By Beth Treffeisen
White tarp that wraps around scaffolding billows in the wind as it covers up the front façade at 40 Clarendon St., in the South End. The scaffolding that forms a narrow passageway on the brick side- walk in front has been an eyesore for many in the neighborhood for close to a year now.
Construction began at the site in January 2016 without any approval from the South End Landmark District Commission (SELC) and did not receive proper permits until July 2016.
After a site visit from a sub-committee from the SELC in October, where members could not see behind the tarp, Joe Macey the general contractor brought a proposal in front of the Commission to rebuild the entire front façade due to structural concerns and to reconstruct a roof deck on the existing foot print.
The front façade repair was passed with provisions and the roof deck was denied.
The building is a three-story townhouse constructed circa 1900. According to Daniel Bonardi a consulting engineer the outer wythe or continuous vertical section of masonry one unit in thick- ness, of brick at the front façade has been removed due to significant bulging.
In a letter to Macey as part of a structural review of the front facade he said, “Re-pointing of the inner wythe is not recommended as it maybe causing the remaining wall to collapse.”
The construction site got a short form-building permit on July 17, 2016 for selective demolition at the back and front of the building to expose the structural condition of the building.
“The whole block exhibited structural evidence that show a lot of the buildings have had significant repair to them,” said Commissioner Peter Sanborn who visited the site adding that there is a significant environmental factors that could also be attributed to the building settling.
This site also had two case brick layering instead of the typical three that is found in the South End, which could have also contributed to the severe constructional problems.
Macey proposed toothing in the brick on the front façade to match what was there. The biggest con- cern is that in order to do this they will need to go into the abutting neighbors walls from a half brick to a full brick but haven’t retained their permission yet.
“The mortar is completely beyond repair,” said Macey. “There is some lining but the mortar has deteriorated.”
Provisions that the Commission decided on the proposal included: work has to start within 30 days, the site has to be made available to staff at least once every two weeks, an in-place mock up has to be provided, and toothing in of the brick is preferred to be in proportion that would need neighboring permission but if denied would accept construction with a slightly different design.
Provisions also include that anything that can be recovered should be instead of being replaced, and a submission of the construction time line needs to be in within two weeks.
The Commission went out of order and asked for public comment before they made a motion.
“It’s become a mockery of the whole permitting process,” said Jonathan Shapira a resident at 42 Clarendon St.
Shapira said the building didn’t receive any permits or give notice to the SELC until they brought it to the attention of the Mayor’s office.
“We live in a historic district and there are rules that we need to abide to,” said Shapira.
Residents also spoke to safety. With the next Boston winter right around the corner, the next big snow storm could cause the scaffolding to fall, possibly on a child from a nearby school.
A nearby resident Michael Donovan brought up the point on the recent tragic event of the two construction workers that were killed when a water line burst in the South End. The company behind the construction site was known for a series of safety violations.
“We want to make sure that people follow the rules so that we don’t have to have these regrets later,” said Shapira.
Later in the meeting the roof deck was completely denied due to visibility from multiple public locations, despite being approved in 2009. Once a roof deck is taken down, the Commission has the right to approve or deny a new one being constructed.
“I guess I would ask for some leniency on this,” said Macey.
But Commission Chair John Amodeo said, “We’re already giving you a lot of leniency here. You’re in a violation here.”
Commissioner Catherine Hunt voiced her concerns on how this project was brought to the Commission’s attention. She asked Macey if they didn’t know that the South End was an historic district before beginning his project.
Macey, nodded his head that he did.
“It’s extremely frustrating as a member of this commission to have someone come back with violations that gone on for so long,” said Hunt. “It’s shameful.”
Hunt continued by saying that in light of what happened last week, you can’t just begin a project and then start asking for permission this far down the line. Hunt said, “We just don’t live in a community like that.”
A previous version misspelled the last name of Jonathan Shapira, and we regret the mistake.