Zoning board lifts two-year ban on demolition of two old buildings in Maverick Square

Proposed Maverick Square building

Architect's rendering of proposed building.

The Board of Appeals voted yesterday to let a developer proceed with plans to replace two bow-fronted buildings on Maverick Street with a new retail building, after determining a Landmarks Commission moratorium was based on a possibly flawed process.

The vote does not mean that the buildings at 144 and 146 Maverick St. (see what they look like now) will be immediately torn down and replaced with a 22,000-square foot building that Linear Retail Properties hopes to fill with such things as a restaurant or coffeehouse and a gym. But it lets the company go ahead with submissions to both the BPDA and the zoning board for their hearings and approval.

In addition to the two buildings at question, the company plans to tear down two other buildings for the project.

Residents argue the two bow-front buildings are part of a dwindling inventory of historic buildings in the neighborhood and should be preserved.

Last year, the Landmarks Commission voted a 90-day moratorium on work to let residents and Linear try to come up with a solution. In November, the commission voted to halt all work at the site for two years after residents and a staff architect presented photos and other evidence that Linear had violated the shorter moratorium.

At the zoning hearing, Linear attorney Richard Lynds acknowledged the company did hire a contractor to remove asbestos, but said that had nothing to do with impending demolition. And he said photos of a window and siding being removed were actually of work done on the buildings not covered by the landmarks commission.

Lynds continued that Linear never got a fair hearing from the landmarks commission. The commission did not proved the company any of its evidence for possible rebuttal until the hearing itself - and the company had to file formal public-records requests and an open-meeting-law complaint related to the November hearing, he said.

Landmarks Commission Executive Director Rosanne Foley acknowledged the two-year ban on all work was "draconian," but said current city ordinances gave the commission only two options - a two-year ban or doing nothing. She said the commission is trying to change that to give it, residents and developers more flexibility. She said Maverick Street is the first project in her three years at the post to have had the two-year moratorium imposed.

Foley did not respond to Lynds's allegations, saying she was unaware of the zoning hearing until earlier in the day and that the commission's architect, who was involved in the process, is on vacation this week.

Lynds said Linear did look at possible ways to save the buildings, but concluded it could not make that work with its proposal.

"These are old buildings and they certainly have some charm and character, but these don't rise to the level of, as the neighborhood calls them 'historic treasures,' " he said, adding the proof is that they are not listed on any national, state or city lists of historic properties.

Foley, however, said that might not be true and that the buildings warrant additional study. She said the city's "preservation documents are outdated" and are missing buildings that do have historic meanings.

Because of that, she said, the commission investigates landmark-designation petitions - which residents filed last fall for the two buildings - individually, regardless of whether the properties at issue are already listed somewhere.

Zoning Chairwoman Christine Araujo moved to overturn the two-year moratorium because "it appears there were some discrepancies," in the landmarks process. The board voted unanimously to lift the ban.

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Commissioner

I believe the Landmarks Commissioner's name is Rosanne, not Joanne.

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Voting is closed. 46

Yep, thanks

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Fixed. Remember, kids: It's probably not the best of ideas to write up one meeting (zoning) while watching another (city council).

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Voting is closed. 33

When did the Zoning Board get

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When did the Zoning Board get the power to overturn something that the Landmarks Commission passes? To me that seems like a bad president to set.

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Voting is closed. 38

Has to do with the demolition part

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The landmarks commission issued its initial and two-year penalty delays under Article 85 of the city zoning code, which deals with how to delay demolition of buildings.

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Voting is closed. 34

"These are old buildings and

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"These are old buildings and they certainly have some charm and character, but these don't rise to the level of, as the neighborhood calls them 'historic treasures,' " he said, adding the proof is that they are not listed on any national, state or city lists of historic properties."

Having lived around the corner from these buildings for a while, I can't help but agree. Yea they are older brick row houses. But "historic treasures"? C'mon. Besides the salon, all the ground floor retail is, and has been, empty and the buildings really aren't in great shape.

And while EB is certainly on the rise, the reality is that fully renovating the buildings and facades would probably not be an investment any developer would want to make considering the expense in renovations and the return rents in East Boston that aren't luxury units on the water. So they would probably just sit empty and fall apart even more. But I doubt anyone opposing this is actually considering that.

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Voting is closed. 56

While I can't really disagree with you

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it would help if these "developers" would "develop" anything with any sort of charm or craftsmanship to them. These old and "falling apart" buildings look better than the square lumps of shite they are going to erect in their place. Can't fault residents for not wanting to walk by what looks like a Soviet prison complex every day.
This whole city is starting to resemble East Berlin for cripes sake.

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Voting is closed. 50

agree

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You do have a point and I agree it would be nice to include some kind of aesthetic guidelines in future zoning. I'm not trying to argue these proposed buildings are beautiful or even that I agree with the program. I think they need to include at least as many units as they are proposing to remove. We do still have a housing crisis.

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Voting is closed. 32

"Besides the salon, all the

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"Besides the salon, all the ground floor retail is, and has been, empty and the buildings really aren't in great shape."

Well that is patently false. The other businesses got a head start on moving and at least one is in Maverick Marketplace. Just because they sat empty when the owner was clearly trying to clear out tenants says nothing about the desirability of the units.

This is still just a really stupid idea. You have what are, yes, beautiful brick rowhouses that really only need a little bit of TLC, and you tear down (in your words) empty retail space to replace it with cookie-cutter, out-of-place retail space which somehow won't be empty when the rents are likely double or triple what they replace? Has anything moved into the ground floor of Portside in the three years since it's opened?

What does this bring to the community outside of lining the developers pockets?

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Voting is closed. 59

yup

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I believe the answer to that last question is "fuck-all."

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Voting is closed. 39

no

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There are no apartments involved -- doesn't fit their business model which is suburban retail. As far as whether it is better retail, we'll have to see who they get to move in - but another CVS, a Starbucks, a bank or some other predictable horseshit is not an improvement. Something is better than an empty parking lot - but it also removes the possibility of something better at that spot and locks us into an ugly, piece of shit building owned by a firm which now will have an antagonistic relationship with the community. Does not feel like an improvement.

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Voting is closed. 51

ok

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"at least one is in Maverick Marketplace"

If you're referring to the smoke shop, he moved to Maverick Marketplace 3 years ago, so I would hardly say he got a "head start" on getting out before demolition. This project was not even proposed when they moved.

"beautiful brick rowhouses"

We can disagree on that. These are not a great example of some kind of artisan brick coursing, do not feature any wonderful brick detailing, or really any kind of distinctive feature that makes them truly historic and worth protecting other than simply being a "brick rowhouse."

"only need a little bit of TLC"

Oh, so are you willing to pay for that TLC? Because just from the low-res google earth it's clear that the concrete sills need to be patched, the brick needs to be cleaned, and repointed in some areas, the metal flashing at the roof is rusting and needs to be replaced, and much of the wood cornice and canopies would probably need to be replaced. None of this is cheap. Not to mention unseen water damage because I would bet that roof and roof substructure have not been completely dry for a long time, beyond replacing the roof in the first place. And if it's protected, now you're replacing everything in kind.

This is exactly the point I was trying to make. It's easy to sit behind a keyboard and say "oh we should keep this and someone should fix it up." Who is going to do it and why? No, what will happen will it will sit because it's not worth the investment, and the condition will continue to worsen until they are blighted. The floor plates look tiny, and what do you get? 2 small units and a small retail space from each one? Yea right. Let's say you get $5k in rent per month between two small studio/1 beds and a retail space. It would probably cost well over $100k to renovate each building, so now you're looking at a 20+ year payback. Not great.

And I'm not a retail consultant, but generally retailers like going in spaces that are more than 400 sq. ft with almost no street display space, and bars on the one display window they do have. Portside is empty because it's still an island development, and no retailer wants to be the first in there.

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Voting is closed. 37

"Oh, so are you willing to

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"Oh, so are you willing to pay for that TLC?"

Generally a good clue that the person isn't serious about their debate, and a good time to stop reading.

If you think the US should have a space program, why don't YOU build a rocket and shoot it into orbit?!?

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Voting is closed. 36

Economic Realities

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I'm curious what you think should happen because you seem to be avoiding an actual solution other than "someone should fix it," but based on your argument you seem to say that the government should have a program with which they fix up and run every property you think is historic?

Should it be the federal gov? HUD?

Should it be the state?

The city? Landmarks?

I'm just curious how you see this playing out in ya know, reality.

And while I do not build rockets myself because I am not a scientist and our economic reality values specialization and the opportunity costs associated with it, I do pay taxes that pay people who do build rockets.

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Voting is closed. 50

Portside’s retail has a signed lease

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And construction has already started. “Portside Market” is going in this summer, same owners as Fort Point Market and some others in the Back Bay and Seaport. Gourmet groceries, craft beers, coffee bar... it took some time but they finally got a bite.

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Voting is closed. 13

It took a while, but the

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It took a while, but the process finally worked. And no - everything that was there when you moved in is not 'historic.'

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Voting is closed. 40

Missed Opportunity

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This location, being steps from Maverick Station, would be perfect for a relatively large, parking-free, residential development with ground and 2nd floor retail. If the housing crisis is really so bad, and the city wants to encourage TOD, then permitting a two story commercial only building here is a MAJOR lost opportunity. I care less about the old row houses than about utilizing this prominent location for something that, as others have commented, could be plopped anywhere in any strip mall.

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Voting is closed. 35

What a shame.

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What a shame.

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Voting is closed. 51

There are old buildings all

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There are old buildings all over every neighborhood. That doesn't make them a landmark. I'm not sure this retail use is the best use of the site as it is, but separate from that it doesn't seem like these buildings have much historical significance honestly.

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Voting is closed. 42

true but...

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One of the people involved with this did an interesting historical review of the properties and, yeah, they're not exactly exceptional in and of themselves. But given the context of this rapidly changing neighborhood and in particular the Maverick Square area where a number of historic buildings over the years (and I mean long years) have been lost, these buildings help to maintain the character of the area. So the argument is maybe 20% historic and 80% about the larger changing city/gentrification/crappy carpet-bagging cheap-ass construction for a fast buck/no master plan kind of discussion that's been going on ad nauseum in East Boston and beyond.

Residents feel like there is no plan being put forward by the city (or anyone else) that lays out what we want the neighborhood to be in the future and how the private and public sectors can get there (that's more on the City than any individual developer). If what was being proposed for that site was something that showed even a little bit of effort, I don't think there would be such a stink -- more of a shrug and a sigh. But the reality is what they're proposing is just so obviously an effort to turn a quick profit with the lowest input of effort. This project will not contribute anything meaningful to Maverick Square but will erase another chunk of identifiable and unique (relative to what's being built today) buildings. Granted those buildings are not amenable to maximizing your ROI on a square footage basis, but there ya go.

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Voting is closed. 13