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Developers show off proposed tower next to the old BU Theatre

Proposed Huntington Avenue tower

Architect's rendering. See it larger.

The owner of the Huntington Avenue block that includes the old BU Theatre says it will sell the theater building to the group that now runs it for $1 in exchange for city permission to build a 32-story building with 426 residential units atop two adjoining parcels.

Under plans filed with the BPDA, developers Fan Du, John Matteson and Steve Goodman would also set aside space in their new tower for cultural space to be programmed by the theater's current operators, the Huntington Theatre Co. The developers bought the theater from Boston University, which has plans for its own theater space on its campus along Commonwealth Avenue.

The plans call for 114 parking spaces in an underground garage.

The Project façade is designed to serve as an extension of the B.U. Theatre, with theatre functions dominating the sidewalk and bringing the Theatre out to the street edge. The Project will provide a new lobby and accessible entrance for the Theatre, and new opportunities for retail/ restaurant space that will complement the surrounding cultural uses. A smaller residential lobby will also be located along Huntington Avenue, at the midpoint of the new building, and to the left of the residential lobby entrance, there will be a third entrance to a large retail/restaurant space. All three entrances will connect visually to the streetscape through full-height, exterior storefront windows. The second floor, above the new Theatre lobby, will provide break-out space for theatregoers during intermissions, and will include a large, outdoor balcony above the new Theatre lobby, distinguishing the new building to the east from the old Theatre façade.

The design of the new building is inspired by Greek drama masks. These "masks" manifest themselves as large light and dark bands that wrap the façade and will serve as an iconic focal point for the Avenue of the Arts, because of the site's location near the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Huntington Avenue.

Front of proposed building
Another view of proposed building

Huntington Avenue project notification avenue (33M PDF).

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Comments

Now would be a good time to knock down and replace the Midtown Hotel and replace or rebuild Symphony Towers as a gateway project to the South End.

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The street level ends up looking so damn generic. Long stretches of glass windows,entrances to soulless lobbies, "high end retail", absolutely no character at all. There used to be a certain quaintness and rundown charm to that stretch of Huntington Ave, but that's not allowed anymore.

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WTF are you talking about? Quaintness? The Midtown is a solid wall of barren brick, the old bank building is always half leased with nearly dead retailers, the theater stretch of the block is mostly a blank brick wall except for the noodle restaurant and Unos, NEC's buildings are brick walls with closed entrances, and the YMCA is a huge wall with only one active main entrance. Even NU's campus is mostly blank walls until Punter's pub. That entire side of the street is D-E-A-D and has been for most of the postwar period.

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The long forgotten Symphony Cinema movie theater was in that area, right near the BU Theater. I also believe there was a gay bar called the Shed right around there for a while in the early/mid 70s.

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was in the building to the left of 'Old France'. (See the Fenway News PDF I linked to below.) I believe it is also part of the Huntington Theatre's scenery and prop shop (soon to move to an Everett warehouse) and it will also be demolished.

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that place must suck up so much power to leave the city in the dark

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Looks like Clark W. Griswold Jr. did the lighting. Hit the auxiliary power.

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didn't do the wiring.

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When did those snow covered peaks show up in Southie?

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The 26' tall, 6' wide wind screen placed on the sidewalk right on the NW corner of the site that makes effective wind gusts acceptable in that location seems to be missing from the renderings and all of the other graphics.....wonder if that'll actually end up being built.

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Wow. Can you say "completely out of scale with the neighborhood"? Not that I think for a minute that he really thinks he's going to get 32 stories, even with the $1 sale to a non-profit ploy. Looks like a negotiating tactic to me.

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Agreed the scale is off, everything else in the area needs to be 25-40 stories.

How can you get all the housing we need built if everything needs to stay the same size.?

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You're not going to get any useful housing in that neighborhood because it is only for millionaires. And tall buildings are not helpful in the least. The plan for increasing [reasonably affordable] housing supply is to replace all the wooden houses in the outer neighborhoods with 5 story buildings.

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Every millionaire that gets a house in that tower doesn't turn an affordable apartment outside the city center into a condo.

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Every millionaire who gets a condo there won't be buying something in the South End or Dorchester and renovating it well beyond the means of the person he or she outbid.

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No it doesn't.

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That's what's really important, no? That we save our cultural resources?

The buildings that will be torn down are not of any substantial value and won't be much missed. The theatre is relocating its scenery, costume, and prop shops to Everett.

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on the face of it. However, before the City agrees to this deal, IMO it would behoove them to make sure that the theater group will have both the resources and a solid plan to restore the building and properly maintain it in the future

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Well, the rendering appears to be drawn from the view of what will be a nearly 800-foot tower at One Dalton, a block or two away. So it's not as out of scale as it looks.

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How is it out of scale with the tower behind the YMCA and all the others on Huntington Ave a block or so away in either direction?

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NU's East Villlage behind the Y is only 17 stories tall.

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New England Conservatory have a huge tower in their master plan, to match the one built behind the YMCA by Northeastern?

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It's already built.
You can see it at top right in the picture above.

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Why are you whining about a neighborhood that is not yours? And, more importantly, what are you going to do when Mr Chan builds two of those on Dewar and Spire sites that he owns, that actually ARE in Dot?

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We have a guy who lives in NYC telling us that we need to bulldoze the city and build strip malls to make his car feel nice, so I guess that Dot NIMBYs can call the shots on Huntington Ave, too.

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Almost everything - brownstones included - is student housing over there. I'm not sure what you are describing as "neighborhood", but it is an excellent place for more density.

We don't need to live in a museum built for life in another century.

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Neighborhoods consist of both residents and the physical character.

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And can't look at the street view? Towers all around this!

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to build over the theater? I seem to recall that being mentioned a year ago when the sale of the BU lots was broached. If they could extend the building laterally, then they wouldn't have to go as high. Is the stretch which goes to the corner of Mass. Ave & includes the Symphony T entrance part of the housing tower property? If that lot could be added the building could be stretched in that direction as well. As it is, this project is too tall & has absolutely no sense of where it is. There is no dialogue with let alone acknowledgement of the several iconic buildings nearby

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That's going to be some tough parking garage access, especially in the winter.

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it gets nicknamed "the cheese grater."

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Anyone know the history of the "Old France" building that will be razed for this project?

Google Street View

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If I google for "Old France" Boston, the first hit I get is this photo captioned "Composer Aaron Copland looks our way while his friend takes a smoke break at the Old France Restaurant in Boston, 1945."

It's a nice façade, but it's also a two-story building in a place where something larger belongs. I believe it is currently used by the Huntington Theatre's scenery and prop shop, which will be moving to a warehouse in Everett.

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That is indeed a nice facade.

My first thought when I saw this was sadness over losing it. It'd be nice if they could incorporate it into the new building, like was done in Dudley Square.

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Large doesn't mean necessarily mean anything close to the proposal.

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The Fenway News, February 2017 issue. Go to page 3 and read about the history of this building and its neighbor (the former Symphony Cinema). Before it was the Old France restaurant, it was built to be ... a post office! Also of interest, Old France was one of the earliest chain restaurants anywhere in the US.

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The ego monuments didn't die with John the Ripper.

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