The Boston Landmarks Commission voted on Monday to approve the Massachusetts State Police Lower Basin Barracks Modernization Project, with a couple of provisos. The commission was familiar with this project because of an Advisory Review, and had already expressed some concerns during that process.
The applicant is looking to restore the exterior of the Lower Lock Gatehouse and add a 4,100 square foot addition. The addition will “respect architectural character, massing and profile of historic Lower Lock Gatehouse,” according to a presentation at the hearing on Monday evening. The proposal includes clustering the police building, parking, and sally port to keep police business separated from the public green space.
The existing tennis courts will be relocated and green space will be added to “extend Esplanade character onto the site,” the presentation read. Impervious surfaces will be reduced by 70 percent, and parking spaces will go from 75 to 20 in order to maximize green space.
Commissioner David Berarducci said that he would like to see the applicant come back when they develop a better sense of the materials they will be using for the addition. “We asked them to make this addition more separate looking but still coordinate with the original building,” he said.
He also wants to know what the garage doors are going to look like on the police building, because the sketch in the presentation did not provide specific details about the appearance of the doors.
There is also a planter that serves as a barricade to the police building. It will be constructed of concrete, but the commission suggested that it have a granite veneer to match the granite on the original building.
Berarducci said that the biggest issue for the advisory was the position of the parking, and he said that the applicant was asked to hide the cars from the viewpoint of the green space. The commission would like to see the applicant come back with an alternate way of hiding the cars but still including the bioswale that they have proposed. As currently proposed, the parking lot and the green space are separated by a sod filter strip that contains the bioswale and a screen wall.
Everything else, including benches and lighting for the open space, was approved as presented. The commission would like to see the applicant come back with more details and/or new proposals for the provisos they gave.
The applicant is also proposing to repurpose the 1909 Fens Gatehouse, but the building is not under jurisdiction of the commission, so they can only provide suggestions as to how the applicant can go about the restoration.
Other applications that were heard at the meeting included a proposal to install mechanical equipment on the roof of the Johnson Building at the Boston Public Library. The Rare Books Department is being renovated, and they need to install a desiccant system and a humidification system to maintain a certain level of humidity which is “critical for the rare books,” applicant Mary Silveria said.
Silveria said that they created a mockup that replicates the height of the new equipment to be installed, and moved it to different locations on the roof to determine the final location. They viewed the roof from different locations on the street to make sure it could not be seen. The proposed equipment is 12 feet high at its highest point. The commission approved the application as proposed and the applicant will eventually come back with a proposal for a new roof as well. Commissioner Brad Walker said that he would like some sort of screen or cover to make it look more attractive from higher vantage points.
The commission also heard a proposal for window replacement at 704 Huntington Avenue. The applicant proposed to replace existing windows with metal clad windows. Berarducci said that he thinks the windows look like they’re in “great shape,” and as an example, explained that in the South End it is encouraged to refurbish windows instead of replacing them. The existing windows look to be original, and a number of them have stained glass, which Berarducci says is a large part of the character of the windows.
The applicant stated that some of the windows have some rot or other damage, which the commission agreed with, but the commission said that they were not beyond repair.
“They look well within the realm of what we see people repairing,” Walker said.
Berarducci said that the commission’s preference would be to refurbish the existing windows instead of replacing them with metal clad ones, and the application was denied without prejudice. The applicant is welcome to submit a new proposal, and would have to do so if he chose to restore the windows.
Lastly, applicant Badge Blackett presented his proposal to replace the upper level windows at the Oyster Shell House with aluminum clad ones. The commission had several concerns with the proposal and Blackett felt that his proposal should be approved due to precedent in the surrounding area. After discussion of various points from both the commission and the applicant, Blackett withdrew his application and told the commission that he would return at a later date with a different proposal.