walkers has made me question where I fit in, and how I impact the ever-changing environment that is Brookline Village. 

Growing up, I was always aware of the lack of nature in my hometown. My parents are huge fans of the outdoors and always made sure we immersed ourselves in nature over vacations or long weekends. Unlike some of my early-education peers and friends that have grown up in the city and haven’t been offered opportunities to travel and observe more natural environments, I feel fortunate to have been raised with an instilled appreciation and admiration for nature. While I will always cherish the area where I grew up, as I have aged, I have discovered more and more flaws with the town and its values. Preserving the natural landscape is not a priority of the town, and I’m not sure it ever was. I hope that in years to come, Brookline is able to incorporate more greenery into its setting and genuinely value the natural scenery and terrain of the land. 

This is an image of a building that has historical significance and was/is still used to identify a particular part of town called Coolidge Corner. This image dates back to 1898.
This is a photo taken in the past few years of Coolidge Corner. As you look to the left of the iconic S.S. Pierce Clock Building, you can see the tree’s from the first photo have been replaced by an endless strip of stores and details such as the street light to the pavement have undergone significant change.