BHAC Unanimously Approves Athenaeum’s Application for Exterior Changes

At its monthly public hearing held virtually on Thursday, April 21, the Beacon Hill Architectural Commission unanimously approved as submitted an application for myriad exterior changes proposed as part of the ongoing renovation and expansion of the Boston Athenaeum’s headquarters on Beacon Street.

In its application, the Athenaeum sought and received approvals to increase the glass at the entry doors to improve visibility and safety; to remove the side balustrade remnants; to replace the stone slabs at the entrance door; to relocate two existing trees and replace them with two mature hornbeam trees; to remove the existing bike racks and replace them with more simply designed bike-racks; to replace the existing vertical flagpoles with a “traditional drape of flags”; to replace the marquee and wayfinding; and to install “new exterior lighting of entry portico,” according to Ann Beha, project architect.

Lee Rosovsky, the Athenaeum’s Stanford Calderwood Director, said the group’s proposed renovation and expansion of its Beacon Street headquarters intends “to create a greater sense of Athenaeum as a more welcoming and a more open space,” as well as to help enliven the block of Beacon Street where it’s located.

Rev. Mariama White-Hammond, the city’s Chief of Environment, Energy, and Open Space, applauded the Athenaeum’s presentation and thanked them for paying particularly close attention to ADA accessibility, which, she said, has become a personal issue for her since she recently broke her ankle and has had to navigate the city’s streets and sidewalks in a wheelchair and on crutches while wearing a “boot” since then.

“I think the new door configuration will be safer for everyone,” said Rev. White-Hammond.

The motion to approve this application, made by newly named Commissioner Mark Kiefer, included a proviso that shop drawings showing “all details” of the proposed work must be submitted to staff (Nick Armata) before any work on the project commences.

Likewise, the commission also unanimously approved as submitted an application for 1 River Street Place to install one steel bollard, which would be painted black, to protect the existing masonry, as well as to install one new tree-pit fence.

The applicant, Jenny Attiyeh, who has lived on a first-floor unit there for the past decade, said the proposed bollard is a preventive measure that comes in response to the delivery trucks that frequently collide with her building while en route to Mount Vernon Square.

Attiyeh added that a sign that Armata and Patricia Tully, executive director of the Beacon Hill Civic Association, had posted outside her home to inform drivers that trucks aren’t allowed on the street had done nothing to remedy the problem to date.

Timothy Burke, the project architect, said to install the bollard, the curb stone there would need to be shortened by about 6 inches, and since this is city property, the applicant would need to get approval from the city’s Public Improvement Commission first.

Armata said the tree-pit fence proposed as part of the project would be the same design already approved by the Civic Association.

On an application to install new iron grills on four ground-level windows at 18 Revere St. for security purposes, the commission unanimously approved as submitted the proposed work; this came with proviso that only the grill closest to Revere Street be “flared” to accommodate an air-conditioner unit (the other three grills would be flush), and that shop drawing be submitted to staff before work commences, which would show the bolts for the grills affixed to the inside of the window wells, rather than to the wall.

In another matter, the commission unanimously voted to deny without prejudice an application to ratify a violation for the installation of an unapproved ButterflyMX video intercom system at 14-14A Beacon St.

Armata offered to work with this applicant to help find another intercom system, which would be appropriate for the district.

An application for a proposed new sign for Le svelte Spa at 103 Charles St. appeared on the hearing agenda, but ultimately wasn’t heard by the commission due to the applicant’s failure to appear.

In addition to Kiefer, new Commissioner Ed Fleck was also on hand for the hearing, alongside sitting Commissioners Annette Given and Wen Wen, as well as Commission Chair Arian Allen.

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