BHAC Approves Application for Transformed Charles Street Garage

The Beacon Hill Architectural Commission approved an application for the proposed transformation of the Charles Street Garage during its Aug. 19 monthly hearing, which took place virtually.

Developer, Related Beal, is partnering with the architectural firm, Hacin + Associates, on the project that  would convert the top two floors of the building at 144 Charles St. into office space accessible via a new lobby at the street level. New roofdeck amenities would be also created for the use of office tenants only. Parking would be limited to the second floor, while at the ground level, a new storefront would be added, bringing the number of retail opportunities to five.

David Tabenken, an architect with Hacin + Associates, said the proposed project has been modified based on feedback the development team received at a July 23 BHAC subcommittee meeting, with “key takeaways” including replacing existing granite veneer at all storefronts on the Charles Street façade; providing broom-finished concrete at the passageway; restoring the historic Boston Edison lamp at the passage on the north facade; maintaining the existing sconces at Savenor’s Market on the north facade; maintaining the existing gooseneck lighting above Savenor’s; and removing the green-screen system on the west façade to allow for natural ivy growth, among other suggested changes to their original plan.

As opposed to in the earlier proposal, only a few windows on the east façade of the building that have broken seals would be replaced, said Tabenken, while lighting on end of the garage would be removed at the subcommittee’s request.

Blade signs for the retail spaces would measure 2-by-2 feet, said Tabenken., but their shapes could be unique to each individual storefront.

On the West façade, the fake-brick material on the headhouse would be replaced with standing-seam metal, he added.

           Tabenken said he would also look into accommodating Charles River Square resident Diane Coldren’s request that the chicken-wire be maintained in the windows overlooking Annie Fields Garden.

Likewise, Commissioner Martha McNamara, who served on the subcommittee alongside Commissioners Alice Richmond and Wen Wen, encouraged Tabenken to preserve the “industrial aesthetic” of the building that was built around 1919 or 1920 and originally served as an automobile showroom before the garage was added and later, retail on the ground floor.

Reiterating earlier suggestions from the subcommittee, Commissioner McNamara requested that the concrete at the passageway match the material at the vehicular entrance as closely as possible, except for having brick on both sides to “define the pedestrian area.”

Commissioner McNamara also requested that a cast-iron sprinkling system be preserved, since like the Boston Edison lamp, “it’s a piece of the industrial history of the building.”

Commissioner Richmond commended Related Beal for taking the subcommittee’s feedback to heart and said she was “impressed with their successful effort to accommodate a lot of people with a lot of different expectations.”

The commission unanimously approved the application, with the proviso that the applicant submit their restoration plan for the project to staff.

In another matter, the commission approved an application for 62-66 Charles St. to install temporary and removable “window-cling” signage based on images from Robert McCloskey’s children’s book “Make Way for Ducklings” that would wrap around three sides of the building, including River Street.

The applicant, Bill Beckeman, who recently purchased the building is now seeking to fill a vacant retail space formerly occupied by Peet’s Coffee, said he has already secured the rights from the counsel for McCloskey’s estate to produce the proposed signage for a “small fee.”

Beckeman also said he hopes the signage would only be in place for a short while until he is able to find a suitable tenant.

The commission unanimously approved the application as submitted, with the proviso that the applicant return to request an extension in six months if he hasn’t filled the vacant retail space by that time.

In another matter, the commission approved an application for Tremont Street adjacent to the Granary Burying Ground to install a new cell phone antenna on an existing pole, with the proviso that an alternate pole used in the city’s other historic districts is chosen instead; that it be painted black; and that the final design be remanded to staff.

In another matter, an applicant at 45 Mount Vernon St. returned to the commission  and received unanimous approval to build a roofdeck set back 1 foot from what was originally proposed; this modified roofdeck plan was previously recommended by the commission at its June 21 hearing.

The commission voted to continue an application for 6 Otis Place to remove and reset the existing upper deck and fourth-floor front deck in-kind, and to refurbish the iron rail in the process, while making no revisions to the existing footprint or configuration of the deck.

At their fifth appearance before the commission on the application, The Vilna Shul at 18 Phillips St. received approved to remove three existing exterior building mounted lights at the east alleyway and replacement them with new LED lighting mounted to the building and low to the ground, with provisos that two of the additional proposed LED lights be removed, and that added light fixtures be remanded to staff.

Speaking on behalf of The Vilna Shul, Lynne Spencer said the modified design wasn’t their original design but instead “one that came about as a result of a rigorous compromise process” with abutters who had been adversely impacted by three lighting fixtures mounted to the wall about 10 feet off the ground in the east alleyway.

The commission also approved an application for 2 Phillips St., Apt. 1, to replace one of the existing wood aluminum clad double-hung basement windows with a wood aluminum-clad casement window  of the same overall size for egress at the garden level, with the provisos that the replacement window frames be made of wood; that the casement be crafted to resemble a double-hung window; that the sides of the window openings be filled in; that the replacement window be one-over-one; and that drawing be remanded to staff.

Likewise, the commission approved as presented an application for 42 Irving St., to as part of an ongoing renovation, install  a new wood door at the basement level, and to replace the existing roof in asphalt shingles in kind, while slate would be used on the existing dormer. The motion passed unanimously, with a “friendly amendment” from Councilor McNamara that door hardware cutsheets or descriptions of them be remanded to staff, and that the door be made of wood and painted black.

On an application for 107-109 Chestnut St. to install five chimney pots to replace broken and cracked pots on the chimney base, the commission unanimously approved it,  with provisos that the two west chimney pots be replace in kind; that the metal flue in the center be replaced  in kind; that the two east chimney pots be replaced in kind; and that the missing one be crafted to match the ones on the eastern side.

The applicant said the replacement pots come in terra cotta, but she would find out if they could be made in gray to match the Spanish-revival-style building and report back to staff with the amswer.

The commission also approved as submitted an application for 150 Mount Vernon St. to move the mail slot from the smaller door to the larger door at that location to mirror the previous condition next door at 148 Mount Vernon St., before the original door was replaced with a stock one there several years ago. At the request of the commission, the applicant also provided photographic evidence showing the previous configuration of the door hardware at 148 Mount Vernon St.

The commission’s majority approval for this application came with a “friendly amendment” from Councilor McNamara that the applicant revise the old drawing to show the position of the mail slot, as well as of the door knocker, and submit it to staff.

The commission unanimously passed an application for 68 Chestnut St. to replace two garden-level casement windows, with provisos that the window on the left when facing the building be restored, and that the on the right side be replaced as presented.

Additionally, the commission unanimously approved an application for 87 Pinckney St. to install a wrought-iron handrail that would be painted black on one side of the stairs.

The commission also unanimously approved an application for PJ Trains, a new personal fitness studio located at 112 Revere St., to install a blade sign outside the building’s common lobby at 124 Charles St., with provisos that the sign be made of wood; and that it be installed using a wrought-iron bracket drilled into the mortar, as opposed to into the brick,

Staff member, Nick Armata, also said he would check with planners at City Hall to determine whether the sign is in violation of city guidelines limiting blade signage on buildings in the historic district, and if that proves to be the case, he would work with the applicant to resolve the matter.

Both a scheduled application for proposed store signage for Cobblestones – a new quick-service restaurant in the former Café Bella Vita space at 30 Charles St.- and a scheduled application for new store signage for J. Grady Home, a full-service interior design firm and studio at 133 Charles St., appeared on the agenda, but ultimately weren’t heard by the commission, because in both instances, the applicants didn’t appear at their allotted times.

An application for 39-41 Mt. Vernon St. to add six security gates to the  lower-level windows to match the  existing windows with security gates was also removed from the agenda by the applicant.

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