Neighbors Get Look at Park Street School Proposal

January 20, 2018
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By Dan Murphy

The neighborhood got a look at the Park Street School’s plans to rehabilitate its main building on Brimmer Street and renovate and repurpose a two-story carriage house located directly across Chestnut Street at a Jan. 10 meting sponsored by the Beacon Hill Civic Association Zoning and Licensing Committee.

The school intends to infill the existing courtyard on the second, third and fourth stories at 67 Brimmer St., and to change the usage of the carriage house at 55-57 Brimmer St. from parking on its ground level and a single-family residence on the second floor into classroom and office space.

Tracy Bradley, head of school, said in accordance with the “good neighbor” agreement that it entered into with the BHCA after purchasing the carriage house in 2003, the school won’t increase its maximum enrollment of 235 students in the first through sixth grades, and as a result, she said she doesn’t anticipate any more traffic “vehicle-wise.”

Dan Mills, the architect for the project, said the school hopes to complete the expansion of 67 Brimmer St. by September, but currently has no timeline for 55-57 Brimmer St. No hearing date with the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals to review the request for zoning relief has been scheduled yet, either, he added.

While Tom Clemens, committee co-chair, said the BHCA received around 50 letters in support of the project, Edward Hershfield, an attorney for the homeowner of abutting 7 Beaver Place, said architectural changes to the courtyard are prohibited per the 2003 agreement, and that the modifications as currently proposed would impact his client’s privacy.

Hershfield said his client is currently in negotiations with the school and expects to resolve the matter in the “next couple of weeks.”

Clemens took a straw poll of the roughly 50 committee members and neighbors in attendance, showing that everyone supported the expansion of 67 Brimmer St., while all but Hershfield’s client backed the plans for 55-57 Brimmer St. as currently proposed.

Still, some committee members expressed concern that the proposal for 55-57 Brimmer St. is not only in violation of the 2003 agreement, but that it would also result in the loss of residential housing in the neighborhood.

The committee voted to support the project with the stipulation that the school enter into a new, revised agreement with the BHCA, and one of its terms would be the formation of a liaison group to work with the school throughout the course of construction.

In another matter, the committee hosted its second informational session regarding a proposal from Boston’s Saunders Hotel Group, the owners of the Beacon Hill Hotel & Bistro at 25 Charles St., to update the dining concept and reconfigure its ground-floor restaurant and reception areas.

Andrew Keating, the interior architect for the project, said the restaurant would become an oyster bar with seating for 15 customers at the bar, which would be relocated to the center of the dining area.

Frank McGuire, exterior architect, said the project also includes plans to reconfigure the windows facing Charles Street to better align them with other storefronts, and to relocate the entrance to the corner of Branch Street.

Direct abutters objected to the owner’s proposal, due to the ongoing issues regarding the use of the restaurant’s third-floor roof-deck.

The abutters said the roof-deck was the venue for several special events last summer that were in direct violation of a “good neighbor” agreement the Saunders group entered into with the BHCA after purchasing the Hotel & Bistro in December of 2015.

Moreover, the abutters maintained the Saunders group had been unresponsive when notified of the substantial noise impacts of these events.

Clemens cautioned representatives from the Saunders group that if they didn’t address the issue with the roof-deck, their proposal would likely be met with a “groundswell” of opposition from the community.

“You have to resolve the roof-deck problem, or it’s a nonstarter,” Clemens said.

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