By Beth Treffeisen
Cartier, an upmarket retailer specializing in fine jewelry, gifts and luxury timepieces, is set to open a flagship store on Newbury Street in the Back Bay.
Currently located on only the first floor of 40 Newbury St., Cartier will be making an upgrade by relocating into the entire building at 28 Newbury St. The move will be following the steps of only a few stores that are housed in the entire building such as Restoration Hardware and Nike.
Cartier proposed updating and restoring the building at 28 Newbury St. to the Back Bay Architectural Commission (BBAC), at the hearing held on Wednesday, July 12.
“Today, when you walk up or down Newbury Street, you’re not really sure who is on what floor,” said Michelle Wellington of Cartier. “Our work here is really part history and part expressing the brand. I think it’s quite unusual to have one four-story building comprised with one tenant.”
Work includes cleaning masonry and repair deteriorated brick on the front façade, removing existing awnings and installing new awnings at the second, third and fourth stories, repainting window frames, replacing first-story entry doors and windows, and replacing signage with plaques on either side of front entry doors.
“Having Cartier written on every single awning seems excessive, right?” said Commissioner John Christiansen.
Chair Kathleen Connor said, “I think it infers that there is one tenant in the building. It is a flagship store.”
She continued, “The lettering may be small, but is about making the building as one.”
Christiansen said that by having the awnings on every floor it takes away from the strength of the signs on the second floor. Commissioner Jerome CooperKing pointed out that by having the awnings on all the floors the proportions seem a little bit off.
“The awnings provide a piece to be elegant and subtle at the same moment,” said Wellington. “It is something that is iconic.”
The BBAC agreed that the awnings in red are approved with the Cartier logo to be placed only on the second-floor awnings.
Above the front entry-door, the initial proposal included removing the stonework on top of the door that made reference to when the building was home to the American Academy of the Arts and Sciences. The building now holds a Banana Republic store.
“It is fantastic what you did with the Cartier there, but you can’t move the stonework,” said CooperKing. Cartier agreed to not move it and instead place a plaque to the right of the doors.
In addition, the application includes replacing the front doors due to security concerns and keeping the line of visibility through them. Some commissioners expressed regret that the current doors had to be replaced, but understand that the current double doors are not retail friendly.
In the rear, work will be done to clean and re-point masonry, repaint window sash and trim, replace lighting fixtures with motion sensing fixtures, install cameras, replace existing doors and hardware and install groundwater re-charge system below the parking area.
“We are in support of the project,” said Mike Colby from the Back Bay Association. “They are one of the key retailers and the move is great for Boston. What they are proposing looks good, we even don’t mind the Cartier logo going all the way to the top on the awnings.”
The BBAC approved this proposal as long as Cartier leaves the historic signage and having the logo only on the second floor awnings.
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Later on at the BBAC hearing, there was disagreement from the commissioners whether or not to approve a penthouse addition at 349 Commonwealth Ave.
The 1894 building was originally constructed to be one of three sister buildings. The other two buildings attached do not have a penthouse addition.
Lauren Saracco, who was representing the owners who want to construct the penthouse, said that there is not visibility from the front and back of the building and a large tree obstructs the view from the Commonwealth Avenue Mall.
Although the building is one of three buildings meant to go together, the other two have differed in paint colors, and a construction of an outdoor fire escape.
“This is a beautiful one in three building,” said Commissioner Patti Quinn. “I wouldn’t want to see any changes to it – despite a coat of paint there or a coat of paint here – it doesn’t make any difference to the historical context.”
Joe Cornish the preservation planner for the Back Bay said that he would like to re-visit the site and see a mockup that proves that the new penthouse addition is not visible.
Sue Prindle of the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay said that this will be changing a virtually identical building to the two adjoining sister-buildings. In addition, the tree that is currently blocking the view from the Commonwealth Avenue Mall will change.
“From 349 to 353 Commonwealth Ave., there is strong symmetry,” said Prindle. “There isn’t much that has changed.”
Commissioner Jerome CooperKing made the first motion to deny the application that passed 5 – 4.
A second motion was brought up afterwards that approved the penthouse on the condition that a new mockup is made with the new measurements with a reduction in height to 9 feet, so that it is not visible from both a public alley and the front passed with a 5 – 4 vote. Staff will visit the site to determine if it is visible or not.
Vice-Chair Iphigenia Demetriades said, “This vote is completely contrary to what I think is ok.”
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The French Cultural Society proposal to reconfigure the Berkeley Street entrance to incorporate a concealed wheelchair lift and security gate was passed by the BBAC after last month’s hearing brought up much controversy.
David Stern, the architect behind the project, said that improvements have been made to the proposal after a lot of concern from the abutting neighbors arose over security concerns.
“We are trying to fill in these gaps, especially with security concerns and the surrounding area,” said Stern.
This application proposes a security gate, small recessed lighting, and light fixtures that are set on a timer and when off are motion censored. There will also be a security camera placed in the recessed area for added security.
The gate will always be locked, except when the building is in operation. There will also be an intercom that people can buzz reception with from outside.
Lastly, the proposal includes giving the plantings much needed care and pruning.
Commissioner Patti Quinn said, “I’m not crazy about the boxwood and planters, and I’m not going to change my vote over it, but I think you can get a little more creative there.”