Let it B: Will B-3 zoning spell its doom?

ASKING: $225,000

SQUARE FEET: 1798 fin./674 unfin.

YEAR BUILT: 1920

ADDRESS: 226 Douglas Avenue

NEIGHBORHOOD: Belmont

CURB APPEAL: 8 out of a possible 10

LISTED BY: Jan-Bas vanBeek, Montague, Miller & Co., 951-7134

Everyone is all excited about the fact that this brick house in Belmont is zoned B-3. That's a high business designation and means that anything allowed in B-1, B-2, and B-3 is okay a motel, a hotel, a restaurant, or a retail emporium, to name a few. That must give neighbors on Douglas Avenue a case of the vapors!

And while it's completely understandable that someone might eye this property with one of those uses in mind– given the trendy activity that's turning center city Belmont, one block away, into a certifiable Happening Place– to do that would be a shame.

Because this house is fine as it is, charming and just big enough for a young family or more mature folks seeking the convenience of downtown and the comfort of a cohesive little community.

There's no doubt Belmont is hot right now. Originally the "blue collar" part of town, Belmont boasts several streets of quirky, individualistic houses– duplexes, single-family, and multi-family some big, some tiny, almost all with something to catch your eye. It's the place certain types of folks want to be because many of the houses are ripe for renovation, meaning that while there are not many (read: any) bargains left, it's still possible for people to get a decent house and have some money left to express their individuality in the upgrades.

Following that groundswell of interest, restaurants and other services are moving into the area in larger and larger numbers, another upward pressure on real estate prices.

This house is a good case in point. A new buyer (someone who wants to live here, not a business) could move in and sit tight for a while without doing anything. The systems seem to be okay. City gas keeps the radiators hot; the roof is in good shape; the rain is carried away in built-in gutters, enclosed to keep out leaves and squirrels. They add an elegant touch.

The kitchen is serviceable, with a nice double sink slanted across one corner, the washer and dryer conveniently tucked unobtrusively out of the way. Unlike the rest of the house, which has heart pine floors (now lurking under nasty wall-to-wall, which will have to go immediately), the kitchen and back hall are covered in retro black and white vinyl.

There are two bathrooms– a full bath upstairs, in what used to be a bedroom, which means it's huge (not necessarily a plus; there's a lot of empty wasted space around the claw-foot tub)– and a tiny new half bath under the stairs in the back hall. Upstairs are three pretty generous bedrooms, all with very shallow closets typical of the early part of the last century when the house was built. But some resourceful owner along the way has turned space at the end of the upstairs hall into a deep walk-in closet, which helps.

The front door, under a new portico, opens directly into the living room where you find yourself looking straight up the stairs, which take an elegant little turn at the bottom. The large living room has a fireplace, not working at the moment, but sporting a pretty mantel anyway. The dining room joins the living room in the front of the house, and across the back are the kitchen, a short hall, and a nice extra a den or study which leads back into the living room.

The yard is typical for a city lot, fenced, and bounded by an alley. The big surprise here is an above-ground pool frozen the day we visited, of course-­ but probably a nice bonus in the dog days. A deck extension of the back porch is attached to the pool. The agent says it wouldn't be a problem to deep-six the pool if you'd rather have a garden or even just grass, but reconfiguring the deck in that case might take some planning.

So, if the recent past is any indication, this house B-3 zoning or not will probably welcome a new owner before the water in the pool thaws. We're hoping it will be a happy family who will love it and leave it like it is. It would be a shame to see such a sweet place chopped and mangled into offices or worse.