Under Review

Architectural Commission looks over latest plan for Charles Street Garage

After hearing feedback from the Beacon Hill Architectural Commission and the community, the redevelopment team for the Charles Street Garage has scaled back parking to one level from two while making other modifications to its project plan.

David Tabenken, an architect with the Boston architectural firm, Hacin + Associates, which is partnering with Boston developer, Related Beal, on the project, said during an Architectural Commission subcommittee held virtually on July 22 that the redeveloped garage at 144 Charles St. is now proposed to comprise a lobby on the east facade with an elevator to provide access to the upper floors, along with five retail spaces (one more than there are now) on the ground floor. The building’s top two stories would provide office space, he added, with two roofdecks above for the use of office tenants, while parking would be located on the second level.

Mechanical enclosures on the rooftop would be clad in standing-seam metal, replacing the existing faux brick materiel, to match the enclosures at the adjacent Whitney Hotel, said Tabenken, while on the west side, a wooden screen wall, which be slightly visible from Storrow Drive, would be installed at the request of Charles River Square residents due to the close proximity of their windows to the garage building.

While the covered passage at the garage would no longer be used as a parking exit, a new egress door would be created in its wall to provide access to a new transformer room being constructed in the building.

Additionally, the developer is proposing the installation of a “green screen” wire-mesh system to the west façade facing Annie Fields Garden to facilitate the growth of vines there.

Charles River Square resident Diane Coldren expressed concern that this structure would be “inappropriate” and “wouldn’t support those type of vines.”

Commissioner Martha McNamara, who served on the subcommittee alongside Commissioners Alice Richmond and Wen Wen, inquired about the treatments under the storefront on the original garage, which had a granite veneer applied to granite in the 1980s, as opposed to the two bays in the building’s addition, which have the original masonry.

David Hacin, founding principal and creative director of Hacin + Associates, who said they had gone to “great pains” to keep the rhythm of the storefronts consistent, proposed preserving the concrete and then removing the veneer from the granite, replacing it with “probably slaps of a polished concrete-like material that will be a little more durable but less like the granite.”

Hacin also agreed “conceptually” to Commissioner McNamara’s request to restore and reinstall a historic Boston Edison light fixture on the building.

The subcommittee and staff asked the redevelopment team for mockups for the treatments of the storefront; a concrete pad at the entrance to the covered passage; and the roof structures. They also asked that the redevelopment team consider not installing lighting on the facades of the stores, as well as modifying proposed contemporary signage at the entrance.

Meanwhile, the subcommittee made no determination on the Charles Street Garage application, and will instead defer the matter to the full commission, along with its recommmendations.

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