SELDC Discusses Garden Entry, Roof Deck in the District

The South End Landmark District Commission met virtually on June 2, where they heard two proposals for residential work in the district.

At 591 Tremont St., Project Manager Stephanie Seeley proposed installing a door and tile at the landing at the garden level entrance under the stoop.

She said that the homeowners would like to install a door similar to the one at 593 Tremont St.,  which includes a partial arch head and a metal frame with an interior glass panel. “The metal part will be painted black,” she said, and will have a custom jamb.

The tile is a porcelain ceramic tile that will extend from the base of the stairs into the alcove behind the door. She also proposed a new light fixture, but after some discussion, it was determined that light fixtures are exempt from the Commission’s purview because there were no wall mounted light fixtures during the Victorian era, but the Commission does have preferences for them.

Seeley said she does believe there is an existing door, which led the Commission to wonder whether or not it is original. She said she belekves it’s “just a green door” and she doesn’t “recall there being any interesting details to it.”

Commissioner David Shepperd also said he does not believe the door is original, but the rest of the Commission said they wanted to make sure before approving the new door. If the existing door is original, it would have to be restored per the guidelines rather than replaced with a new one.

Commissioner Fabian D’Souza said that he does not believe the tiling is appropriate for the district, and thinks it should be concrete which is in line with the rest of the South End. Commissioner John Amodeo agreed, and also questioned whether the tile is suitable for outdoor use.

Boston Landmarks Commission Preservation Planner Mary Cirbus said that “my guess is that the work at 593 [Tremont St.] was not approved,” as it contains a similar door and tile that the Commission discussed as being not appropriate to the district with the proposal for 591 Tremont.

The Commisison ultimately voted to remand this application to BLC staff to work on a “configuration of the door that is more appropriate to the South End,” as Commisisoner John Freeman said that these types of doors did not typiclaly have glass during the historic period. Additional details to be worked out by staff include how the door is attached, as well as a site visit for staff to determine whether or not the existing door is historic.

At 181 Warren Ave., architect Derek Rubinoff proposed to construct a roof deck with hatch access.

Rubinoff said that the proposal is for a condominium at the top of a four story building, and the deck will be replacing the existing private roof deck with a larger one. Right now, access to the existing deck is via a roof hatch that would be “changed and moved.”

He said that the current deck cannot be seen from the front, but the railing can be seen from the rear. He said the proposal includes “moving the rear of the deck slightly forward.” He said the reason for having a larger deck is because the homeowner has a “fairly small apartment,” so he would like to have more space outdoors. The newly proposed deck is about 18 feet wide by 22.6 feet long, but it is not a complete rectangle. The deck would be accessed via an angled hatch, and the existing chimneys would remain on the deck.

The proposed railings  would be painted galvanized steel or aluminum. There is no lighting proposed for the deck.

The Commission had issues with the visibility of the deck from the street, as there is currently a mockup in place.

“This is a fairly visible deck, and typically what we would do is have a subcommittee that would go to the site and have the mockup moved while looking at it live,” Commissioner John Freeman said.

Commissioner Catherine Hunt agreed, saying she feels the mockup is “far too visible.” She also called for a subcommittee to determine ways that the railing could be made less visible from a public way.

The apartment owner, Taruno Steffensen, said that he feels “the mockup was made way too high,” to which the Commission responded that they would beed to see a revised mockup to make a decision on the deck.

“We can look at that,” Rubinoff said. 

“I think those railings are way too hight and I agree that we need to do a site visit,” said Commissioner Diana Parcon.

“I think…Mary [Cirbus) had identified that there’s also visibility through a gap in the buildings on the rear elevation,” Commissioner John Amodeo said. “While we don’t like visibility at all, we tend to be more forgiving of rear elevation visibility than front elevation visibility.”

Commisisoner John Freeman suggested having a thinner railing structure for the deck and lowering it. “Every inch you lower it is an inch you wont have to push it back,” he said.

Amodeo said that pushing it back a foot from the view it is currently seen it will nbot reduce the amount of deck seen from the street,

The Commission voted to remand this proposal to a subcommittee of Catherine Hunt and Fabian D’Souza, who will make a socially distanced site visit to determine how best to reduce the visibility of this deck from the street. The subcommittee meeting will be open to the public as required by the Open Meeting Law.

Rubinoff will let BLC staff know when the revised mockup is ready, and then a date will be chosen “very soon,” Mary Cirbus said.

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