Taylor Street Wooden House Renovations Blocked by Neighborhood

The historic wooden house at 8-10 Taylor Street, built in 1899, was approved for renovations by all city agencies, but progress is currently stalled due to neighborhood concerns.

When Ramy Rizkalla bought his new home on Taylor Street, he knew it'd be a long road to renovation. That's because the home, which he originally believed was built in the mid-1800s with original ornamentation and features and would be heavily protected by city agencies. 

That was before he found out most of what you see on the home today was built in the 1970s. 

"None of the windows, none of the ornamentation, none of the mouldings, none of it is original," Rizkalla said. "All of that was added in the 70s and 80s."

And therein lies the solution -- and the problem. The renovations, which were approved over an 18-month process through the Boston Redevelopment Authority, the Boston Landmarks Commission, and the South End Historical Society, were blocked this week due to neighborhood concerns.

"That's one of the biggest problems - there really is a substantial misunderstanding of what people are looking at, and what is truly historic," Rizkalla said. "We have all the necessary approvals but I think there’s been a need for clarification."

Until the situation is resolved, the site will stay as a façade and a hole in the ground, a far cry from the owner's original intentions. 

"I saw a tremendous amount of potential of what could be done," Rizkalla said, who said the biggest reason for the full renovation of the property was his interest in contributing to the streetscape in Boston.

"We really are great appreciators of architecture, and the opportunity to  continue to integrate contemporary architectures with historic neighborhoods was so alluring to us," he said. 

Renovation Plans
The original property is split into two properties, 8 Taylor St. and 10 Taylor St. 8 Taylor St. is the existing home and 10 Taylor St. is a parking space. According to Scott Slarsky, the project's architect, the idea of the project is to make the home into a single family house, expanding from 2400 square feet to 3400 square feet, and preserve the only historically significant piece of the home, the house's north elevation, he said. 

"It will be a gorgeous project," Slarksy said. "The completed building will be the first wooden house built in the South End since 1899."

As for the new parts of the house, Slarsky said the new façade that will face Washington Park was closely researched and planned.

"We worked really closely with the South End Landmarks Commission to have the rhythm and proportions of South End buildings," he said. 

Next Steps
Rizkalla and Slarksy are now again working with the Landmarks Commission and the Boston Redevelopment authority to clarify the constructon plan to the neighborhood and continue construction on the property. A meeting is planned next week with the Landmarks Comission where both will explain the 12-month construction plan and process. 

"I so deeply believe in the finished product," Rizkalla said. "I don't need extra space and it's not about having a bigger house - it's really about building architecture in the city of Boston and involving the enviornment and evolving the neighborhood."

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MPreston January 30, 2013 at 12:56 PM
a house has rhythm ? "I saw a tremendous amount of potential of what could be done," "When Ramy Rizkalla bought his new home on Taylor Street" Did he buy a "new" home or did he by a lot with a house he was planning to tear down ? " it's really about building architecture in the city of Boston and involving the enviornment and evolving the neighborhood." Please explain "building architecture". from the infamous Wikipedia - Architecture is both the process and product of planning, designing and construction. Please tell me how the environment is involved and how the neighborhood is envolved. "As for the new parts of the house" PARTS ? sounds more like a whole new house than a part.
Bradford January 30, 2013 at 02:24 PM
The approval process was going on for almost two years, then they start the work and the neighbors cry foul! If you want to know what is going on in your neighborhood sign up for South End Neighborhood Early Notification System from the City of Boston: http://www.cityofboston.gov/subscribe/ and get the weekly permitting/zoning/meetings info or attend neighborhood association meetings. Now we are going to have to look at a construction site with a front frame up for the next year - nice... A slightly larger, NEW house on what was a eyesore of a lot is sure better than what was there... I would be pissed if I lived across the street.
Southender January 30, 2013 at 02:48 PM
Unless they want a hole in the ground like Downtown Crossing they should start building again. It is too late to stop the project now. It was a great project to begin with and opposition stupid.
walter ferme January 30, 2013 at 05:06 PM
This is where I say our type of democracy fails... Laws should be respected: when a permit is issued, unless it is a monstrous decision which a court will decide, the poor lad who got his permit should have a right to build what he was permitted for! Too many chefs in the city of Boston development kitchen.
salted.caramel January 30, 2013 at 05:31 PM
1. Yes, architecture can have rhythm 2. Assume he bought the property for the lot. So what? How is that bad? If you wanted the property to be unchanged perhaps you should have bought it. This is private property. 3. In case you missed it, this underwent an 18 month "process". Process doesn't mean you get your way. Does private property mean anything? 4. It is obvious how architecture is a part of neighborhood evolution. This is a project that will ultimately raise everyone's property values and make the neighborhood safer. It is shocking how people constantly act against their own self interest.
Roxxma January 30, 2013 at 08:49 PM
The article is way too vague.. Who blocked it and and why under what authority? The neighbors? South End Landmark District Commission (probably not the South End Historical Society, though the article states it was part of the approval process, but it is a private organization and not a government agency, so I assume its role was to offer guidance), the City -ISD etc? Is he following guidelines set out for construction times and site plan maintenance and management etc? There could be dozens of reasons for it being stopped, but the article doesn't state any other than vague "neighborhood concerns".
JMc January 30, 2013 at 08:51 PM
The current issue surrounds the demolition of the existing building. The neighborhood was presented with, and the BRA approved, an addition to be constructed on the open property and be attached to the existing building. The permits issued, as listed on the ISD web site, give permission for demolition. So the question becomes how did an addition turn into a demolish-and-replace. There is a hearing on this on Tuesday, the subject of which is "... Project approved in July 2012 did not include outright demolition; only renovations and an addition". So there is currently a conflict over who approved what...
JJ January 30, 2013 at 09:57 PM
The bottom line is.....the building is down. A hole exists. Unless the neighbors want an eyesore for years to come. Build the darn thing and get it over with. I think the owner did his best to satisfy everyone except those who didn't want anything to change.
Brownstone January 31, 2013 at 12:07 AM
This article neglects to tackle the main reason why Ramy Rizkalla's project was issued a stop work order, which is due to the safety of neighbors: no one was informed of a complete demolition, debris fell on neighboring houses and broke a hole into someone's bedroom, two porches were damaged, no precautions were taken for the safe removal and cleanup of lead paint which is now on abutting properties and in public common areas. The fact that the Landmarks Commission is revisiting the issue is merely a side affect, and really a little late since the beautiful home is no longer here. Neighbors were part of the process from the onset, but were misled and thus the trust in Rizkalla has vanished. Everyone has a different reason for not embracing the project: the historic value of the home in a historic neighborhood, the height of his proposed project (which has been altered several times), the blockage of sun and shadow his new home will cast over the neighborhood. Ramy's story (nice press release from the architecture firm) about retaining the historical value of the house is a farce, because the plans of his addition are quite modern. If walls were rotted in the former structure, he could have rebuilt. Demolition was never mentioned in any prep meetings. How a permit was issued is outrageous. No one wants a hole in the ground, but they don't want a high rise either, nor lead poisoning, and since distrust is already established, who know what the 'real' plan is for this home.
South End Resident January 31, 2013 at 12:12 AM
Wow. This article neglects to mention the actual reason a "stop work" was placed on the project. To blame the "neighbors" is outright wrong. The "neighbors" were simply concerned about the lead paint being sprinkled all over the surrounding properties. The contractor claimed they weren't responsible for protecting people from lead paint so the city was notified. In the process, apparently there were some questions that arose about the validity of the demolition permit, given the historic nature of the property. Never-the-less, the stop work simply said the safety of the neighbors and workers was ignored and required RRP certifications rules were not followed. So, please remember there are two sides to every story.
Brownstone January 31, 2013 at 01:16 AM
Sara, Please consider doing a followup to your story and knock on the doors of neighbors. Talk to city officials, the South End Historical folks and the Landmarks Commission. There is clearly more to the story than what you got from Rizkalla and his architecture team, likely via a self-promoting press release.
South End Resident January 31, 2013 at 01:35 AM
Apparently there is even more to this story... the city of boston is reviewing architectural violations in a public hearing on Feb. 5th. According to the hearing notice, "Project approved in July 2012 did not include outright demolition; only renovations and an addition which did include removal of west and south (rear) facades." The stop work order stated issues about the protection of neighbors and construction workers regarding safe lead removal and other incidents that occurred. So, seems the architect and owner should be more concerned with their contractor (Holland Construction) than placing blame on the neighbors!
Sara Jacobi January 31, 2013 at 02:13 AM
Hey all - I definitely intend to continue following this story. I'll be at the public hearing and will keep everyone up-to-date on what's happening with the project. Anyone is welcome to email me or reach out anytime with any side of the story (sara.jacobi@patch.com) and you're also all welcome to submit opinion letters to the editor anytime on neighborhood issues. Thanks!
Bradford January 31, 2013 at 03:09 AM
Neighbors should be less concerned about a little lead paint (which by the way sounds like a bs reason/last resort attempt to throw a wrench in) but rather with the major issues in the vicinity... why not put your collective energy into protecting those who walk through Peter's Park after dark, or getting the twits to sell the Sahara eyesore, or minding your own business and let folks add value to our own substantially inflated properties...
South End Resident January 31, 2013 at 04:19 AM
It is our business when debris is falling on homes, a hole was put in one neighbor's bedroom, and possibly (we'll let the city decide) permits were not appropriately obtained regarding safety and demolition. Most of us are friendly with Ramy, have listened to him, and support him. He has, in fact, been open with neighbors about the project from the start. The blame for the latest issue seems to be due to some carelessness during the execution of the project. Most agree the old building needed improvement and appreciate that Ramy has taken this on. We are passionate about our neighborhood which is why we're active. For the record, many are actively working with police to improve the safety of the parks and our homes. A community should be active, watch out for each other, and make sure no one is being taken advantage of. It's working in our case. This should be applauded.
Ra-zilla January 31, 2013 at 11:33 PM
Ra-zilla January 31, 2013 at 11:45 PM
Although it's generally appreciated to develop the South End further to enhance the neighborhood, a stop work order was issued due to numerous violations, summarized as work that exceeded what the permit allowed. This was posted on the front door of 8 Taylor St with a following list of numerous violations, but it got taken down. Does anyone have a copy? Anyway, lead contamination into neighboring properties is a serious matter. Some neighbors have children and the developmental impact from lead poisoning is well known. As a physician Ramy should have known better and done due diligence to ensure that the demolition company took steps to mitigate lead exposure into the environment. Also, when asked about demolition plans, Ramy responded with the following, which was circulated to the entire neighborhood: "The plans are the same. On [sic] order to repair and rebuild some of the walls and in order to join the two structures some demolition will be necessary. I apologize for any inconvenience. Please let me know if I can answer any questions." Some demolition? Two structures? Only the facade is left.
Sara Jacobi February 01, 2013 at 06:08 PM
Just wanted to direct everyone's attention to the latest article on the situation at 8-10 Taylor: http://patch.com/A-16XZ This one goes into more detail on the stop work order, the reasons for it, and the next steps.


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