Architectural Commission Votes to Refer Vilna Shul Application to Subcommittee

The Beacon Hill Architectural Commission voted unanimously to refer the Vilna Shul’s application to replace existing, exterior surface-mounted lighting with LED lighting on the side façade at 18 Phillips St. to a subcommittee during its Jan. 16 hearing at City Hall.

John Hecker, the applicant, said the Jewish community center, which recently wrapped up an extensive renovation, is proposing installing three light fixtures in an alleyway leading to its new entrance on the building’s east side.

The aluminum units come equipped with motion detectors and offer different “dimming” options, and they would be painted black and positioned between 8.5 and 10 feet off the ground.

“They would cast no light upward and only a narrow beam in the alleyway,” Hecker said.

Rob Whitney, a direct abutter to the Vilna Shul and president of the Beacon Hill Civic Association board of directors, requested that lighting instead be installed in the handrails, like the Frances Appleton Pedestrian Bridge that links Charles Circle to the Charles River Esplanade.

Miguel Rosales, chair of the commission, asked that the applicant make an effort to remove or conceal electrical “conduits” located on the west side of the building.

The subcommittee, consisting of Commissioners Rosales, Joel Pierce and Matthew Blumenthal, the Civic Association’s newly named alternate-appointee to the commission, will rule on application after seeing a mockup of the proposed lighting design after dark, and this trial will be advertised to the public in advance.

In another matter, the commission unanimously approved an application to replace existing signage at the Cambridge Trust Co. at 65 Beacon St. to reflect its new corporate name, Cambridge Trust.

The proposed work includes removing an existing sign and replacing it with an aluminum panel with gold-colored, raised lettering on a black background on the bank’s Beacon Street façade; removing and replacing vinyl signage on the windows; and removing and replacing a decal at the main entry that would display the business hours and be adorned with the new company logo.

Jim Rosenfeld of the Civic Association’s Architectural Commissioner requested that a gold-colored border be incorporated into the panel sign, as is the case with the existing sign.

The commission’s vote to approve the application came with the provisos that the panel sign be carved wood with a gold-colored border, and that the lettering in the window signage also be gold in color to be more consistent with the historic district.

Meanwhile, the commission voted unanimously to approve an application to replace three 18-light doors with three wooden nine-over-nine windows at the fifth-floor, penthouse level at 60 Pinckney St. Windows will fit within the size of the openings and be painted black to match the rest of the townhouse. 

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