SELDC Approves Ellis Early Learning Playground, Ebenezer Baptist Church Residential Renovation

The South End Landmark District Commission (SELDC) on August 2 approved renovations to the playground at 1 Chandler St., which is currently used by Ellis Early Learning students as well as the greater community. It also approved in concept the nine-unit residential building proposed for the Ebenezer Baptist Church at 157 West Springfield St.

1 Chandler St.

The approved proposal at 1 Chandler St. includes replacing the existing 18-year-old play structure with a new one, replacing the existing damaged rubber surfacing with artificial turf, adding new plant beds, repaint the existing metal fence, and repair the chain link fencing.

Lauren Cook, CEO of Ellis Early Learning, said that the playground is “used regularly” by the school, which has 17 early education classrooms in the neighborhood. It is also heavily used by the community, she said.

Architect Joanne Hiromura talked about the existing elements of the playground that will remain, which include the fences and gates, as well as all of the trees and the granite curbing.

The playground is designed for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers up to five years of age, she said, and community feedback indicated that more play equipment for the younger kids was desired.

The new play equipment will have “more of a natural wood feel to it,” and the play structure will feature recycled wood paneling. Also proposed for the playground are some musical instruments and a play hill with logs for children to climb on. The equipment will feature “softer greens” and beige tones.

The playground will also feature a wood platform for children to stand on so they can better see the trains go by, as this is a favorite activity for many children at the playground.

The proposed plant beds will include “low maintenance” perennials,” Hiromura added.

“This is a fun project,” SELDC Chair John Amodeo said, later adding that “it’s a great design and it will be a fun improvement for that area.” He asked about the plan for protecting the existing trees during the construction process.

Hiromura said that 2×4 planks will be leaned against the trunk, and a snow fence will be installed four feet around the trees.

The Commissioners seemed pleased with the design, and voted to approve the proposal as it was submitted.

157 West Springfield St.

The proposal at 157 W. Springfield St. to convert the Ebenezer Baptist Church into a nine-unit residential building with an addition has come before the SELDC twice before under advisory review, but this month it was up for a vote.

Architect Mike DelleFave presented the proposal, beginning with comments made by the Commission at last month’s advisory review.

He reported that the Commission was pleased with things like the preservation and the design intent, but wanted more information on whether or not Ward Way is private, wanted to see revised dimensions for railings, a different strategy for the large windows on the South side, the setback of the addition, making the addition look separate from the historical church, and looking at more glass for the addition, among a few other things.

DelleFave said that the team determined that Ward Way is a “passageway that defines the property line between 157 and the field that exists at the Hurley School.” He said that in the city’s eyes, it is not a public way.

Currently, the church features an asphalt roof, a lift to the first level on the outside of the building, a chain link fence, empty gardens, and stucco infill.

The proposal includes stripping the entire interior of the church so only the masonry walls are left, removing the existing stained glass windows (to be retained for a future use), removing the roof and trusses, removing the lift and the metal egress stair on the side of the church, removing the doors and stucco, and removing the chain link fence as well as the non-historic railing.

All brick will be restored, and a new entry canopy will be created on the side of the building.

New windows will be installed on the side that are based on the originals and will feature a stained glass arch top, a sidewalk will be created on the side and the entry will be brought down to grade, eliminating the need for the stairs and lift, new glass doors based on the original doors on the front of the building, and the gardens will also be revitalized in keeping with South End standards.

A new railing will be installed at the front, where the stoops will also be restored.

DelleFave also spoke about the proposed addition, saying that the Commission had asked if it could be pushed back at the previous hearing, when it only had a two-foot setback.

“We’ve pushed the addition back to four foot six and actually added a little bit of height to this,” DellaFave said. About six inches of height is being added to the third level in order to push the addition back further and the proportion of the cornice line has also been increased.

“We are looking at adding what is 20 percent more glass to the proposal,” DelleFave said, by using a “highly reflective” infill panel. The existing roof line will be maintained.

Additionally. The proposed deck above the cornice line has now been “tucked behind the brick” so it can no longer be seen.

SELDC Chair John Amodeo told the team that “clearly, you’ve been listening and your responsiveness is refreshing, so thank you.”

Commissioner Fabian D’Souza said he likes the “new design of the side windows with the semi-circular transom over it.” He also said he likes the removal of the cement fascia board on the roof addition. “It just makes this a little less obtrusive than the previous version,” he said.

Commissioner John Freeman said that “you’ve done everything we’ve asked you to do…I think it’s moved hugely and in an even better direction.” He suggested setting up a subcommittee to work out various details, including the historical pieces of the building.

Amodeo agreed with D’Souza about the “side wall and the stained glass windows…you did exactly what we asked you to do. The resolution is completely appropriate and pleasing.” He said that another detail for the subcommittee to work out is the posts for the handrails.

He praised the team for its “responsiveness” regarding the setbacks for the addition. “It makes all the difference,” Amodeo said. “It looks great.

He said that while he likes “in concept” the reflective panels, he’d like to know more about the material before officially approving it.

The SELDC voted to approve this proposal in concept, with “details and various architectural elements to be remanded to a subcommittee” consisting of at least John Amodeo and John Freeman. All subcommittee hearings will be open to the public once scheduled.

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