Imagine sitting in your home one morning and feeling the entire floor shake. That's how Taylor Street resident Louane Hann was notified of the construction happening on her street last Tuesday.
"I was working from home, and all of a sudden, I felt the earth move," she said. "There was a guy with a backhoe and a guy with a hose, and they were ripping the house down."
Hann said neither she nor anyone else in the neighborhood was notified that construction would begin at the wooden house at 8-10 Taylor Street, and that it would involve demolition of the building.
"We get notices about someone getting a roof deck you can't even see half the time, and no one got a notice about this," she said. "It’s unbelievable."
Couple the lack of notice with the complete surprise that the building, which neighbors thought had been approved for a renovation and addition, was being completely demolished. And the day of demolition left dust everywhere, debris on neighbors' porches and properties, and even broke a window at a home next door, said nearby residents.
"During the demolition I saw two kids standing outside watching, and I remember thinking, 'Is it safe for those kids to be breathing that?" Hann said. "All of these old homes have lead in the paint," she said.
Neighbors said they called Boston's Enviornmental Department to complain about the mess and to voice the worry that the old home contained lead paint that was now swirling through the air on their street.
Through those calls to the city, the Landmarks Commission learned that an extra wall on the property was demolished that was not included in the project's original plans, the home's east wall.
and the owner was asked to appear at a public meeting of the Landmarks Commission on Tuesday.
By Monday, Jan. 28th, the project's architect Scott Slarsky said the city's Inspectional Services team had come through the site and determined there was no asbestos or lead paint, and lifted the stop work order due to the environmental concerns. But that still left a stop work order related to the site's demolition of the property's east wall.
Property owner Ramy Rizkalla said contractors and inspectors found the east wall was bowing in, it was rotting, and there was termite damage, and a structural engineer ruled the wall was unsafe to leave on the property. Rizkalla said the decision to take down the wall was approved by the city's Inspectional Services department. However, it is the Landmarks Commission that requested the hearing on Tuesday.
"Though they aren’t going to comment on the design of the east wall, they did want to review the rebuilding, so that’s what we’re going in for on Tuesday," Rizkalla said.
So for now, the project is still on hold until Tuesday night's meeting of the South End Landmarks Commision. The meeting will take place at 6:45 at Boston City Hall, room 801.
But for neighbor Hann and other neighbors who feel like they were fed some kind of bait and switch between the plans that were presented to them and the actual demolition, the damage is already done.
"We’ve lived there about 20 years and really value that house as one of two remaining wooden houses in the South End," said Hann, who wasn't in favor of the orignal plans to begin with because she felt certain modern elements in the design didn't fit in with the neighborhood. The demolition of the extra wall adds insult to injury, she said, calling it "obnoxious and insulting."
"Now it's really heartbreaking to look at that house," she said.