SELDC Hears Second Advisory Review for Seven Story Multi-Use Building at 1395 Washington St.

The South End Landmark District Commission (SELDC) heard a second advisory review on January 4 for the proposed project at 1395 Washington St., which is to raze the existing one story commercial building and construct a seven-story building with retail space and 35 condominium units above. The building is being developed by Peter Georgantas.

Attorney Marc LaCasse said that the project is undergoing the Article 80 Small Project Review with the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA), and a first advisory meeting with the SELDC was held on August 3. The project team has since met with the Union Park Neighborhood Association as well as presented at a BPDA public meeting. He said that changes have been made to the proposal based on feedback received so far.

Architect Dartagnan Brown explained that the 35 condo units will be a mixture of studio, one, two, and three bedroom units. He went through some of the elements of the proposal, which include light colored brick and metal and folds in the facade.

The proposed seventh floor is “pushed back significantly” from the front of the building, Brown said. The residential entry, which will be on the right of the building, has a “horizontal cornice band” that allows people to see that it is a residential entrance. It also features white corrugated metal paneling as well as an intercom and entry buttons.

The light colored brick proposed “carries up to the sixth floor,” and on the rear facade, there will be “decorative metal” for the balconies as well as fiber cement panels, he said.

The height limit in the district is 70 feet, but the proposed height of this building reaches 83 feet.

Brown also said that there are some “decks that alternate between units at the top” on the front of the facade. Additionally, the ream has been working with the BPDA and others on “resiliency items,” as well as relocating the mechanical equipment to the “back section of the retail on the ground floor plan,” but that does not change the facade design.

Commissioner John Freeman asked Brown what he thinks “makes this a South End building,” and Brown said he believes that there is a presence of a ground floor, a middle, and a top floor, which has been brought up several times at past hearings as being characteristic of buildings in the neighborhood.

Cameron Merrill, an attorney representing the condominium building to the left of the proposed building said that residents in that building have “concerns about the joining of the two buildings,” and looks forward to working through the issues with the project team.

South End resident Michael Schlow said he has lived at 1385 Washington St. since 2005. “It’s my neighborhood,” he said. “I’m a big supporter of the neighborhood.” He said he lives on the penthouse level and his building was required to “adhere to the 70 foot height restriction.” He also said that he has concerns with the height of the proposed building.

Other residents also chimed in with concerns about height, and Jeffrey Fishbein said that he does not believe metal paneling is “an appropriate material for a South End building” on the ground floor and suggested the team explore a different material for that. He said that the “massing is generally successful.”

Commissioner Fabian D’Souza had questions relating to the colors chosen and how they fit in with the surrounding buildings.

“Storefronts are meant to invite you in,” said Commissioner Freeman. “I don’t think these are there yet.”

He added that “I don’t have any problem with the crenelation and the bending,” and said that punched opening windows are “much more typical” instead of the ganged ones that are proposed.

He also said that the “large openings on your top floor” are “almost monumental,” and are “not appropriate to this street wall building. If the building were more South End in other ways, I think that they could be appropriate.”

He also urged the team to “think about how lighting would work on the sign band.”

He then addressed the height concerns, saying that he has not seen “in all my years on the South End Landmark Commission, such development pressure in the South End.” He continued, “It is very hard for us to allow buildings to go past it because every building wants to.”

Commissioner Catherine Hunt said, “I agree with pretty much everything that’s been said,” adding that “when you’re in the middle of the block, it’s just really hard to come up with something that distinguishes the building from being different when it really has to fit in more.”

Commissioner John Amodeo said that he is “warming up to the folding of the facade.” He also said that “I think it’s very important to understand how the view from Union Park St. over the Greek Orthodox Church will be with this building behind it.”

He also noted that the SELDC is permitted to “set the height of the building based on the height of the adjacent buildings,” and “not necessarily” what the zoning requirement is. Amodeo also added that he supports comments made about having the metal paneling on the ground floor, as well as agreed with comments made about punched windows versus ganged windows. He thinks these things would make the facade of the building “even more successful.”

After all comments were made and questions were answered, Amodeo said to the project team, “good luck. This is a great project. It will contribute greatly to the district.” He also said that the commission anticipates continuing to work with the team as the project develops. Since this was an advisory review, no vote was taken. The proponent will have to file a design review application with SELDC staff in order to receive a vote on the project.

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