BBAC Appoves PNC Bank Façade, Capital Burger Signage

The design for the new flagship PNC Bank location on Boylston St. was approved by the Back Bay Architectural Commission (BBAC) on December 11, after being denied at the October meeting.

The site is located at 731 Boylston St. (formerly Pizzeria Uno), and a representative for PNC came before the Commission last Wednesday to present the new proposal. The original proposal included a white background on the facade with the PNC Bank logo on it, but the Commission said they would prefer a different look, but one that will still be loyal to the PNC brand.

“You gave us some great feedback on our proposal,” he said to the commission, which was to “elevate the design” to better fit within the Back Bay’s commercial district. The representative proposed to keep the existing center entry to the building as-is, but refinish the trim with a darker gray color. A blade sign was proposed for the righthand side of the building, while a sign on the facade was proposed on the left side, as well as another one on the side of the portico. The right hand side of the building will remain blank, and there was film proposed for the windows that includes the PNC symbol.

The new proposal includes the removal of the outdoor seating that was in the original proposal, but the applicant said he believes an accessible ramp will be needed for entry into the building, which requires a fence and handrail.

Commissioner John Christiansen said he would rather see a blade sign instead of signage on the building, but Commissioner Jerome CooperKing did not agree. Commissioner Sampson said that the blade sign should be eliminated, but signage should be placed over the door instead of off to the side.

The Commission wasn’t too fond of the proposed railing, as David Eisen said it “seems makeshift.” CooperKing said he would like to see a welded cast iron railing over one that was hollowed steel screwed together.

“To me, this is a significant location on Boylston St.,” Christiansen said. He stressed the importance of coming to an agreement on a “right” design for the location, and said that waiting another month for a different design might be beneficial.

“This has moved forward beautifully from last time,” said BBAC Chair Kathleen Connor.

The applicant said that they are waiting for their building permits from ISD and hope to start construction in early January.

“This is their second time here; we have to be sensitive to the building permit process,” said Commissioner Robert Weintraub. “We shouldn’t sacrifice the design because of that,” responded CooperKing.

The main points of contention for the Commission with this proposal were the blade sign and the sign on the side of the portico and the film on the windows.

Sue Prindle from the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay (NABB) said that the proposal “has come along greatly and is improving greatly,” however she believes the pickets on the ramp fence are too close together and “off-putting.” The applicant said that it is not like that much could be done about that, because they have to follow the accessibility guidelines for the fence.

The Commission eventually voted to approve this project with the provision that the film is eliminated from the right side, as well as the sign on the side of the portico. The Commission also said that the railing should be modified to be cast iron and painted black, and the copper patina from the upper elevation should be brought down to the facia. All final details will go to staff.

159 Newbury St.

At 159 Newbury St., the former Paparazzi space will be turned into The Capital Burger, a sister restaurant to the Capital Grille.

“Our intention is to go into this space and to very minimally repurpose that for Capital Burger,” said the representative for the project. The proposal is to replace the “Paparazzi” signs with ones that say “The Capital Burger” with no halo or backlighting for the signs. The letters will be the same size or smaller than the Paparazzi letters.

There are string lights on the property today, he said, and he proposed to replace them with LED string lights.

“String lights have been showing up unapproved,” said Commissioner Jerome CooperKing, but Commissioner Robert Weintraub said that they have been approved in the past, but on Boylston St.

However, “there’s something cheesy about the string lights,” said Commissioner Patti Quinn. Despite the fact that they do not meet the guidelines, Weintraub said “they would look nice with the sunken patio and how deep it is.”

Meg Mainzer-Cohen from the Back Bay Association said that she believes the lighting is a “terrific addition” to the property. “I’m very excited about this,” she said.

The representative said that the proposed lights are “not that bright,” as they are more of an amber color and are dimmable as well, which the Commission appreciated.

Additionally, a new menu board to replace the current one was proposed, as well as patio furniture that will be replaced in-kind to Paparazzis. The existing planter boxes are plastic, and many of them are cracked or falling apart, so aluminum ones were proposed that are powered coated in black and fastened to the railing.

The restaurant’s direct abutter said that while she really liked Paparazzi’s signage, calling it “not too big or too much,” she said that the Capital Burger signage “makes me want to run away.”

The Commission agreed that the lettering looked too large even though the letters were of similar size to Paparazzi’s, simply because there are more of them in “The Capital Burger.” Additionally, the rendering of the signage made the letters look bigger and brighter than they actually were, according to the person who created the materials for the presentation.

After further discussion, the Commission voted to approve the proposal as presented with the proviso that no precedent would be set for the string lights on the street and they would have to be removed seasonally, and the planter boxes must be mounted on the inside of the fence.

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