BHAC Hears Advisory Review on Charles St. Garage Redevelopment

The Beacon Hill Architectural Commission heard tentative plans for the proposed redevelopment of the Charles Street Garage during an advisory review at its June 17 public hearing held via Zoom.

David Hacin, the project architect, told commission members that the applicant intends to transform the four-story garage at 144 Charles St., with retail currently on the ground floor and three levels of parking on the floors above, into a building with office space on the top two floors, parking on the second level and expanded retail opportunities at the street level.

The Charles Street Garage at 144 Charles St., which is now being considered for redevelopment.

A new lobby would also be created at the street level to accommodate the new office uses, said Hacin, and a roofdeck for the offices is being proposed as part of the project as well. A “green screen” at the rear of the building would support existing vines that now cover that façade without disrupting the existing masonry, he said.

           Additionally, the project proposes infilling some existing windows facing the garden at the south elevation at the behest of neighbors, said Hacin, as well as the addition of new window openings on the north elevation.

Commissioner Martha MacNamara advised Hacin “no new masonry openings is sort of our baseline, so that will have to be a discussion.”

Commissioner MacNamara also encouraged the applicant to retain the early 20th-century industrial building and its “industrial aesthetic.”

The building,” which functioned as a garage and a car showroom in the 1960s, she said, “tells of the story of the automobile and its introduction to Beacon Hill.”

While this appeared on the agenda as an application, Hacin requested the presentation for the proposal be considered an advisory review instead and said he would return to the commission in the near future with a formal, finalized application.

In another matter, the commission voted without prejudice to deny an application for 17 Louisburg Square to make extensive renovations at the front façade, including restoring the front windows to their original configuration and restoring the granite water table at the ground level to its original condition, among other proposed changes.

The homeowner had intended to change the building’s façade to match those of 11 and 13 Louisburg Square, respectively.

The three buildings were once identical in appearance, according to representatives for the homeowner, since in 1907, they were all joined together into one structure that then served as a convent. The buildings underwent another transformation in the early ‘90s when they were converted back into their original iteration as three single-family homes.

William Young, a project consultant, read a letter in support of the application from Patrick Ahearn, the contractor for the ‘90s renovation, stating the homeowner at that time, who was reportedly a speculative developer, had intended to restore the building’s façade to the 1907 conditions, but that plan eventually proved to be cost prohibitive, so he went with the present configuration instead.

Commissioner McNamara, who produced documents from the city’s archives to support her position, countered that regardless of the intent of the ‘90s renovation, the work completed was in compliance with the Certificate of Appropriateness the Architectural Commission issued in 1989, which the commission reaffirmed two years later.

Rather than replicating 11 and 13 Louisburg Square, Commissioner McNamara said the façade of 17 Louisburg Square should instead mirror that of 15 Louisburg Square.

And while the windows might not currently align because of grade changes, Commissioner McNamara said she is concerned the prosed work would disrupt the “overall rhythm” and “sense of harmony” between the four contiguous buildings between 11 and 17 Louisburg Square.

Commissioners also expressed concern that the proposed work could have a “patchwork effect” on 17 Louisburg Square.

Laura Cousineau, owner of Upstairs Downstairs at 69 Charles St., was back before the commission again with an application for proposed signage for her business.

The wood sign, which would be hung outside the store on existing hangers during business hours, she said, would comprise two elements – a traditional open sign and a second element emblazoned, “New and Old” and Art, Antiques & Home Décor.” The new sign would be crafted to match the store’s main sign and sit below it, she added.

The commission approved the application, with the provisos that the applicant submit shop drawings of the new sign to staff for approval, and that the size of proposed street numbers for the transom be reduced to match the height (approximately 7-8 inches) of other existing street numbers on Charles Street. Shop were also requested of the proposed street numbers for staff.

On an application for 123 Charles St. – the future home of the boutique cat-and-dog store, Paws on Charles – to install new store signage, as well as to replace plywood panels and restore the wooden storefront; to replace the transom window with clear, single-pane safety glass; and to paint the storefront and front doors, the commission approved the requested work as submitted, with the proviso that the front door be painted dark green in kind (instead of semi-gloss black, as was proposed).

The commission also approved as submitted an application for 23 Brimmer St. to replace the rear door and transom light at the rear of the fourth level, with provisos that the door-and-window configuration replicate the one to its north, and that shop drawings be submitted to staff for approval.

On an application to install HVAC equipment at the rear ell of 30 Hancock St., the commission voted to continue its determination and asked the applicant to return to them with a design that drastically reduces the visibility of the units from a public way.

Likewise, the commission voted to continue an application to replace several windows at 46 Beacon St. and asked the applicant to construct mockups showing the chapel-level storm windows, as well as the wood windows at the dining-room level.

           Additionally, the commission voted to continue its determination on an application for 39-41 Mount Vernon St. to add six new grates at the lower-level windows to match grates on other existing windows and requested that the applicant return with elevations of the Joy Street façade showing the grates, as well as alternatives.

The commission approved as submitted an applicant for 150 Mount Vernon St. to replace the two front doors, as well as to add a new mail-slot and new hinges, with the provisos that the new doors matches the existing ones as closely as possible as closely as possible (although they can swing in the opposite direction), and that the proposed mail-slot, street numbers, and other door hardware be centered, with shop drawings submitted to staff.

Similarly, the commission approved as submitted an application for 55 Pinckney St. to install a new door and new door hardware, with the provisos that a more traditional lockset, hardware, and street numbers, be used than was proposed, and that the new doorbell be recessed and covered with a brass plate.

On application to replace the head-house and roof-deck at 45 Mount Vernon St., the commission approved the proposed work, with the proviso that the roof-deck railing be pushed back enough that it’s not visible from a public way.

The commission also approved an application for 112 Pinckney St. to install HVAC equipment at the rear of the property, with the provisos that the unit be installed in a designated location that’s not visible from a public way and that a subcommittee be formed to review the matter further.

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