BBAC Approves Project at 222 Commonwealth Ave; Weighs In on 7 Newbury St

The Back Bay Architectural Commission (BBAC) met virtually on June 8, where it approved a project at 222 Commonwealth Ave., and heard an advisory review for a new storefront at 7 Newbury St.

222 Commonwealth Ave.

Kyle Coughlin of Grassi Design Group proposed a new application for a previously approved project at 222 Commonwealth Ave, to replace the existing landscaping and fencing in the front and the rear, as well as construct a basement level addition, restore the existing facades, replace the windows, and build a penthouse addition with a deck. Joe Cornish, Director of Design Review for the Boston Landmarks Commission, said that this project had originally been approved in January of last year, but BBAC approvals only last for one year if work is not started, so it needed to come back for an approval again before the proponents can begin work. No changes have been made since the last time the project was approved. Coughlin said that the existing fire escapes and masonry will be restored, and the proposed roof addition is “not visible from a public way in the front and the rear.” He said that all windows and doors will fit within existing masonry openings, so no new ones will be created. He spoke about a proviso that was placed on the previous approval, which was to “push back the wall of that penthouse addition at the rear to align with the chimney, which we’ve done here,” he said. This also created the option to push four heat pumps back from the edge of the roof, which has been done as well. The rear balconies that were originally proposed have since been removed since they were not approved last time, and all masonry in the rear will also be restored. Laurie Thomas from the Garden Club of the Back Bay had some comments about the proposed trees and the planter in the back. She referenced the proposed magnolia tree in the rear, saying that she is “not sure magnolias are the best choice for a small planter like that. We usually specify 3.5 to 4.5 inch trees. That looks like a small planter for any tree.” She suggested a Kwanzan Cherry tree “that might do better in that situation,” and also suggested that the planter be made wider. “In the front you have a dogwood,” she said, which, again, “should be a 3.5 to 4.5 inch caliper,” she said. “I would suggest that you try a Rutgers dogwood,” as it is hearty and differs from other types of dogwoods in the neighborhood, which will reduce the chance of eradication from disease. The Commission approved this proposal with the proviso that the applicant continue working with the Garden Club “to confirm and review the trees” as well as the other plantings in both the front and the rear.

Advisory Review: 7 Newbury St.

This was the second advisory review for the proposed project at 7 Newbury St., which is to install a two-story addition to the existing storefront, and in the rear, construct an addition for an elevator. It also includes the renovation of the existing roof for an egress, terrace, and HAVAC equipment, as well as infill windows with black architectural panels. The tenant moving in is Long’s Jewelers, along with Patek Philippe, a luxury watch retailer. Architect David Silverman said that “since we were here last time, there’s work that we want to show you in the rear of the building in addition to a revised facade design.” There is an existing cast stone frame that the new facade will be inserted into, Silverman said, adding that Long’s will occupy all three stories, and Patek Philippe will also be located on the first floor. He spoke about the roof and how the team is trying to “organize” the deck area and rearrange the HVAC equipment. Between the fire escape and the proposed terrace, the railing will be pulled back so it aligns with the bulkhead. He also said that he doesn’t believe the top of the elevator would be visible from a public way, “but we need to do a bit more work on that.” For security purposes, the proponents want to infill the rear windows “with some kind of security pane,” Silverman said, but still have them look like windows. On the front facade, the proposal includes a black stainless steel frame with horizontal sign bands and “a couple of different marbles,” he said, as well as a “decorative metal screen” that does not move. There is also a Long’s flag proposed, which a Commissioner asked about the approvability of. Joe Cornish, Director of Design Review for the Boston Landmarks Commission, said that flags are usually only allowed when one tenant or retailer takes up the entire building. “I don’t think that’s the case here,” he said. Sue Prindle of the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay (NABB) said she is “really pleased to hear” that the rear windows on the ground floor “will be changed to something more appropriate.” She also said she hopes to see the elevator override be reduced as much as possible. For the front, “our opinion is that the bay should be back a little but to conform to the zoning and also so that it doesn’t entrap so much from the frame around it,” she said. Tom High from backbayhouses.org said that he believes the visibility of the “original frame” is “important.” The team said they “truly appreciate the comments” from the Commission and will take them into consideration when they go back to their plans and make adjustments. No vote was taken on this proposal as it was an advisory review—a chance for the Commission and the public to make suggestions to improve the proposal before it comes for an official vote.

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