BBAC Approves Removal of Magnolia Tree on Comm Ave

The Back Bay Architectural Commission voted to approve the removal of a Magnolia tree and re-landscape the area at 393 Commonwealth Ave., at a hearing on Wednesday, May 9.

The Dexter House Condo Association has tried for several years to save the diseased Magnolia tree, but due to the lack of light, the conditions have deteriorated the tree, so the condo association have decided to let it go.

The Association will replace the tree with a Royal White Eastern Redbud, which they hope will thrive in this environment.

The Magnolia was examined by a tree expert that found a severe canker on the main stem, which is more than one third of the diameter. The recommendation was that the tree be replaced based on the size and condition of the tree.

Landscaping work includes removing the tree, and the front fence with planters. It will be repacked by boxwoods in the two front corners with the replacement tree in the center.

“The owners in our building consider our courtyard an extension of our homes and take pride in its care and upkeep,” wrote Kenneth Hamberg, president and treasurer of Dexter House Condo Association to BBAC. “We have had wine and cheese parties, pizza parties, bridal shower and one owner held an elegant dinner party there. It is so well used that in our plans for the area, we have increased the amount of seating.”

Boiler Vent Problems

Despite some concern over the closeness of the intake and exhaust vents of a new boiler at 7 Marlborough St., the BBAC approved the boiler vent at the basement level.

The owners initially looked into placing the vent through the back chimney of the row house, but learned it was too far away to meet code. They then looked to the front chimney, but found that the flues were in use or blocked. In order to open it, they would have to get permission from a different unit that has access to the front chimney.

In a last-ditch effort, the owner looked to the back of the building for a solution.

“You can barely see it, it’s all in the shadow,” the owner said.

The location sits above the owners back window into the alleyway on the first level with two vents in close proximity, worrying one commissioner.

“If this was my alley and it was exhausting carbon monoxide, I wouldn’t want this here,” said Commissioner Robert Weintraub.

But the owner insisted that the inspector came and ok’d the project as is.

The vents were approved as long as it can be reversible.

AC unit upgrades gone awry

At the rear of 321 Commonwealth Ave., owners in the basement level asked for replacement of deteriorated one-over-one windows in-kind, installation of a wood bracket, copper-roofed portico at existing entry door and a new heat pump and lattice enclosure to the right side of the entry door.

The proposal asked to put the AC unit one foot off the ground in the public alleyway to make it easier to maintain during the winter months.

“It just seems funny,” said Commissioner John Christiansen. “It looks like its sticking off the side of the building. It should be on the ground.”

Other Commissioners agreed, saying it should sit on a platform closer to the ground to fit with other units down the alleyway.

In addition, the Commissioners did not like the light fixture proposed to light the rear entrance door.

“It’s a pretty ugly light fixture,” said Christiansen. The Commissioners asked that the owners have two lanterns on either side of the door and to send details to staff.

The staff approved the proposal with provisions that they move the AC unit to the ground.

A fortress gets taken down

At 17 Gloucester St. a new deck at the upper flat roof area was denied after the BBAC determined that it would be visible from multiple public ways including Commonwealth Avenue Mall.

The application asked for a flat, glass-roof access hatch, relocation of air-conditioning units, replacement of railings on upper roof deck and construction of a new roof deck on a lower portion of the Mansard roof.

“The upper deck seems to have a bit of a problem,” said Commissioner Patti Quinn. “It doesn’t look so romantic – it looks like a fortress or something.”

The BBAC approved the overall project with the exception that the upper-deck be deleted and cleaned up.

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