Rooftops and Trees Discussed at Back Bay Architectural Meeting

The office building that is 10-11 Arlington St. was approved by the Back Bay Architectural Commission on July 11 to be fully restored. This application was deferred at the June hearing.

Right now, the building is vacant, but it has been used as office space for more than 60 years, according to applicant Dartagnan Brown. Fisher College was the last to own it, but Brown said his clients will be using it for their home office and their philanthropy work.

Brown proposed a full masonry repoint and replace the slate, and in the rear, he proposed to remove the non-historic addition and the lower portion of the oriel that he also believes is non-historic. On the side alley, he is looking to replace the panels and louvers.

Once the building is restored, it will look continuous with 8 and 9 Arlington St., Brown said.

Brown is also looking to install a fully automated parking system that would house seven cars in an existing basement, so they wouldn’t have to worry about groundwater. There will be a garage off the back of the building rather than on the alley face. Brown said that a study was done on the maneuverability of the space, it has been approved for zoning, and they’ve worked with abutters.

The car would enter the garage onto a rotating table and be brought down to the basement, and then could be called back up and the driver could drive right out of the space.

“Our proposal is to fully restore the front of the building will be fully restored, from the doors to the cast stone to the brownstone and the slate roof,” according to Brown. The color of the building currently does not perfectly match that of 8 and 9 Arlington, but Brown said it will by the end of the restoration. The windows would also be returned to the way they were at the time of construction.

Visibility of equipment on rooftops is always a concern for the Architectural Commission. Brown said that a mock-up for the roof has been there since July 3, and the proposed mechanical equipment is four to five feet tall. The smaller mechanical equipment would be housed behind screening.

Brown said that the new, 6 foot generator is the only thing that will be visible, but would be a natural gray color. The new elevator overrun would be copper clad.

As far as the roof deck goes, Brown proposed to build an inset roof deck where the second pitch of the rood would become the railing for the roof deck.

They have decided to keep the masonry openings, and louvers will be put where they’re needed, and false windows with bars will be put in other locations to make sure they look more like the way they originally did.

The project was approved with the understanding that the applicant will work with the staff to make sure the equipment is not visible.

The proposed removal of trees at 40 Hereford St. ended with no decision. Applicant Lesley Ciano proposed to remove two Ailanthus trees and one Birch tree, and plant two Japanese Maple trees, though Ciano said she’s open to anything.

Commission Chair Kathleen Connor read a letter form a certified arborist who said that the trees are “potentially hazardous” and that “no amount of pruning would restore their viability and stability.”

Ciano said that the roots of these trees are burrowing into her building and cracking up the stairs to the back alley.

Ciano said that she has not yet had a chance to talk to the Garden Club of the Back Bay, but Connor said it would be a good idea if she did so they could advise her on the best decision to make.

Commissioner Jerome CooperKing wondered if at least one of the trees could be saved, as they are “such a prominent feature.”

Laurie Thomas from the Garden Club Tree Committee, explained the Garden Club’s reasoning why they think the trees should be left alone.

“To remove a Back Bay tree, it must be dead, dying, diseased, or damaged beyond repair, according to an arborist, or it must be a hazard to people, property, or a built structure, as documented by a structural engineer,” Thomas read from a written statement.

She said that the Garden Club disagrees with the owners and the arborist’s reasons for removing the trees.

“This approval is important progress, but there still needs to be one valid documented reason to remove these trees, and we don’t think they have it yet,” Thomas said.

There has been no engineer-recorded damage, she continued, and “the Garden Club has not found any of the reasons persuasive without further documentation.”

“If someone came into the backyard and actually saw the roots come out of the ground, they would have a different opinion,” Ciano responded. “We made an effort to try to contain them but I don’t know how you contain the roots that are going into our building.”

A motion was made to continue this application until the next hearing without a decision, as the Commission agreed that more information from an engineer would be beneficial for everyone.

At 29 Commonwealth Avenue, better known as Haddon Hall, applicant Guy Grassi proposed to re-landscape the entire site, replace all existing windows with aluminum clad windows, remove the fire stair at west elevation and infill it with brick, and among other things, install a roof terrace, head house skylight, and replace the mechanical equipment, which is what the Commission focused on the most.

The Commission was concerned with the fact that the mockups for the mechanical equipment were quite visible from different points. The applicant proposed a compressor with heat pumps that are about 6 feet high and 5 feet away from the edge. He also proposed a three and a half foot metal railing system to screen the equipment.

Sue Prindle from the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay said she was “very concerned” about what is going on on the roof. She said that the skylight could be smaller, and she also had an issue with the visibility of things on the roof from the Berkeley Street side.

Vice-Chair Iphigenia Demetriades made a motion to approve the project with the provisos that the three lower story level windows must be all wood, and the rooftop was denied without prejudice. The motion was approved.

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