By Beth Treffeisen
In a packed room in the back corner of Boston City Hall, residents piled in to see a presentation from the architects behind the newly proposed building slated for 212 Stuart St. during the Bay Village Architectural Commission hearing this past Tuesday, January 10.
Located at 212 – 222 Stuart St., between the South Cove Plaza and the Revere Hotel, the proposed building calls for an approximately 146,000 square foot, 19-story building, containing about 3,000 square feet of first floor retail and or restaurant space.
The upper floors will contain 131 residential units and in lieu of on-site parking an agreement has been made with the garage located at 200 Stuart St. to provide long-term parking.
The proposed building has yet to gain approval from the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) or the Zoning Board of Appeals. The presentation was solely to gain early feedback as they continue the application process with the City.
The proponents will return to the Commission in the upcoming months once gaining appropriate clearance from other city agencies.
“The Commissioners that spoke recognized that we’re trying to do something special,” said Peter Spellios from Transom Real Estate, the developers behind the project. “This process is only going to make it better.”
Spellios looks forward to gaining both good and constructive feedback from the community as they continue with this project.
“We want it participating along the high spine in Bay Village,” said Eric Howeler the design architect behind the project. “When you look at the aerial view of the high spine you see it sort of goes up and down, up and down, and up and down – we want it to be part of the syncopation on that St..”
Commissioner Kathleen McDermott showed some concern about the architect referring to the high spine that runs from Tufts Medical Center in the Back Bay down Stuart St. to the Liberty Mutual Building in the Bay Village.
“The first thing you led off with was the high spine,” said McDermott. “One was from urban renewal (referring to the Revere Hotel) and the other was from 100 years ago (referring to the Arlington) – and is this something we really want to add to?”
At 212 Stuart St., there was once a three-story brick building next to the surface parking lot that laid vacant for about 15 years after the closing of Jae’s restaurant in 1999. In 2014, the building was demolished after receiving approval from the BPDA in 2006.
On Stuart St. the building had a dim, grey-colored façade but on the back, on Shawmut St., part of the original brick façade remained. It was originally built in 1840 to house the German United Evangelical Lutheran and Reformed Society Church.
“There’s an assumption that this calls for a tall building,” said Commissioner Anne Kilgus.
She pointed out that this site wasn’t just a parking lot but held two houses about 35 feet tall that were allegedly purposely neglected, so they where condemned, freeing up the land. Kilgus hoped that the architecture would take the history of once was there into account as they move forward.
“I think your presentation was elegant but, I don’t think it particularly speaks to Bay Village,” said Kilgus.
Spellios said that to build something on a 7,000 square foot parcel is very expensive. Originally, he said, they asked the BPDA for heights closer to the Revere Hotel but where told that was too excessive.
“There are certain economic benefits that we need,” said Spellios. “We’re just trying to find the right balance.”
Concerns over the height was also echoed by the additional shadow that it will cast on the nearby parks, even those that are not technically within the Bay Village neighborhood, such as the adjacent Statler Park.
Commissioner Stephen Dunwell asked for a more comprehensive shadow impact study. He said, “It is going to make new shadow over the Statler Park and it’s going to have an affect on that park, especially in the morning.”
One major design concern shared by the Commission was how the proposal showed a lot of what it will look like from afar and not enough of what it will be like up close.
“I think you put a lot of time and effort into the aesthetics and what it will look like,” said Commissioner Ruth Knopf. “But you haven’t thought about the close up – in the end it’s still a wall.”
Howeler said that the South side of the building that will run along Shawmut St. will be mostly made up of exit doors and will have an opening into a mechanical room, leaving a somewhat dead space facing the neighborhood.
Commissioner Thomas Hotaling brought up how this building is a two-sided building with two different scales that need to be addressed.
He said, “I also agree with the Shawmut side and I have concerns over how it’s going to be for the neighborhood.”
Paul Miller an 18-year resident of Bay Village, has concerns over the building as well. “You are considering that it is on the edge of Bay Village but in reality it is in Bay Village,” he said. “It is just a wall and I hope that the architectural commission will protect Bay Village and our parks.”