On Newbury St., BBAC Approves Umbrellas With Logos, Denies Facade Change

The work done by the Back Bay Architectural Commission (BBAC) signage subcommittee became part of the discussion at the full commission hearing on June 12, as several applicants proposed changes to things like umbrellas and canopies.

For the Caffe Nero location at 205-207 Newbury St., applicant Christine McMahon proposed the installation of three new patio umbrellas that were Caffe Nero blue with black flaps, as well as a sign for the wrought iron fence that would let people know the cafe was there. She said that due to the cafe’s location being below street level, it can sometimes be hard for people to find.

The cafe had umbrellas there but were told that they were too large and blocked too much of the facade. The proposed ones are a more appropriate size. They originally wanted to have the Caffe Nero logo on the umbrellas, but were discouraged from doing so. However, those commissioners on the subcommittee brought up the fact that they would like to discuss allowing store/restaurant logos on umbrellas, but no third party logos. Although this is not yet written in the official guidelines, the commission decided they would allow the Caffe Nero proponents to choose either putting logos on their umbrellas or the signage on the fence. They said that having both would be too much.

Sue Prindle of the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay (NABB) said that her concern with the sign is that it “takes up a good deal of space,” and giving too much space to one tenant in the building. She thinks the umbrella is a better solution, and agrees with the allowance of logos on the umbrellas if both the logo and umbrella is a “reasonable size.”

BBAC Commissioner Jerome CooperKing agreed with Prindle, saying that “we set ourselves up for a problem with other tenants in the building should they want to put up signs too.”

“I would agree with that too,” said Commisisoner John Christiansen.

After some further discussion, the Commission ultimately did not approve the signage on the fence but did approve putting the logo on umbrellas so long as the details are sent to staff regarding size.

855 Boylston St.

At 855 Boylston St., a Bank of America location, architect Amanda Johnson proposed to replace the door system, clean the masonry, and install a white canopy over the entrance doors. While Bank of America is looking to replace the signage at all their locations, Johnson said the signage would be in a different application as they were not ready to present that yet.

Next door to the bank is an Adidas store, which has a black canopy over its entrance doors. Commissioner Jerome CooperKing said he thinks the bank canopy should be black to match the one next door.

“It’s a very large building; having the canopy black will make it more symmetrical,” said BBAC Chair Kathleen Connor. “Hardware on the door needs to be symmetrical as well.”

The Commission voted to approve the project with the proviso that the canopy be black and match in design and profile the Adidas entry, and the door hardware should match as well.

28 Exeter St.

Architect Tom Trykowski has done several remodels of the outside and lobby of the apartment building at 28 Exeter St., and he was back before the BBAC with another for the front facade. He said the last time the front facade had been changed was about six years ago.

“Over the years, the facade has not fared very well,” Trykowski said. He said there is a lot of staining on the material from dog urine with the current material, so he proposed to change it to a dark charcoal granite with white veins, which will not show staining and resist the dog urine. He said the finish would be more sueded, rather than polished.

For the upper materials, he proposed a whitish porcelain product that would be very easy to clean graffiti off of, as they have had issues with graffiti and vandalism in the past.

Trykowski also proposed to revamp the signage, as pieces of the the current signage have been stolen on several occasions. The proposed signage would use new technology to create a halo effect, where the light would come through the letters via the edge, but the letters have a solid face to them. “These can be more securely mounted,” he said. “We can secure this directly into the substrate.”

Sue Prindle, along with a few commissioners, said that it might be good idea for Trykowski to come back to staff with a few options for the white paneling, as they believe what was proposed was too bright. Trykowski said he would be willing to do that, but said that it could just be the rendering making it look brighter than it actually was. He did not have a sample of the actual material to show at the hearing.

The Commission approved the proposal with the proviso that the commission meets with staff onsite to look at the materials.

18 Newbury St.

The applicant for the proposed project at 18 Newbury St. presented a proposal to replace the existing storefront and enlarge the glass openings, as well as restore the second-story covered window openings and refurbish/replace the windows on the rear facade.

The company looking to move into this space is Concepts, a local brand that sells activewear and streetwear, and this will be the flagship location on Newbury St. the building dates back to the 1920s, when it was built for a furrier company.

The applicant said he would like to bring the infill up to a new design “to make it a lot more linear with the existing building lines,” as well as renovate and refurbish the infill area. The signage would be laser etched into the glazing above the front door, which would be visible when the store lights are on.

The building currently has gold and white elements that provide historical context, but the applicant said they were looking to create a more simplified design. CooperKing asked if they looked into retaining the design while still being able to put the new brand on it.

“It comes down to preserving or not preserving,” the applicant said. The proponents said they are keeping the cement bricks on the facade in an effort to try and “celebrate the building.”

“It’s a modern concept and it needs a modern look,” said Commissioner Jane Moss.

Tom High from backbayhouses,org did not agree. He urged the Commission to deny the application without prejudice and told the applicants to  “come back with a design that serves a commercial purpose but does not ignore the historical context of the building.”

A tenant of the building said that the residential portion of the building does not have the same entrance and that the entirely of the building should be designed as a whole. “We don’t have any signage currently for our door; currently we’re using sandwich boards,” he said. “We feel comfortable modernizing the building; it’s consistent with the neighbors and certainly works for the residents of the building.”

“The elegance has not come across during the presentation,” Commissioner David Eisen said. CooperKing added, “Along with that, we’d like to see the whole building,” he said. “WE need to see the whole thing together.”

The Commission voted to deny this project without prejudice, meaning the applicants can come back with a different proposal. The Commission advised the applicants to come back with a concept of the infill that is “something other than what’s there.” They do not need to duplicate what is there, but they should study the building some more before coming back with a new proposal. The Commission did, however, approve the proposed work in the rear.

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