Cobblestone Convenience Proprietor Clashes With BHAC

After failing to reach what she deemed to be an amicable solution over a signage violation with the Beacon Hill Architectural Commission, the proprietor of a neighborhood convenience store expressed her frustration with the ruling during the commission’s Oct. 7 hearing at City Hall.

“The signage cost me $2,000, and I’m not going to spend any more money,” said Kristie Aussubel, owner of Cobblestone Convenience at 24 Joy St., as well as the owner and a real estate broker with Presidential Properties, which is located directly across the street from the store at 17 Myrtle St. “If you ask me to take it down, nothing is going to go back up, and it’s going to be an eyesore.”

Cobblestone Convenience (formerly Primo’s Convenience Store) at 24 Joy St. as seen from Myrtle Street then.
Cobblestone Convenience (formerly Primo’s Convenience Store) at 24 Joy St. as seen from Myrtle Street now.

Aussubel said she took ownership of the former Primo’s Convenience Store in July of 2018 and believed she had adhered to all city and neighborhood guidelines and restrictions until she was recently cited for the signage violation. 

“It’s been like this for well over a year…and it replicates exactly what was there for at least three decades,” she said regarding the four large removable banner stickers emblazoned with the Cobblestone Convenience logo and a white, opaque film below to obscure the store’s interior from the street – three facing Myrtle Street and one fronting Joy Street –  as well as a smaller sign on the front door adorned with the logo and business hours.

The signage was never approved by the commission, however, according to Miguel Rosales, its chair, and it was deemed inappropriate and excessive for the location. 

The commission voted unanimously to approve the existing signage on the front door and the adjacent window facing Myrtle Street but ordered that the film on the other three windows with the store logo be partially removed, leaving less signage in compliance with historic guidelines.

There was also a question about the non-historic green color used for the store exterior, which will be investigated further by Rosales.

In another matter, the commission approved by a vote of 3-1 an application to install a new in-fill roll-up door at 28 Pinckney St. rather than swinging doors.  (There was a concern expressed about continue to approve roll-up doors in the neighborhood, which potentially detract from the historic integrity of the buildings, according to some on the commission.)

“The net effect of the swinging doors dictates what happens inside the garage because you can only fit one car inside instead of two,” said Attorney Sander A. Rikleen in explaining the perceived hardship.

The commission originally approved this application in 2015, but that decision was allowed to lapse. When the application was resurrected earlier this year, it wasn’t approved after coming before the commission several times – a matter that Rikleen said was in litigation during last week’s hearing.

An application to install a new wooden blade sign, measuring approximately 30-by-30 inches, on the front façade of Ore Jewelry at 88 Charles St. was unanimously approved, with a proviso that it must consist of carved lettering for the store’s name, instead of gold foil lettering as was proposed so as to better relate to other similar signs along the street.

As for a violation for 86 Chestnut St. regarding the removal of a rear garden door and the installation of a front light, door handle and fire-alarm bell without BHAC approval, the commission voted to ratify the application, with provisos that the height of the bell be consistent with similar apparatus in the neighborhood (approximately 3 feet), and that the replacement door be painted black. The door handle and lantern will also be removed and replaced with more appropriate fixtures compatible with the district.

The commission unanimously approved an application to install an asphalt berm at the rear wall of the carriage barn at 28 Pinckney St. (Although the commission typically prefers granite berms, Historic New England has an easement on the building, and they prefer the use of asphalt, Rosales said.)

Also, the commission unanimously approved as submitted an application to repaint wood windows, trim and bays in kind on all facades of 9 Willow St., with the proviso that BHAC staff have final approval of the new paint color, which will be discussed on site after samples are prepared.  A preference was expressed for a darker tone than the existentingt one to minimize the visual impact of the tall multi-story building.

Another application for 150 Mt. Vernon St. to replace an existing electronic lock-and-key set and door knocker, as well an existing mail slot and door numbers, met with unanimous approval, with provisos that the color and placement of the hardware be in line with that of neighbors, and that the new mail slot be made of unlacquered brass for visual consistency.

The commission voted unanimously to continue its ruling on an application to replace all the windows – both historic and replacement – on the north, west and south facades of 92 Pinckney St. and requested that the applicant return with “shop drawings” of all proposed replacement windows.

Likewise, the commission voted unanimously to continue its decision on an application for 151-153 Charles St. to replace a wooden picket fence-gate visible from Charles Street with a “metal diamond plate,” again asking the applicant to return with drawings to scale and without the use of metal diamond plate, which is atypical on Beacon Hill.

The commission voted unanimously to deny without prejudice an application to install a custom security grill on the lower-level window on the front façade of a home at 75 Hancock St, as well as another application for 33 Bowdoin St. for windows on the front façade to change their existing shade from white to black. Both proposals would have detracted from the historic integrity of the buildings, Rosales said.

Moreover, the commission unanimously approved as submitted applications to replace five wooden six-over-six windows at rear facades of 71 Beacon St. with the proviso that the new five six-over-six windows be true divided-light windows and not simulated as proposed; and for 10 Walnut St. to replace 14 double-hung, six-over-six wooden windows and install a horn, fire strobe and sprinkler connection.

Proviso for the latter application mandate that the height of the new fire-alarm elements must be consistent with those of neighbors, and that they be located lower, in the same plane and in a discrete location, Rosales said.

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