BBAC Approves Another Portion of Taj Hotel Project

The Back Bay Architectural Commission (BBAC) held their monthly hearing on October 9, where they discussed several projects regarding windows, doors, mechanical equipment, and light poles.

A large ongoing project in the Back Bay is the restoration of the Taj Hotel on the corner of Arlington and Newbury Streets. The BBAC previously approved relocation of the front entry and awnings for the building, but the applicants were back last Wednesday night with an application to reconstruct the existing kitchen on the 17th floor, reconfigure and replace the rooftop mechanical equipment and install mechanical screen, repair masonry, replace the roof, and replace the windows on the 18th floor and the penthouse.

Alfred Wojciechowski of CBT Architects explained that the team would like to do “selective repair work to bring the stone back to historic quality.” Additionally, he said that some of the upper windows are not historic in terms of pattern, so they would like to replace them with windows that have historic decorative patterns.

For the roof, Wojciechowski said that they are hoping to stick with the gray tone they have proposed. He was asked by the Commission if standing seam copper could be used, but Wojciechowski said that there is no copper on the building currently so he’d like to use the gray tone.

Right now, the roof of the hotel is “an aggregation of different mechanical equipment and duct work,” so they hope to streamline that and have it make more sense. “Our intention is to move the equipment to the alley side of the building,” he said. They will also be lowering the equipment and using screening along the edge to reduce visibility.

The BBAC voted to approve the proposal as presented.

At 285 Marlborough Street, the applicant proposed to convert a window on the rear elevation into a door and construct a balcony, replace lower level entry door, remove the window grates and redesign the patio, and at the roof level relocate the mechanical equipment, install a headhouse, deck, grill, and counter.

The owners were in attendance at the hearing, and said they are renovating the entire unit on the inside as well, so these facade changes would be the finishing touch to their project.

The applicant said that they would like to replace the existing rood deck, staying within the boundaries of the chimneys, construct a headhouse for access to the roof deck, and move the mechanical equipment to the back of the building. The roof deck will be sunken in, which will lower it twelve inches from its current location. The new roof deck will be six inches above the roof line.

The owners said they would like to construct a small balcony, but large enough to fit a table and chairs to sit out with a cup of coffee. This would require converting the existing window to a door for the balcony.

“We’ve approved balconies over bay windows,” said Commissioner Robert Weintraub, who seemed concerned with the balcony proposal.

BBAC Chair Kathleen Connor commended the applicant for his attention to the guidelines. “There’s a lot of care that’s gone into this and it shows,” she said. However, she did ask the applicant and the owners if they would be willing to do a Juliet balcony instead, as it it is shallower without too much projection.

“We want to open the door to get fresh air and a place to sit,” the owner said, adding that the proposed balcony would also cover the rear door below which would help with rain and snow.

“I think the roof deck is completely appropriate,” Weintraub said, but “I’m struggling with the balcony and changing the window to a door.”

Tom High of backbayhouses.org said that the rear facade of this building is original, and he doesn’t believe the balcony fits the Commission guidelines. “A balcony that will hold a table and chair is not an ornamental balcony,” he said, adding that a precedent will be set in the neighborhood if this is approved.

The Commission voted to approve the project with the exception of the modification of the window and the balcony. The roof deck, headhouse access, lower patio, and all other elements of the proposal were approved.

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