BHAC Wrestles with Fitting A 21st Century Design on Beacon Hill

By Beth Treffeisen

At the Beacon Hill Architectural Commission (BHAC) hearing this past Thursday, October 20, applicants for 45 Temple St. went in front of the Commission for an advisory review to transform two previously owned buildings by Suffolk University into residential units.

The proposed work included modifying the north, east and west facades, creating a passageway between Temple Street and Ridgeway Lane, and construct a rooftop addition to cover mechanical equipment with a roof deck.

This is the second advisory review; they first appeared before the Commission in July 2016.

According to the Boston Planning and Development Agency the institutional buildings will turn into 75 condos with 60 parking spaces. In order to allow this, there will be an additional 59 new windows that will be punched into the façade.

The existing Archer and Donahue buildings that make up the proposed project where both exempt from the BHAC review when they where constructed in the 1960’s, according to Lissa Schwab the preservation planner for BHAC. But since they’ve changed ownership they now have to go through the process.

At the previous meeting the feedback consisted of making the design have a more 21st century feel, while incorporating elements that can be found in the Beacon Hill neighborhood.

“We asked ourselves what is a 21st century building in Beacon Hill?” said Matt Duggan an architect from The Architectural Team, Inc.

He continued, in order to do that they needed to have a design that represents the neighborhood, activate the ground level of the building, and use materials found in the neighborhood and use them in a 21st century way.

“It’s all very two-dimensional and this building is three dimensional,” said Commissioner Taylor during their feedback.

Commissioner Paul Donnelly had problems with the transition between the design elements from the Archer building how it transitions into the Donahue building.

“I’m having difficulty with the bridge and the dimensional scale of the building,” said Commissioner Donnelly.

Commissioner Taylor also brought up the large scale of the two buildings.

“The problem with the Donahue building is that it is such a huge mass,” said Commissioner Taylor. “It needs to be broken down.”

He said the design has tried to do that vertically but perhaps they could also bring that in horizontally.

“Unfortunately, it is 60’s architecture that some would say should be blown up and doesn’t belong in Beacon Hill,” said Commissioner P.T. Vineburgh. “You want to create that connection between the two buildings that make it in a way that it is a restoration.”

Concerns from the public included possibly breaking up the façade even more, to make it appear like three separate buildings instead of one mass.

Other concerns about added shawdows with the additional height, due to concealing the mechanical equipment were brought up by residents.

For Janet Maloof an abutter of the proposed building, she had concerns over the additional windows that could be placed in a way that allows people to be able to see into her daughter’s bedroom.

She also spoke of concerns over the new use of a roadway that would allow cars to enter into an underground parking lot.

“You turned a pedestrian street into a heavily trafficked street,” said Maloof. “Nobody is going to pay $40 million for a condo and expect to walk. I bought my home because it is a pedestrian street.”

In other matters, there was an issue over the 77 Pinckney Street applicant who proposed to remove a paneled wood garage door, that was suffering severe damage caused by rats, and install a metal garage door with a dark green finish to replace it.

Residents voiced concerns over setting a precedent of allowing metal garage doors, and the commission agreed to allow for a continuous application, where the owner can explore other options, such as having a metal garage door with a wooden façade, and to return for approval at a later date.

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