SELDC Approves Signs, Doors and Fences Throughout the District

Doors, fences, and signs were common docket items at the South End Landmark District Commission (SELDC) hearing on April 2. At 194-200 Shawmut Ave., Attorney David Gottleib and the architect for the project presented a proposal to install fencing and a dumpster enclosure on the property. He said that applicants thought they were going through the building process correctly, but the fence had actually already been installed prior to this hearing.

The architect for the project said that the new painted steel fencing had gone through a Boston Planning and Development Agency design review process and was built without a building permit, as they thought they could just build it without having to come to the SELDC prior to building. He called this fence “a big improvement” over the chain-link fence that was there before. He also proposed a wood privacy fence for all four sides of the dumpster painted to match the light color of the guard building that is adjacent to the dumpster. The fence will have gates that swing out for pickup access. 

“There would have been a lot of things different about the fence [if the correct process was followed],” Commissioner John Amodeo said. “Almost everything about the fence is wrong. We don’t approve of the process that has occurred.” He said that the Inspectional Services Department would have told them that they needed to come to the SELDC before granting them a building permit.

“We’re going to let this slide,” Amodeo said, adding that though the commission cannot regulate paint on wood, they recommend painting the privacy fence a darker color as opposed to the proposed lighter color.

The Commission approved the application as submitted with the provisos that the dumpster fence be a darker color, and that the applicant must come back before the Commission with any other changes, including a landscape plan.

At 565 Columbus Ave., applicant Lauren Dickerman proposed to replace the existing awnings and signage to reflect her business, Harvard Square Eye Care. Dickerman said her signs would be the same size as the current awnings and sign. The design is a simple black background with white lettering, and a graphic of a pair of glasses.

“I would rather not see the glasses on the side awning; it looks a little busy,” said Commissioner John Freeman. He also expressed concern that all awnings in the South End will eventually have signage on them if they keep getting approved. Commissioner Catherine Hunt said she thinks the larger glasses graphic is “busy” on the sign.

After some further discussion, the Commission voted to approve the application as presented with the proviso that the graphics on the side panels of the awning are deleted.

At 534-536 Columbus Avenue, the applicant presented a proposal to replace a front door and a commercial door that were damaged in a fire last December, as well as restore two metal bays. He said they are looking to replace the entry door to the residential part of the building exactly as it was before. They would also like to replace the French doors to the salon in the building, but they would like to replace it with a door that is two-thirds glass and one-third panels. The repairs to the bays would be done with details matching what was there previously. There would be no decorative glass, he said. The Commission voted to approve the application as submitted.

At 571 Tremont St., architect Matthew Arnold presented a proposal for the restaurant space to re-open what used to be an operable opening on Union Park. He said they would like to “open that back up to bring some more light into the interior of the establishment.”

He offered the Commission two options for consideration. The clients’ preferred one, he said, is to have swing-in operable windows that would open to the inside of the building and match the windows on the Tremont Street side. The other option just has an operable transom at the top of the window.

“I would lean towards non-operable,” Amodeo said. The Commission discussed the pros and cons of each, and ultimately approved the operable transom proposal and a modified version of the operable window proposal. They said the would like to see different proportions of the panel and the base of the window so it fits in better with the district. The applicant can now choose which option would work best for the space.

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