SELDC Deals with Lighter Agenda of Roof Decks and Doors

The South End Landmark District Commission (SELDC) held its second virtual hearing this month via Zoom on May 11, where no very large projects were on the docket. Most had to do with facade changes or roof deck proposals for residential buildings.

31 Worcester St.

At 31 Worcester St., the proposal was to modify the entryway under the stoop, remove an iron gate, and install a door.

Marcus Springer of Springer Architects reminded the Commission that this project was brought before them in 2019 and much of the project is “well under construction.”

The originally approved design of the door was to lower the floor level two feet down to accommodate a new door. The existing condition of the entrance to the garden level of the building is five feet six inches and 32 inches wide.

“We want to make the door wider,” Springer said, and remove the existing grate. He said that they would like to widen the door to 39 inches because the owners have some small children and want to bring strollers through the door and store them underneath the stairs. The proposal also includes pulling the door away from the building to the left 13 inches.

However, the Commission was concerned with this proposal as the material is original, as is the “sense of the opening,” according to Commissioner John Amodeo. 

“We’ve approved things like that before because they’re below grade,” said Commissioner John Freeman. “This involves cutting into the wall of the original configuration.”

Commissioner Catherine Hunt said that the fact that the owners want to bring strollers through that door “is not a reason to change the fabric of the building. I don’t think it’s appropriate to make this kind of change.”

Commissioner Diana Parcon agreed, saying that she thinks this proposal “detracts from the original design.”

The Commission already approve the lowering of the door sill in the previous approval for this building, and Amodeo said that the “length of time for stroller access seems minimal,” probably only a few years out of the entire length of time that the family will live in the unit, so “I don’t see why we should alter the original configuration,” he said. “Plenty of other families manage with the original configuration.”

The Commission voted to deny this application without prejudice, and the applicant is allowed to come back with a different proposal.

81 Warren Ave.

At 81 Warren Avenue, architect Eben Kunz presented a proposal for a roof deck with hatch access.

A mockup has been created for this roof deck, and Kunz said that “at the roof line you can see a tiny bit of the yellow ribbon that’s extending across.” He said the proposal is to install a roof deck that is “very minimally visible.” The platform of the proposed deck extends out and the railing is set back.

Right now, much of the mockup is covered by shrouded scaffolding, and “determining the placement of the railing so it’s minimally visible would be difficult,” said Preservation Planner Mary Cirbus.

“I think even with the minimal slot thats available there that one could make a determination by seeing it in person from within the sidewalk whether the amount of visibility was acceptable or not,” Amodeo said.

After some further discussion, the Commission voted to approve the deck in concept but remand the location of the railing on the street side to a subcommittee consisting of Commissioners Peter Sanborn and Diana Parcon.

36 Greenwich Park

At 36 Greenwich Park, the proposal was to install sliding glass doors and a deck at the rear facade mansard level.

Architect Eben Kunz said that the proposal “takes the pair of dormers that exists and joins them between the two,” and retains the existing side of the door. “I don’t believe this is visible from a public way,” he added.

“This work is being reviewed because it is visible from Blackwood St., which is considered a public street or avenue,” Cirbus said. The purview of the SELDC includes anything on a building that is visible from a public way.

“It looks pretty but it’s not the vocabulary of the district,” said Commissioner John Freeman.

After some more back and forth discussion about purview and visibility in the district, the Commission decided to deny this project without prejudice.

227 West Canton St.

At 227 West Canton Street, the proposed work was to construct a roof deck. The applicant said there was a leak in the roof, leading to the removal of the existing roof deck and installation of a new roof. Now, they want to construct a new deck that is very similar to the one that was there previously.

She said a mock up of the roof railing was put up, “and I went across the street to the door of the building across the street in the front and there was absolutely no way you could see the front railing at all.” She said it might be “slightly” visible from the back.

She also said that the old deck had wooden railings, but the proposed one will feature wrought iron railings that will not be visible from the road.

Mary Cirbus confirmed that she could not see the railing fro the front of the building. More details about the proposal were remanded to staff and the Commission requested a drawing that shows the adjacent deck’s location.

160 West Canton Street

At 160 West Canton Street, the proposal was to construct a deck with hatch access, and at the entry to modify the double leaf entry doors and install glazing.

Architect Dartagnan Brown said that the original doors will remain, and the “inset panels will go to glass as other buildings to the left and the right have.” Brown said he believed the doors were original to the building, but he was not positive. They currently have wood inset panels.

There is also a mock up in place for the roof deck.

“I think the original door should be retained as-is,” said Commissioner Diana Parcon. Commissioner Amodeo agreed with her, and added that there are currently no roof decks on this whole street, and “this would be the one sticking up, right on axis with the long view coming down Montgomery,” he said. “We have so few streets where this is true,” he said of the lack of roof decks.

Amodeo said that if the deck could be moved back to minimize or eliminate the view of the railing, that would be preferable.

The Commission voted to remand the issue of the roof deck to a subcommittee of Commissioners Peter Sanborn and Diana Parcon, and that the door component of the application be denied without prejudice unless the applicant can prove that the doors are not original to the building.

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