The redevelopment of the Beacon Hill Pub came one step closer to reality last week when the proposal’s latest iteration garnered a vote of non-opposition from the Beacon Hill Civic Association Zoning and Licensing Committee.
The applicant, Brookline-based City Realty d/b/a The Greatest Boston Bar Company, now intends to transform the four-story building at 147-149 Charles St. that is home to the longstanding neighborhood watering hole and six residential units into a street-level restaurant with a bar and nine residential units, along with a new three-story addition at the rear of the property.
In July of 2019, the applicant filed its initial application with the city’s Inspectional Services Department that besides proposing a new restaurant with a bar, included plans for 12 executive suites and four residential units, as well as for a fifth-story addition to the existing building.
ISD rejected this application the following month, however, so the proposal was revised to include a new restaurant and bar; eight executive suites; and four residential units. But after soliciting extensive feedback from the Civic Association, the applicant settled on the current iteration, which has entirely eliminated the executive-suites component from the project.
“We’re happy with the process so far,” said Josh Fetterman, director of real estate development for City Realty. “It’s been a long road with a lot of feedback, but we’re at a place we’re happy with, and that the neighbors seem to be happy with as well.”
Moreover, Fetterman added: “We’re really happy with how the community process unfolded and what we thought was filling a market gap, since at the beginning of the process, we learned that the neighborhood wanted to see more long-term residential units, which also helped inform us on the changes we made to massing.”
Unlike the Beacon Hill Pub, which currently has live music and closes at 2 a.m. while offering no food services, the new establishment will be a restaurant with no live music that closes at midnight. Babak Bina, a well-established neighborhood restaurateur who, with his sister, Azita Bina-Seibel, owns and operates the Bin 26 Enoteca at 26 Charles St., will be at the helm of the new fine-dining establishment.
“There aren’t very many developers that would have been so respectful of the community by working with neighbors and the Civic Association to bring a project that would transform the Beacon Hill Pub’s negative impact into a positive impact on the neighborhood,” Bina said.
Tom Clemens, co-chair of the Zoning and Licensing Committee, said, “The feeling was that the applicant made a lot of positive changes from the initial proposal…including submitting to regular leases of one-year with no short terms; increasing the housing stock on Beacon Hill; and upgrading what was there, which was in pretty difficult condition.”
The applicant was also diligent in reaching out to abutters, Clemens said, especially those who would be most impacted by the planned rear addition, which has also been significantly reduced in an effort to separate it from surrounding buildings.
“I think the increase in Floor Area was a big hurdle for the Civic Association,” Clemens said, “but with all the other benefits from the project and the lack of abutters’ objections, people were able to bring themselves to accept it.”
(The Civic Association board of directors ratified the Zoning and Licensing Committee’s majority vote of non-opposition to the application during its last monthly meeting, which took place virtually on Monday, Nov. 9.)
Yet despite the largely positive feedback that the applicant’s plan to redevelop the property has received from the neighborhood, Clemens said, “A lot of people will lament the passing of the Beacon Hill Pub.”
The “BHP” has long been a regular stop on bachelor party pub-crawls , Clemens said, and many people’s first memories of visiting the bar include having to cart the groom-to-be away at the end of a long night on the town.
“But it’s a very different place for neighbors who will be happy to exchange it for a nice restaurant,” Clemens added.
Judith Dowling, a Charles Street resident and direct abutter for the past 25 years, is among those who won’t lament the Beacon Hill Pub’s demise.
Under the previous management, the Beacon Hill Pub had became a late-night destination after other area bars had closed, was habitually overcapacity and often attracted a young and boisterous clientele, said Dowling, who added that patrons had thrown bricks through plate-glass windows of neighboring buildings on several occasions, including once hitting a street-level art gallery she previously owned and operated on Charles Street.
While Dowling said she understands objections to the application on the grounds that it would increase the building’s Floor Area beyond what is permitted per city zoning ordinances, she added, “In this case, the exemption is justified.”
Said Dowling: “We need more affordable apartments on Beacon Hill, and they’ve gone ahead and changed to that from executive suites…which would have created problems related to the transient element it would have attracted to the neighborhood.”
And ultimately, Dowling believes the entire neighborhood will benefit from this project.
“Having talked with the people involved, we really trust they will toe the line on everything they’ve said,” Dowling said. “And when it’s all done with the beautiful façade and historic restoration, I think a lot of people in the neighborhood will be very happy.”