News from the South End Landmarks District Commission

The South End Landmark District Commission showed compassion to a homeowner on Tuesday night when he came before them with a proposal to rebuild his deck that was destroyed in a fire in 2016. The Commission unanimously allowed him to rebuild the deck as-is, even though it does not completely comply with the current guidelines.

Michael Gauthier, owner of 73 Rutland St., Unit 5, told the Commission that there was a “serious fire” on September 13, 2016 that destroyed his deck and apartment. The fire began on the abutting roof and spread to Gauthier’s apartment.

Gauthier said that he is asking for approval to rebuild the pre-existing roof-deck using the same materials, elevation, and dimensions as the deck that was destroyed. He said the deck originally had a red cedar railing, but the new one would have a black metal railing that is preferred by the Commission.

Gauthier said that this project appeared before the Zoning Board of Appeal in November of last year, and they determined that the deck “doesn’t alter, relocate, or enlarge prior roof deck in any manner,” according to Gauthier.

A PowerPoint presentation made by Gauthier at the Landmarks hearing on Tuesday states that there is “support from Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services and the City Councilor Ed Flynn; no opposition voiced or filed to date.”

The proposed deck would be visible from a public way, but “every effort will be made to build the deck platform and railing to the minimum height required by Code to minimize view from public way,” the presentation reads.

Commissioner John Freeman said that since this deck is to be rebuilt, it comes under the new regulations, not the ones from 1987. He told Gauthier that he needs to make the deck less visible if he wants it approved.

Commissioner Catherine Hunt agreed that it “would be helpful to get a little bit of reduction in visibility,” but she also showed sympathy for Gauthier’s situation.

“I’ve been displaced for two and a half years and I just want what I had,” Gauthier said.

“We’re totally sympathetic,” Freeman responded, but he stuck by his statement that the regulations require that roof-decks are not visible from a public way.

Commissioner Peter Sanborn tried to offer a compromise by asking if the deck could be slid back without decreasing the size, but Gauthier said that there is nowhere else for it to go as there is no more flat surface on the roof behind the deck.

“I move that we accept the application as-is, and it’s only because this fire destroyed his property,” Hunt said. “It’s not a case where someone tore down the deck and wants to rebuild it. This gentleman lost it through no fault of his own.”

“We support the homeowner here,” said several gentlemen in the audience. The Commission unanimously voted to allow Gauthier to rebuild his roof deck as it was before the fire.

439-441 TREMONT ST.

The outdated signs for the Masa restaurant on Tremont Street are about to get a face lift. Mark Conserva of Metro Sign Awning came before the Commission to propose the new signs. The proposed signs for the marquee have a red background with black lettering that says “Masa” with “Latin Kitchen and Tequila Bar” underneath. There is also an existing blade sign that would be changed to read the same thing, and is proposed to be internally illuminated.

Commissioner John Freeman said that internally illuminated signs are not allowed in the district, but “if It’s reflected like a halo sign it is allowed,” he said.

The applicants said that there is a wire to the existing blade sign, but it does not light up. Conserva said that the framing of the new sign would remain the same; it would just be filled with the new logo.

Freeman added that the proposed signs are “much nicer” than the previous signs, which feature an outdated yellow and coral logo on a white background.

“I personally think maybe the signage is overdone here,” said Commissioner Peter Sanborn. Hunt agreed with hum, saying that “I just worry that it’s too much.”

Staff preservationist Nick Armata said that the purpose of the blade sign is to advertise the restaurant to people traveling north and south, while the marquee advertises to people coming towards the building. He wondered if signs on either side of the center sign of the marquee were needed.

One of the applicants stated that she wanted to draw people in who were walking up and down Tremont St. with the marquee sides.

Catherine Hunt suggested that the lettering on the sides of the marquee be smaller than the one in the middle. The South End Landmark District Commission guidelines state that “Trade-marks will be limited to approximately 25 percent of the total allowable sign area.”

“Given the regulations I think it’s okay to ask for that,” Hunt said.

The Commission agreed to approve everything except the marquee, which will be sent to staff. Staff will then consult with the Commission and report back to the applicant; there is no need for them to come back before the Commission. They told the applicants that the “size of the sides is what’s in question here.” Overall, the Commission really liked the signs, and look forward to coming to a compromise on the size of the lettering on the sides of the marquee.

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