BVHDC Discusses Signage; Revisions to Guidelines

The Bay Village Historic District Commission (BVHDC) discussed a signage proposal for Charles St. Dental, to be located at 121 Charles St. South at its June 14 hearing. The Commission also discussed the status of updating its regulatory standards. 121 CHARLES ST. SOUTH At 121 Charles St. South, Charles Street Dental is looking to install a wall sign above the windows, as well as a blade sign to the left of that.

Contractor Ricky Zeng said that the wall sign will be an aluminum bar with silver PVC lettering. The sign will not have any lighting, and the proposed blade sign is a black square sign with white PVC lettering. “They’ll be installed into mortar joints,” said Joe Cornish, Director of Design Review for the Boston Landmarks Commission. “When they need to be removed, they won’t damage the face of the brick.” The Commissioners asked for a refresher of Bay Village signage guidelines, which Cornish provided. He said that all signs in the Bay Village historic district are “subject to the Boston Sign Code, no illuminated or backlit signs are allowed, no floodlighting,” and signs must “compliment the architectural character of the building and neighborhood.” Additionally, billboards are prohibited from the district. There was some discussion about the font of the signs as well as concerns from Commissioners that the two did not relate well to each other. Zeng said that the font is the same for the two signs. “I think that the silver big sign is really handsome,” said Commissioner Kathleen McDermott, adding that she appreciates the smaller size for the “St.” on the wall sign. “The blade sign kind of seems like it’s from a different place,” she said, and “doesn’t seem to connect visually to the sign that’s over the windows.” Commissioner Tom Hotaling agreed with her. “They’re kind of fighting each other a bit,” he said. Commissioner Ruth Knopf agreed that the wall sign is “very attractive,” but the blade sign does not seem to fit with the theme. Daniel Kim from the applicant team thanked the Commission for their input, adding that “we did think about it, and the way we approached it is that the silver letter sign above the windows had the benefit of having the brick wall as the contrast.” He said that a difference between the two signs is that “Street” is spelled out on the blade sign, but abbreviated to “St.” on the wall sign, so he said this could be contributing to the Commissioners noticing that they look like different fonts. McDermott wondered if there might be other options the applicant can explore when it comes to the blade sign to make it better relate to the wall sign. “That’s very consistent with the questions that we asked ourselves,” Kim said. He said that the team walked up and down Newbury and Boylston Streets to see how other businesses used signage. He said for certain places, such as Shake Shack, “the blade sign and letter signs above the windows are rarely matched with each other.” He said that the background required for the blade sign provides sort of a “limitation” that the wall sign does not face, as it can use the brick building as a background. Commissioner Anne Kilguss suggested abbreviating “Street” to “St.” on the blade sign as well. ‘I think you’ve done a lovely job by and large,” she said. The Commissioners agreed that they would like to see other options for the blade sign that did not change the color or size of the proposed sign. “We can show you a couple different versions,” Kim said. “Great feedback, thank you.” Cornish said that the Commission received a letter from Sarah Herlihy on behalf of the Bay Village Neighborhood Association, saying that the organization voted not to oppose the signs. “People liked it and thought it was elegant,” Cornish said, referencing the letter. The Commission voted to approve the wall sign and requested that mockups for a different version of the blade sign be presented at the July 12 BVHDC hearing. DISCUSSION OF REVISED REGULATORY STANDARDS The BVHDC is looking to revise its regulatory standards so it can have jurisdiction over more items than it currently does. “I’m pleased to report I have a good path forward,” Cornish said. He said that in order to make these changes, an amendment needs to be made to the city ordinance that established the historic district. “There are three items that are accepted in the ordinance: paint color on materials other than masonry; lighting at entryways; and elevations visible from a public way,” he said. Right now, the Commission does not have true purview over rear elevations, “and in some cases side elevations,” Cornish said. He said that the goal is for the Commission to be able to review “all elevations of a building that are visible from a public way,” similar to other landmark commissions in the city, such as Back Bay and the South End. “Because it’s a city ordinance, it’s not that complicated of a process,” Cornish said. “We will have to go through the City Council, and I’ve made contact with Councilor Bok’s office.” He said he will continue to be in touch with her about the process for amending the ordinance. One the ordinance is amended, the revised guidelines can be adopted by the Commission. Cornish said he hopes to receive all comments on the new guidelines from Commissioners by July 5, so they can be discussed at the July 12 hearing. “Hopefully at that hearing we will have a draft we’re happy with,” he said. He also said that the draft guidelines will be available online for public viewing, and feedback from the public can be reported on at the August hearing. If the amendment to the ordinance can be made by the end of the summer, the guidelines can be adopted in September, Cornish said.

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