Developer Presents Latest Plans for 761-793 Boylston St.

The development team proposing to add three five more stories to the three adjacent Boston Street buildings, which, east to west, are home to Abe & Louie’s, Crate and Barrel, and Atlantic Fish, respectively, presented the most recent iteration of its plans on Monday during a virtual meeting sponsored by the Boston Planning and Development and Agency.

The Tavistock Group intends to build what is essentially a new building, with a shared lobby, behind the façade of 777 Boylston St. where Crate and Barrel is today, said Dennis Quilty, an attorney for the applicant. It would rise up five stories and stretch over the locations of Abe & Louie’s at 793 Boylston St. on one side and Atlantic Fish at 761 Boylston St. on the opposite side.

The project includes plans for approximately 15,830 square feet of retail space; 25,720 square feet of office/fitness space; and nine residential units (three per floor on the sixth through eight levels) comprising approximately 18,600 square feet, with proposed rooftop amenities for the residential units facing both Boylston and Newbury streets. Retail uses would occupy the first and second levels of the site, with office space on the third through fifth levels.

The historic facades of all three buildings, including the one at 777 Boylston St., would remain “in place” as part of the proposed project, added Quilty, and restaurant operations at both Abe & Louie’s and Atlantic Fish would remain uninterrupted for the duration of construction, which is expected to take 16 to 20 months to complete. (The project could also include a possible opportunity to expand the outdoor seating adjacent to Abe & Louie’s, according to members of the design team.)

The three buildings were built between 1901 and 1908, said Ross Cameron, vice president of Elkus Manfredi Architects, and the one at 777 Boylston St. was originally built as an automotive club.

“There’s nothing original behind the Crate and Barrel facade,” Cameron said. “We’ll tear down all the building behind it and then reconstruct new building….and then stitch everything back together.”

David Manfredi, architect, said the design team had made “incremental changes” as the project has progressed, and that they wanted to be “respectful” and “deferential” of the three historic buildings, while also making it a contemporary mixed-use development project.

Among the latest project tweaks, said Manfredi, is raising the top of the building to reflect what you see on other Back Bay buildings – a minor change that, he added, wouldn’t increase the height of building while providing “a more fitting cap” for it.

Two sides of the building would also be wrapped in light-colored metal, he added, to reduce the “sense of mass” for the entire building.

Alana Spencer, a sustainability consultant for the project, said the building would save 164,000 gallons of water each year via water-reduction measures, and that it wouldn’t need water-cooling towers.

The building would also be “94-percent electric,” she added, saving 22 percent in energy due to glazing, and have a window-to-wall ratio in the 30-percent range – down from an earlier proposal in the 50-percent range.

Martyn Roetter, a Beacon Street resident and past chair of the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay, applauded the development team for taking into account the sustainability aspect of the project, but said he would like them to consider likely advances in technology, as well as expected building code changes, more thoroughly in their analysis.

Roetter also offered to put the design team in touch with several experts he knows to help them achieve a more sustainable building.

John Tankard, a member of the public in attendance at the meeting, expressed concern that the historic façade giving way to a contemporary building behind it would unwittingly create the illusion that the façade had been “pasted on” to it.

“It creates a real dichotomy that doesn’t connect,” Tankard said.

Michael Sinatra, BPDA project manager, as well as Back Bay resident, announced at the onset of the meeting that he would leaving his current position to pursue a new employment opportunity on May 14 – the last day of public comment for this project. Several in attendance at the meeting praised Sinatra’s performance on the job and wished him well on his new endeavor. Public comments can be submitted until that time online at http://www.bostonplans.org/projects/development-projects/761-793-boylston-street or directly to Michael Sinatra, BPDA project manager, via email at [email protected]

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