Landmarks Commission Okays Demolition of Stuart Street Building

By Beth Treffeisen

The Boston Landmarks Commission approved demolition of the Boston Common Hotel and Conference Center at 40 Trinity Place (430 Stuart Street) in the Back Bay. Situated on the same block as the YWCA and across from the John Hancock building, the red and brick building will soon play home to a modern hotel and storefront.

The proposed redevelopment of the site also includes purchasing the air rights over a portion of the adjacent property at 426 Stuart Street that currently belongs to the University Club of Boston.

The development will include the demolition of the existing Boston Common Hotel and Conference Center that was formally known as the John Hancock Hotel and Conference Center.

The construction of the new building will be approximately be 33-stories and 400 feet tall, and will be a mixed use building including hotel, residential, and restaurant uses, expansion for the University Club, and above-grade accessory parking.

The total project will contain approximately 379,370 square feet of gross floor area and will help transform the streetscape of a lifeless block along Stuart Street located in a otherwise lively Back Bay with an activated ground floor of 24-hour mix of uses.

It will include 142 residential units and an approximately 220-room hotel with accessory conference center space and two restaurants. A shared health and fitness center will be provided to both residents and hotel guests along with residential parking for 100 vehicles above grate on levels four and five.

The project will also include about 10,000 new square feet to be occupied by the adjacent University Club that will be connected internally to the building for the sole use of the Club’s members.

The club will be operating in its entirety during the construction.

At the Boston Landmarks Commission meeting the commissioners waived the 90-day waiting period for public comment and approved for demolition.

The current building is a modern Georgian Revival design and was first constructed in 1925 as part of the University Club. It later finished in 1929 with the addition of the five top floors.  The building is located in the next block to the Back Bay Train Station and The Clarendon Street Parking Garage.

It is located in an area that was once recommended for the Park Square historic district for buildings built between 1868 through 1956 but it never became official.

The building that is currently eight stories is in good condition but Jordan Warshaw from the Noannet Group who has been working on the designing this building since late 2011 said that from the start they have run into a lot of issues in trying to keep the orginial building.

These included varying street level points and unattractive metal storefronts that currently hold a Dunkin Donuts that have been punched into the side.

“Despite being one of the more vibrant places in the city it is a dismal block,” Warshaw said. “If we want to make it work we would have to demolish the first floor.”

Another issue included the small windows that line the top four floors. They are spaced out in a way that allows very little light and air to enter the rooms. Warshaw said that in order to create a modern building they would have to make them bigger.

“What would be left of the building would be very little,” Warshaw said.

The only concerns from the commissioners was to make sure that the floors line up and appear aligned from the outside as well as making sure the design will correspond with the Boston Properties proposed project on the other side of Trinity Place.

“With all due respect to staff this is a perfectly preserved building,” said Commissioner John Freeman. “But it is a dismal street.”

Freeman added the past renovators tried their best to bring life into the building but it was failure.

Freeman said, “It is impossible to bring the building to having the street life that it needs. There are no feasible alternatives – that’s why we issued demolition.”

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