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Developer wants to add five new floors to a row of three-story buildings on Boylston Street in the Back Bay

Developer would add floors to these Boylston Street buildings

Going up? The buildings that would get taller.

A Florida-based developer wants to raise the height of four buildings on Boylston Street between Fairfield and Exeter streets, to add new residential, office and retail space.

In a letter of intent filed with the BPDA this week, Tavistock Development Co. of Orlando says it would keep the existing facades of 761-793 Boylston St. - currently home to Abe & Louie’s, Crate and Barrel and the Atlantic Fish Co. - then top those with the new floors, set back three feet from the current facades.

The 68,000 square feet of new space would include nine residential units, office space and new retail space, the company's local attorneys write. The beefier building would retain its current 17,000 square feet of ground-floor restaurant space, although the letter does not say if the two current restaurants would continue to occupy that.

Tavistock says it expects to file detailed plans for the proposal by Feb. 18.

In addition to Boylston Street, Tavistock is also working on plans to replace the Joe’s American Bar & Grill and a burned out building at Commercial Wharf in the North End.

The buildings still look similar in 1912 photo by the Boston Public Works Department at the Boston City Archives:

761-793 Boylston St. in 1912

Boylston Street, though, looks slightly different from this wider view taken from the Lenox Hotel by the Boston Transit Commission (the buildings are on the right):

7Boylston Street in 1912

761-793 Boylston St. letter of intent (62k PDF).

H/t Navid Walsh for the historic photos.

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Comments

Whenever I hear about the idea of adding floors to existing old buildings, I think of this guy on Beacon Street. Simultaneously the most hideous, and most hilarious addition I've ever seen on a brownstone.

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For the past 20 years I've been trying to figure out how that thing got approved and how it's physically supported.

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oh dear lord I've never seen that building. Then again I rarely look up that much.

"Hi, BRA.. I want to take a section of a beat up motel from Tucson, raise it with a crane and plop it on top of a brownstone? U good with that? **slides envelope of a stack of Benjamin's across table"

Cuz you know how this went.. and what it looks like.

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That's the exact opposite of these guys.

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Whenever I see someone adding floors, especially more than doubling the number of floors, I think of those times it didn't work out. When buildings are first put up, architects size the structural supports to hold up the planned number of floors. If you turn a three-story building into an eight-story building, you'd better be adding adequate strength to the structure. If you cut corners on that, you're likely to wind up with a basement full of rubble that used to be your building.

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Voting closed 9

I think of those times it didn't work out.

Do you have examples?

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Voting closed 13

.

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The Googleplex came crumbling down? Or their Kendall building?

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We have building codes for a reason, so I was curious to find out what examples you are talking about that occurred here in MA and the USA.

Do you have search terms you recommend? Because "examples of where more floors were added to a building but didn't adapt the foundation" didn't give me any examples.

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The City of Boston Landmarks Commission will never allow this to happen. Restrictions have been in place in the Back Bay/ South End since the late 70s. Exceptions were done before that.

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Try "added floors collapse." Not all the results are relevant, but some are.

I know that the building code system should, and probably will prevent a collapse in this case. I wasn't predicting one, just saying that it's what comes to mind when I read stories like this.

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I think of those times it didn't work out.

Some examples of where this has happened would help.

You brought it up - you put it up. Burden of proof shift is a logical fallacy.

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What Swirly said below this comment. If your concern is something that comes to mind when hearing of this topic, you must have some specific examples in your mind. A well constructed argument does not consist of presenting your thesis statement, then no evidence, then conclude with "prove me wrong."

We all need to get better at this. You can't prove a point without any evidence to prove it.

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I didn't have a concern, and I was not presenting an argument. Did you read any of my last comment? The only point I was making was that when I read stories about making buildings much taller than they are, I'm reminded of times that it didn't go well. If you don't believe there were such times, then google it. The search terms I gave above will give you examples. Lighten the fuck up.

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I am unwilling to lighten up.

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Bye

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This is why we have inspectors. If there was a something being built and there wasn't a permit, the city would shut it down. This was approved.

I had a climate controlled computer server room built a while back for a company I worked for. We had to have 4 huge carrier units installed on a very narrow section of a 6 story building in Cambridge. We had to hire a structural engineer to make sure the small section (that sat on top of a large brick building) would support it.

Sure enough it did. I talked to the SE a bit, he had to go to Cambridge City Hall and pull the plans for the 1880s era building to see how it was built. Lots of these old brick buildings can support quite a bit of weight, especially if you've added reinforcement.

Which is what alot of these muffin top buildings do. Its just added along in the interior side of the walls so you can't see the I beams. Then covered up.

Ironically, I had a contractor here earlier today and I was telling him about how weirdly my triple decker is built. And I was telling him to go look downtown at all the high rises that 'rise' out of 1890s era brick shells. Its all cuz of historic related code (see exchange place or the menino's hole battle for examples).

Him being from New York City.. he thought it was bizarre (except in Brooklyn). But its this stuff that gives us that charm at street level. (and even I didnt know that hideous motel building existed here and I've lived here for 20 years so I never look up!)

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"not looking up" doesn't surprise me. Many people don't look up.
What does surprise me a little is that you've never seen it anyway. It doesn't take looking up - just looking ahead.

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But it wouldn't surprise me if they want to basically just demolish the buildings and just save the facades. That's what happened at the historic building downtown where the Littlest Bar used to be (the second place where it used to be, that is, not the actual hole in the wall it started out in at Province Street), although since the Back Bay has certain architectural and historic-preservation rules that downtown doesn't, I could be completely wrong.

In any case, should be fun meetings at the Back Bay Architectural Commission ...

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Would not surprise me.

I am working on a job where they chose NOT to demolish the building and oh boy, what a shitshow. Old buildings were not built to modern consumer demands.

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I musta not submitted a reply earlier but what I wrote was..

The building I had installed the HVAC units on was one of those buildings. It was the Athenaeum building on 1st street.

Opened as a U shape building with a rail loading dock in the center as a book maker in the late 1800s. Remained a factory for the most part until the 1970s where it was abandoned. A developer bought it and turned it into (tacky) offices in 1981. Its been an office building for a while now. When the company I worked for moved into it in 2006. we were one of four tenants. This was near during the dot com bust fall out, and I guess many of the "cool dot coms" were all in that building. And like many 'cool dot coms', they didnt last.

We got such a deal because the property manager was desperate for tenants. I think we were paying 22/sq foot. Which is INSANELY low for Kendall. But we took it.... and spent the next 4 years keeping the new management company from cancelling our lease. (they wanted our floor since it was the penthouse). They did in the end, after I left.

My point is.. this building was THREE buildings joined into a U shape when built. Then at some point the filled in the U part where the rail loading dock was, and added more floors.

This building did not have any sets of elevators that had floor numbers that matched. Most elevators were *only* for that part of the building. Good luck if you go up the wrong one, you would be lost for hours trying to figure out how to get back out. Yeah it was that bad.

One elevator had a floor called "2A" . The other elevators had 5 floors, but why did this one have six?

The 2A floor was a half floor. Yes a half floor that was converted to offices. I remember being able to touch the ceiling easily (and I'm a short dude). No one wanted to rent that floor (which is why it was the funkiest of them all!), so much so Alexandria RE ended up removing the floor from 3 and merging 2A and 3. (they blasted the entire floor out!!)

There were offices down dark corridors I didn't even know existed. Many I looked in had no windows at all, and I am like "people worked here?"

Nothing in that building was proper. steps up and down on the same floor because you walked into another building. Nothing was contiguous across any floor in any part of the building.

Utilities like electric and phone. LOL . Phones.. and internet were BATTLE. The last time the house wiring was updated was 1982. You'd walk into the house wiring room in the basement and it was like a museum of failed dot coms and long since gone DSL providers from all the tags hanging on the copper pairs that were never removed. No one ever cleaned up the room. And good luck finding pairs that weren't cut. We were so happy when Cogent to give us fiber to our office server room.

Anyways I babble but yeah.. it wouldnt surprise me either. they do it to save $$$.

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I'd hate to be out on that porch.

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Will anyone think of parking?

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Boylston does not need to become a canyon.

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Doesn't need to become Dallas, either.

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An EIGHT STORY building on BOYLSTON STREET? It will be a CANYON! Think of the neighborhood character. THINK OF THE CHILDREN! It's not like there are many other 8 or 10 or 52 or 60 story buildings there already.

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Another out of state entity Hey City Hall! Don't let the dollar signs blind ya!! More vacancies and loss of character come in disguise.

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In other news, Tavistock also happens to own all the restaurants in question including Joe’s waterfront.

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What’s shocking about that? These are legacy Back Bay Restaurant Group properties, formerly Charles Sarkis’s two best money-makers.

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Nothing is shocking about it. And it shows Tavistock purchased the remains of BBRG more for the real estate than the actual restaurants.

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One set for now, the other for when Boston has to bury the first floor to elevate the city in 2070.

Those arches will make a nice new first floor entry detail.

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Something I found fascinating was that many (most?) Back Bay buildings rest on wooden pilings, which must be kept under water or they will rot. The water level in Back Bay is regularly monitored. I guess as sea levels rise, they’ll have to worry about that less, but instead – as you mentioned – start thinking about converting those second floors to entrances :-).

https://www.wbur.org/morningedition/2016/10/31/drought-back-bay

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That's pretty much what they did.

When the railroads all stopped at Terminus (now Atlanta), it cut up downtown as all the crossings were at grade. The city build viaducts for roads and essentially 'raised' a part of downtown Atlanta. All street level businesses moved up one floor to the new viaduct raised street around the turn of the century.

Of course, this was all hidden until the 1960s when it was uncovered for the expressway being built. City spruced it up, turned it into an indoor mall, and now its called Underground Atlanta.

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Adding density while preserving historic building facades? Yes, please! I wish more developers would do this rather than tearing down the old buildings entirely.

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ugh - I'm tired of the City requiring additions to be set back and pretend they aren't there.

You can add onto a building and make it blend in quite nicely. We have several examples all over town - including 2 buildings down from this location. https://goo.gl/maps/5ihYrg8xZTcqt8ds9 If those oriels weren't that obvious, you might not even know the building has an addition. But at some point, the city thought glass ultra-modern "I don't below here" additions become the norm.

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