SELC Holds Advisory Hearing for New Developments on Harrison Ave

By Beth Treffeisen

The South End Landmarks District Commission (SELC) held an advisory meeting for the local architects, from Utile Design, for the 370-380 Harrison Ave. project that was recently approved by the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA).

This 14-story building will join the nearby Ink Block and the Troy in the rapidly developing New York Streets neighborhood in the South End. This project will consist of a 14-story building with 324 residential units, 180 off-street parking spots and 8,500 square feet of commercial space on the first level.

In order to move forward, the developers of the project need to gain approval from the SELC to demolish the two vacant factory buildings that once was home to the Quinzani’s Bakery.

“The bakery was a contributing factor to the neighborhood because of the wonderful smell of bread but now they do not,” said Michael LeBlanc one of the architects from Utile Design. “They will now be focusing more on their off-site production.”

The site is in a protection area that has limited purview by the SELC. In order for the buildings to be demolished they need to prove that the current buildings that where built in the 1960’s and 1970’s are not significantly contributing to the area.

Since the SELC will most likely approve the demolition because the factories are not attributing to the neighborhood, the architects will not be subject to a full review.

When the architects return, the SELC will have purview over height, massing, landscape and views both from a distance from the property and from the property from a district.

The SELC asked the architects to look into whether or not they believe the building will obstruct any important views of the district and will be reviewing their landscape design.

Chair John Amodeo said that they approved the Planned Development Area (PDA) but “we were not happy about it.”

“It’s another huge, huge building that’s going to be impacting the thousands of people there,” said Commissioner Catherine Hunt. “There’s a Whole Foods right there but it’s not going to do enough – it’s a quality of life question. How do we keep all of these people safe?”

Already, the traffic in the area has gotten worse. The design shows that there will be a courtyard passageway for pedestrians that will act as a short cut between Harrison Ave. and Traveler St. that eventually leads to Broadway Station.

In addition, the drop off zone for vehicles to park will be on the less traveled on Traveler St. There will be no connections for cars between the highly congested E. Berkeley St. and Traveler St.

One issue with the design that the Commission had was with how the brick doesn’t wrap around entirely from the view from the north face on Harrison Ave.

“It just looks like a big accident,” said Hunt. “My reaction to it was what happened to the rest of the brick?”

Amodeo agreed, “Did you run out?”

He said that it doesn’t look right that the glass goes down two stories and doesn’t continue to wrap around and meet the rest of the brick.

“I would require further detailing,” said Amodeo. “I went right to that I couldn’t pull away from it.”

LeBlanc said that the reflection of the glass will fill in those details but said they will look further into how that brick meets.

The architecture team will return next month for a full application process.

“When we started this building it was a hard process for us,” said LeBlanc. “It forced us to look at this in different ways and interpret how it fits the South End. In the end I think we’ve come out with a stronger application.”

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