SELDC Approves re-cladding and Mechanical Equipment for 440 and 450 Tremont St.

The South End Landmark District Commission (SELDC) met virtually on November 2, where they approved a proposal at 440 and 450 Tremont St. to re-clad the facades of both buildings, as well as install new mechanical equipment behind a new raised parapet. Additionally, the existing plaza and concrete sidewalks will be dug up and re-poured after completing work to make the buildings fully electric.

Architect Dunja Vujinic presented the proposal for these buildings, which are in the neighborhood’s protection area, giving Commissioners jurisdiction only over height, massing, landscape, and “views to and from the district,” according to Commissioner John Freeman.

Vujinic said that the buildings are located in the Castle Square block and “are two buildings that have not gotten the facade cladding that they did at Castle Square.”

She said that the project includes a “deep energy retrofit” that will include re-cladding of the facades with a continuous panel with windows pre-installed into the panels. She said the existing pre-cast concrete parapet will be removed and replaced with one “that’s significantly higher to accommodate everything that we’re doing on the roof” to install new mechanical equipment for the electrification of the building.

She said that the “panels will be stacked on top of each other horizontally to cover up the mechanical equipment.”

The equipment is required to sit on raised steel platforms to distribute the weight evenly. The new parapet will be “about three foot seven off the highest point of the roof,” Vujinic said.

Commissioner David Sheppard asked how far the panels will stick out from the building, to which Vujinic said that “nine inches are on the property” and “approximately three inches will be over the sidewalk.”

Vujinic also said that once the gas systems are removed from the building and new electric service is brought in, which requires digging up the existing plaza and sidewalks, the concrete will be replaced “in kind.”

She said that the total height is 68 feet “as far as [the Inspectional Services Department] is concerned,” and “everything else is above that point.”

The highest piece of equipment sits at 78 feet from street level, and some photos of a mockup of the mechanical equipment was shown. There is visibility from certain angles.

“I’d like to see a proposal for a screen,” Commissioner Freeman said.

“For us, the downfall of a screen is the quantity of equipment,” Vujinic said, adding that the new equipment requires service from the outside and the screen would therefore have to be removable. She said there is no space inside the building for the equipment, nor is there a basement.

“I am happy to take your advice and explore a screen,” she said.

“At least give it a try,” Freeman responded.

Commissioner Fabian D’Souza said that this is a “unique approach of re-cladding this building as el as making it more energy efficient. Our biggest issue is the visibility of the mechanical equipment,” which he said needs to be reduced.

Sheppard also made a comment that even though these buildings are in the protection area and not in the historic district, he is “surprised and a bit disappointed that” the Commission is not challenging the covering up of brick with these panels.

Ultimately, the Commission voted to approve the proposal “as submitted with the proviso that the applicant explore options for somehow screening the equipment,” Freeman said, for which details are remanded to Landmarks staff to decide to either approve on their own or bring back to the Commission for a vote.

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