Back Bay Architectural Commission Denies Faux Wisteria at Eliot Hotel; Storefront for Verizon Store on Boylston St.

The Back Bay Architectural Commission (BBAC) on August 10 denied without prejudice  a proposal for a faux wisteria vine on the Eliot Hotel at 370 Commonwealth Ave. but approved planter boxes at the same location, and denied without prejudice a proposal for a new storefront for the Verizon store at 745 Boylston St.

370 Commonwealth Ave.

At 370 Commonwealth Ave., Pascale Schlaefli proposed to install black planters on the existing railings surrounding the patio on Massachusetts Ave., as well as to install faux wisteria vines on the facade of the hotel.

Joe Cornish, Director of Design Review for the Boston Landmarks Commission, said that a subcommittee has been created to deal with lights and faux plantings in the district, but has yet to meet.

Schlaefli said that the black planter boxes would contain real flowers and would not obstruct the sidewalk, and would also “bring some greenery on Mass. Ave.” She said that the planters have already been installed, but are simple to remove should the Commission decide they are not appropriate.

In all, there are nine planters. The Commission voted to approve the planter boxes.

Schlaefli said that the faux wisteria vine would be made of silk flowers and would not look cheap. “We certainly do not want to hide any of the beautiful structure of the Eliot Hotel,” she said, but added that she feels the vine is necessary in order to “stay and reinvent ourselves after COVID.”

There was some discussion over whether or not the vine would be seasonal, and Schlaefli said that was “up for discussion.”

Commissioner David Eisen said that he feels that the vine “interferes with the reading of the architecture.”

One resident commented that he is against the faux wisteria vine, but was in favor of the planter boxes if they had real flowers in them.

Rebecca Brooks, who said she lives nearby and across from the ‘Quin House, said she is not in favor of the faux flowers on the ‘Quin House building, and also had confconcernserns with the wisteria proposal.

“This is Victorian Back Bay,” she said. “We have so many real flowers that are beautiful, and I’m also concerned about if this is approved, that it’s the camel’s nose under the tent.”

Tom High of backbayhouses.org agreed with Commissioners that the faux flowers are “quite disruptive to the architecture.”

Though the Commission approved the planter boxes, it denied without prejudice the faux wisteria vine and remanded it to whatever the subcommittee decides for such proposals.

745 Boylston St.

At 745 Boylston St., architect Kenneth Gruskin proposed to replace the existing Max Brenner storefront with a new one for Verizon, which is moving from its current location next door.

The proposal includes a metallic storefront with the Verizon logo. He explained that it has details that connect it to the building, including “the way the glass is set up in the storefront aligns with the windows above.”

He said that the proposed sign is a “push through sign” that is “very thin” and “internally lit.”

There was quite a bit of discussion about the scale of the storefront, and some Commissioners felt that it should be more in line with the existing Max Brenner storefront.

“It has to do with the way that Verizon likes to orchestrate their interior,” Gruskin said.

Commissioner Robert Weintraub agreed with Commissioner John Crhistiansen that “the scale is way off.”

Commissioner David Eisen said that he “doesn’t think it’s inappropriate” and that he “likes the simplicity,” though he did suggest that the sign band be a little more narrow.

John Tankard, a member of the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay (NABB) Architecture Committee, also said that a “minimalist approach” should be kept, and made some other comments about the glass portion of the storefront.

Sue Prindle, also of the NABB Architecture Committee, said that the committee had concerns about the sign band’s depth and the “size of the lettering,” as well as the “lack of articulation of in and out.”

The Commission ultimately voted to deny this proposal without prejudice, asking the proponent to “find a design that better compliments the scale, details, and materials of the existing building.” The Commission also stated that the “scale, color, material, and massing of the proposed storefront presently is unfit for the architecture of the building.”

The proponent is allowed to come back before the Commission with a different proposal that addresses these concerns.

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