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Audubon Circle to get one of those generic apartment buildings that are all the rage

839 Beacon Street proposal

Architect's rendering

A developer has filed plans to replace a low-slung commercial building with a 45-unit, five-story apartment building at 839 Beacon St., between the circle and the turnpike.

The Fong family of Toronto says six of the units in the $17.5-million building will be affordable. The plan calls for 30 parking spaces and 4,500 square feet of first-floor retail space.

In planning the building and site, careful attention was paid to the existing environment with the building’s massing and height matching the existing apartment buildings directly east of the project site, and the exterior building materials selected to harmonize with the existing neighborhood.

Construction could begin towards the end of this year, with the building ready for tenants a year later.

839 Beacon St. small-project review application (2.4M PDF).

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Comments

It'll finally be nice to have a Tenant in the city. Their prices are unbeatable, and they always have just what I need.

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Not really related, but in the neighborhood, and in the vein of "how did the neighbors allow this?":

Just down the street from that is this abomination: https://goo.gl/RUkDhv

I took a photo of it when walking by it the other day: http://static.stevereads.com/img/beacon_st_abomination_2016-03-27.jpg

It's hard to get even good-looking buildings approved. How does this sort of bolted-on ugliness get approved?

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The existing building is fine. It's just got these sad businesses that have no place on the streetfront of a thriving city.

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Mainly because it's so jarring. There is something to be said for a building that has a crazy non-sensical addition plopped down on top of it.

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Do you mind if I put a motel on top of your bow-front?

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But it has this whole archeological, layers of civilization thing going for it. There is a lot of this kind of thing in Hong Kong, and it just fascinates me.

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Lots of European cities have that too and it's just part of the cityscape. To far the other way and you end up with the Hotel Commonwealth which could fit in at any outdoor shopping plaza in the sprawl of northern VA, etc...

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I thought you photoshopped that at first. That is truly horrible . The new proposed building does not offend me but that addition to an otherwise attractive building is offensive.

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I lived right across from the new building (next to Fathers....loved that place!)

That ugly Frankenstein building was there then but looked like it had been added "recently".

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Pretty sure those are all BU student housing, mostly grad students. It's known as campus as the "Trailer Park in the Sky."

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BU is the biggest employer in the city, so they get to do pretty much whatever they want. hence the trailer park in the sky (those are BU on-campus apartment units)

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BU is the largest non-hospital employer in the city: http://www.bostonredevelopmentauthority.org/getattachment/7ced9a9e-cb5c-...

I'm actually surprised that BU is SO far ahead of all other non-hospitals.

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But otherwise this looks like a good infill building. Exactly the kind of housing addition we need throughout the city. Plus, we can look forward to shopping at TENANT.

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It needs parking, there is a shortage in this city.

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Why do we build these new buildings and not mimic the rounded, brick rowhouses which are already there?

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everything today is prefab modular units. anything other than boxes costs more money, and time, which is also money. I would love to see developers make modern versions of Brick victorian buildings, but thats unlikely.

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If you look around, this building fits in more with that section of Beacon Street than not. Most of the the buildings between Park Drive and the Pike on Beacon are 5 to 6 stories tall, and are not pleasant rounded brick row houses but post WW1 apartment buildings. Please also don't call bow front brick houses Brownstones unless you are talking about Park Slope or Bed-Stuy. We use red and dark red brick for the most part in Boston. New York used building materials taken from sandstone (brownstone) quarries in the CT River Valley and Wisconsin.

It would be nice to have this pleasant city with three to four story buildings with pleasant little gardens out front and service alleys in the back. However, you would be paying $15,920 per month for a two bedroom unit owing to the lack of housing versus population density.

The great thing about this site is that they are adding 45 units of housing and keeping nearly the same amount of retail space to a site that had no housing . As far as the parking is concerned, does anyone really want to rent a dark back alley unit on the ground floor outside of the dumpsters and the alley or should that space be used for the more economical parking space? If so, go put a fight with the BRA Willard.

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The alternative is raising incomes to the point where the residents can afford nice buildings.

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You get on that with your smart guy book learning and all. For now building more housing adds to the supply, therefore lowering housing costs in the aggregate. (Adam Smith mic drop).

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Drop that mic on your foot? The supply and demand argument to housing in a market like Boston is simplistic and inaccurate. It's not like you're producing toilet paper and when everyone has enough rolls they stop buying it and the price goes down. People are buying investment properties. The amount of build-out you would have to do to meet the needs of investors (and wannabes) AND to bring the prices down for middle class people looking to live in the city is never going to happen.

Given the speed with which we build things and the market cycles, Boston will run out of land long before we meet the demand. Eventually things are going to cool off somewhat and financing for more housing will slow up and the scarcity of medium-income housing will remain. Luxury units will still be created for foreign investors, but probably at a slower rate.

A simple build more and the price will go down mantra is not a housing policy.
[edited for annoying typos.]

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People have been moaning about Boston running out of land since the 1840's. The city has always responded. First it was fill the coves and wetlands. Later it was to go up. Now it is go up even higher and utilize former industrial sites.

Investors build market rate housing and reap the reward. This is my third up cycle of Boston residential real estate. When the down cycle kicks in and those same investors take a bath while the customer takes advantage of the lower prices. This happened in the late 1890', the 1930's through 1981 around here, 1989-1991, 2009-2011 and will happen again.

If you are too ignorant to realize that then there no reasoning with you.

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There was no down cycle recently around here. Rents in Boston kept rising during the recession. Many parts of the Boston area kept their property values or even saw them go up. If someone lost money it is because they did something foolish.

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You can't not build your way out of an effectively limitless amount of outside speculation.

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If you are too ignorant to realize that then there no reasoning with you.

ditto.

Also, I am composed of elastomer polymers, whereas you largely consist of adhesive -- all negative utterances and aspersions carom off my person whereupon they cohere to you.

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I will wave my magic wand and... poof! The residential tax rate in Boston has quintupled! But I have good news! The residential exemption has quadrupled. If you live in the property you own, you pay essentially nothing unless it's a million dollar house. If you're renting out your housing, you can deduct expenses against your tax liability, but you're going to be paying more than you were yesterday. If you want to own investment property, or adopt a Mordecai Levinson approach to real estate brokerage (better to hold it unoccupied forever than risk depressing values by selling below what you think it's worth), you will now pay dearly for it.

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This is very true. The amount of demand is not fixed. There are no limits on outside investors and the population keeps growing to due immigration mostly.

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It won't make much of a difference at all because there are no limits on outside speculation unlike other places. Without a flat population you just add congestion.

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The residents who are here are strapped. Cultural life is weak. The houses are expensive but people can't afford to keep them up, so the overall presentation goes down.

Look around that neighborhood and tell me the society that built those brick rowhouses wasn't wealthier than ours.

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It's true in areas, sure, but drive around JP, Roslindale, Brighton, West Roxbury, etc... and tell me you're seeing that most houses are under maintained. Really?

I'd be interested to see some data about the huge diminishment of the extensive tenement life in the West End, North End, etc... There's just less density due to smaller families, development, etc... but that also means there are less poor people packed into a small area (for better or worse).

When was the golden age that we've lost? Where there were strong social structures and economic mobility and equality of access? I'd love to see the comment threads for when the big bad developers wanted to fill in the wetlands of the Back Bay to build housing for rich toffs. Widdett Circle would seem like a throw away.

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Is crappy little boxes like a run-down rural strip mall.

Oh, you mean what's next to it? It's just an older version of the same thing.

I agree it's kind of ugly and unimaginative. But it's the right scale for the location. This is what Boston needs more of, and will get more of. I hope they won't all be so ugly.

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Somebody, probably Robert Campbell, talks about how we need "background" buildings that form an overall cityscape - and which allows for the occasional "landmark" building. Boston has a distinct feel because of this sort of thing, and it's nice to see a developer taking the neighboring context into account, as opposed to some of the other stuff we're seing (I'm thinking of this thing at Washington and Green, which is completely out of character with the old buildings along Green).

Still, maybe it's because I'm now posting about these things fairly frequently now, I'm struck by how they all seem to be coming out of some sort of Ikea architecture catalog (and while I probably won't be around to see it, I wonder what happens in 40 years to all these five- and six-story woodframe buildings).

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I like the proposal at Washington and Green. I think it has vision. Yes, it doesn't fit in with the surrounding buildings, but mostly because it doesn't look like decrepit crap. You want maybe he should paint it to match Royal Fried Chicken? Or Salcedo Auto Center? The vision is that these urban strip malls are all going to be torn down too, for mid-rise housing all the way down the street, and having the corner property at least look interesting gets the new block off to a good start.

And yeah, the first one is going to have exorbitant rent. But the more you build, they cheaper they will get. Every little complaint about building more housing has the principal effect of reducing housing supply. The only way housing will get cheaper is if there is more housing.

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Ultimately, if it becomes so expensive to live here, people will leave, and employers will follow. Make the corners interesting, fill in the rest of the block with more mundane, but go dense all the way.

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The amount of transit doesn't increase proportionally. You can't build you way out of all the speculation and demand.

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Very interesting that the building at Green street has been highly praised at archboston.com that is usually very critical with almost every design that happens in the city.

Also, I find a bit rich to talk about "context" in that area of Washington and Green: Empty lot used as a parking next to the T stop (should be a crime!), industrial land in Green with Brookside, the ugly as sin parking lot of Green st. market.. and don't get me started on Washington. Independently of the design I see a lot of positives in the proposal.

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30 parking spots is too many for this site considering its location. Save money on the parking and put it into more interesting architecture. Parking costs are part of why development is so expensive here and results in these prefab buildings that less costly to build.

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This hideous brutalist box is being shoved down the neighborhood's throat and all some people can do is whine about parking...

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Do you mean the Beerworks lofts, the big empty parking lot next to that, the various insurance/medical offices behind it on Brookline or the BU dorms and student housing? If this was on the other side of the Circle, I'd buy your argument but not here.

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You're missing the context of my comment. Parking is expensive for developers and mostly wasted space in areas close to downtown like this where car ownership is not a must. In order to recoup some of the profit lost in being forced to put in so much parking, developers will design a cookie-cutter building on the cheap. We are seeing this time and time again. People like yourself completely miss this point and demand more parking at buildings then are shocked when the designs are not elaborate. It's connected.

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Adorable!

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Not for nothing, but the building it would abut on the left there is indistinguishable from hundreds of other apartment complexes throughout the city (Allston / Brighton / Back Bay / Mission Hill / Jamaica Plain). Nobody complains that all of those look the same. Something tells me that design was considered inexpensive, stylish, and inoffensive in the early part of the 20th century.

This isn't the 1920s. New buildings don't need to -- and should not -- continue to look like what they did 90 years ago. Would it be nice to see more architectural diversity? Sure. But it's time we started prioritizing the real issue -- the severe lack of housing in and around the city.

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Build it. Build 3 of them.

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And stack 10 on top of each other, that's the only way to bring prices down.

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Does this mean Superb Bicycle and Audubon Circle (restaurant) are being displaced?

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Probably. Bummer. Another small neighborhood place bites the dust in the name of luxury condo density for the anti-nimby kids.

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Unless during the construction they rupture a natural gas line and take out the other side of the street.

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Steeve is right, this is the sort of run-down building across the street from those businesses.

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RIP An Tua Nua

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Adam:

On both chrome and IE, I can't see the comments until I submit a comment. Very strange behavior, and new today AFAIK.

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Will take a look, apologies in the meantime.

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Same here can't troll I mean actively participate in a discussion if I cant see the comments! Comments only visible for older postings!

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Could you go to the home page and scroll down to the post about the guy smashing a bottle on the head of another guy? Do you see a link for X number of comments? And if so, what happens when you click on that link? If you don't see a link for some number of comments, obviously let me know, too!

I'm thinking this may have to do with the caching system I turned on last week to fix the problem with the site slowing to a crawl and crashing once or twice a day. So far, that problem seems to have gone away, but it may have introduced this new comments number issue. Story pages and the home page may not be refreshed at the same time, so you could wind up with a story with comments on it that an anonymous visitor won't notice on the home page yet (this isn't an issue for logged-in users, because that sort of caching is turned off for them).

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I think they've got the height at sidewalk depth exactly right. But I'd love to see a few more apartments up top, set back from the façade. Why not one more floor up, with front roof decks? You wouldn't get extra shading for the most part because they'd be set back, you'd get a few more units that wouldn't even be visible from that side of the street, you'd get more outdoor space to enjoy the Marathon, etc.

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Seems like it was called something different (An Tua Nua?) later. Is that still there?

It was funny, even though I lived across the street from that place in college, The Ark was a NU place and as a BU student I just never went in there.

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Became An Tua Nua, then Arc, now nothing really until this gets built.

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This one is literally close to home. For the last ten years, I've been living on the other side of Beacon just past the other side of Park Drive. For 25 years before that, I lived a few blocks away on the Riverway. The recent construction near the Beacon/Park Drive intersection has been extremely annoying and the building going up has a bit too much glass, but it isn't nearly as boring or obnoxious as all the high-rises going up over on Boylston Street. This project doesn't look totally out of place, though the model doesn't reflect the result of the massive over-the-Pike project that will be built behind it any century now.

The buildings across Beacon with the stuck-in "penthouses" are hideous (i.e., the "penthouses" are hideous, not the buildings themselves). My sense is that there have been zoning changes to prevent anything similar.

--gpm

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