An advisory session took place this past Thursday, October 13 at the Back Bay Architectural Commission meeting to hear the most recent date proposal for 45-53 Hereford Street that is presently an empty lot used for parking.
The proposed work includes constructing a three-story addition, widening of existing bay windows, landscaping, adding fenestration and dormers and installing mechanical equipment on the roof.
The proposal outlined a new structure to be built behind the row houses that will connect to the back of 53 Hereford Street. The new space and row house apartment will be converted to retail space that lines Newbury Street. The remaining three row houses that run down Hereford Street will remain residential.
“It ran into a bunch of road blocks in terms of abutters, concerns and design and all sorts of things,” said Guy Grassi the chief architect of the project, who recently stepped in to push forward the project by the Glynn family, the owners of the properties.
The first design was made from various feedbacks that the Glynn family received from the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay and the nearby abutters.
“We’ve come up with a hybrid design that tries to solve a bunch of things,” said Grassi pointing out the number of concerns he has received about the design. “We’re stuck right between rocks in the right places here. I don’t know if we will be able to solve all the things for all the people here.”
A few of the commissioners suggest that the retail part of the building be pushed forward, right up onto Newbury Street, instead of having it pushed back five feet and have the passageway moved down to a lower level.
“I’m representing the neighborhood,” and Commissioner Jerome CooperKing. “And I think that’s a dead zone because of all the air, it just stares. It doesn’t work. I think you should bring the storefront right to the curb.”
Commissioner Kathleen Connor the chair agreed, saying that it being retail that from a business standpoint you engage people eye-to-eye on the street level. “That’s what brings people in.”
Commissioner Robert Weintraub thought otherwise, “I disagree with you guys. I think this is a brilliant design. There is precedent all over the street for it.”
Susan Prindle, who was representing the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay, said their major concerns where about the mass and height, especially in the rear area and yard.
Meg-Mainzer-Cohen the president of the Back Bay Association said she couldn’t make a full comment because they haven’t had the chance to see the plans before the meeting, but she did see some improvements that she wanted to point out.
“One is by having the entrance here (on Newbury St.), it is going to animate this space on Newbury Street and make it a more lively space,” said Mainzer-Cohen.
But she said, the rear building as proposed juts out a little too far and blocks the historic rears of the residential row houses.
“I would like to see this developed more and see a drawing with dimensions on them but I think this is a good start in the right direction,” said Mainzer-Cohen.
Sam Perry, the owner of the adjacent building on 325 Newbury Street that holds the Sonsie Restaurant pointed out that this street is the end of the residential buildings and the start of what was referred to as the stable district.
The surrounding buildings he pointed out are all signature buildings, and “the rut of the cattle” is 45-53 Hereford Street.
Perry said, “I think there’s a real opportunity here to do a signature building that satisfies a lot of concerns that have been raised.”