South End Landmark District commissioners appeared torn Wednesday night.
On the one hand, they liked many of the design aspects of the proposed six-story condo building, with first-floor retail, that would replace the Olde Dutch Cottage Candy shop at the corner of Tremont and Dwight Streets. On the other, they questioned whether the “Art Deco” building as a whole would fit in with the “Victorian-era” style of the neighborhood.
“I like it, absolutely,” Commissioner John Freeman said of the proposed building’s design, “but the question is, ‘Are we doing our job?’”
“I’m waffling,” he continued, “but it doesn’t feel consistent with the [Landmark District], it feels more consistent with Berkeley Street and Back Bay. As much as I like it, I have to argue that side.”
Freeman said he doesn’t necessarily want a Victorian-era building at that site; he just questioned whether the proposed “Art Deco” style would work.
Commissioner Peter Sanborn echoed Freeman’s concerns.
“I think it’s an elegant design, a beautiful design,” he said at the meeting at Boston City Hall, “but my initial reaction is, ‘I think it’d be perfect for Back Bay.’”
Members of the Eight Streets Neighborhood Association voiced similar concerns at a Feb. 1 meeting but ultimately decided “not to oppose” the project.
On Wednesday night, Commissioner Christie Gamp called the building’s design, “unusual,” – the project’s architect, Guy Grassi, agreed – but she also said she thought it worked for the site.
The commissioners were given an overview of the project by Grassi, before asking him, developer Peter Georgantas and marketer Pam Holian questions. The presentation and discussion lasted about 80 minutes.
March 13 Zoning Board of Appeals Meeting
The commission considered the proposal Wednesday under “advisory review,” a preliminary session intended for information-gathering purposes only. Assuming the proposal passes the Zoning Board of Appeals on March 13, Georgantas and company will come back before the commission in April for a decision.
The proposed six-story building nears the 70-foot zoned height limit. However, both Freeman and Sanborn said they could envision a taller building going in at such a prominent location.
“I have no trouble with the size of the building, I think it fits” Freeman said. “In fact, I think it could be a little taller, but I understand why you don’t want to do that.”
Freeman went on to say that a building above the 70-foot limit could have made the approval process more difficult. Grassi agreed.
The current Olde Dutch Cottage Candy building, which would be razed under the proposal, is only one story.
Holian said she canvassed the neighborhood and residents were near unanimous in their support of the project.
“A lot of the comments I got were, ‘Thank God it doesn’t look like the Atelier,’” she said.
If everything goes as planned, Georgantas has said he would like to break ground on the project this coming June or July. It should take about a year to complete, he said.
Other Facts from Wednesday’s Meeting
-- Freeman and Sanborn did raise other design issues with the building, involving the predominance of the Indian limestone instead of brick, the balconies facing Tremont Street and other elements.
-- There are no tenants yet for the two first-floor retail spaces, according to Grassi. “We don’t want food service in the building,” he also said.
-- In addition to the Zoning Board of Appeals, Georgantas, Grassi and Holian plan to go before the Ellis South End Neighborhood Association.
-- No neighboring residents attended Wednesday’s meeting.
-- Commissioners John Amodeo and Catherine Hunt were absent from the meeting.