Neighbors Hear Plans to Convert Comm Ave Building into Private Club

By Dan Murphy

Haddon Hall at 29 Commonwealth Ave.

An overflow crowd of neighbors turned out for an on-site meeting at 29 Commonwealth Ave. on Thursday, Aug. 17, to discuss the current owners’ plans to transfer the 11-story building from office use into a private club.

Sandy Edgerley and her husband Paul intend to covert Haddon Hall into a club with a membership of 800. The proposed closing time would be 1:30 a.m., although the establishment would likely shut down at 11 p.m., said Mike Ross, the applicant’s attorney.

Architect Guy Grassi said the fifth floor is proposed as a “game room” while the sixth floor would be home to a fitness center and guest rooms would be located on the seventh through 10th floors. On the 11th floor, the ends of the building would be “pulled in” to create a larger outdoor patio area with seating for between 25 and 30, Grassi said.

Sandy Edgerley said the proposed use of the top floor complies with Back Bay sound ordinances, and that contrary to recent reports, no live music would be performed there.

She said this proposed change in use also wasn’t an unusual concept for the Back Bay, noting that 10 private clubs were located within .8 mile of the site, and that the license for a private club can’t be changed per state law.

Sandy Edgerley said the proposed change in use would result in a loss of six, metered parking spaces on Berkeley Street, which would be converted to valet spaces and also used for deliveries.

When some in attendance balked at the applicant’s traffic projections that suggested the proposed change in use would result in a reduction of 150 vehicle trips each day from the current total of 424, Ross said the development team would undertake another traffic study after Labor Day.

This pledge did little to alleviate the concerns of Vicki Smith, chair of the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay (NABB) board of directors, however.

Smith said neighbors are particularly concerned about the potential traffic impact, adding that even if the applicant’s study is accurate, it still discounts the likelihood that most visitors to the building currently travel there on foot.

“The building has a consistent, pedestrian flow…and abutters would probably say it has minimal traffic impact,” she said.

Besides the fact that the intersection of Beacon and Berkeley streets is “already a major crash site,” Smith also predicts a restaurant or bar with a 350-person capacity as currently proposed could potentially back Beacon Street up completely between the hours of 4 and 8 p.m.

The applicant is scheduled to meet with NABB’s Licensing and Building Use Committee on Sept. 19.

“First and foremost, the neighborhood is fortunate to have Mrs. Edgerley as the owner of the building,” Beacon Street resident Steve Young said. “It could’ve been a domestic or international group instead, with no interest but the bottom line.”

Young noted the applicant’s original plans to convert the building into residential use was deemed not feasible due to parking limitations.

“The proper use of the property is residential, which is why it’s zoned that way,” Young said. “I’m sure that neighborhood residents and NABB would work with the owner to figure out how to repurpose the building for residential use with minimal or no parking.”

Young added, “The building can be a beacon for the future of residential building and living in Downtown Boston without parking.”

Meanwhile, Sandy Edgerley described meeting with neighbors last week as “very productive.”

“I felt that it was an honest discussion that produced some great ideas on what we can do to mitigate concerns, and I am energized by our neighbors response and look forward to sharing more detailed plans soon,” she wrote in an e-mail. “I hope many of them consider joining as members when we open.”

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