As elements of the historic fabric of East Boston continue to be demolished for new development, the buildings that remain become increasingly significant as they hold a growing percentage of the character of this neighborhood. 144-146 Maverick Street, near the corner of Maverick Square, were brick, bowfront rowhouses built in the 1870s during a pivotal era in East Boston’s history. The buildings reflected the transitional period from prosperous shipbuilding center to a growing immigrant population. They were important contributors to the character of the streetscape that defines and differentiates East Boston. Linear Retail Properties purchased the two buildings and other parcels on the corner lot to clear the site and construct a two-story commercial building. Despite overwhelming opposition from the neighborhood (and support for a larger development on the rest of the site) and outreach from the Alliance, the proponent refused to seriously consider any alternatives to incorporate the rowhouses into their proposal, instead moving adamantly ahead with their original plan and demolition of these historic buildings.
The Alliance joined the East Boston community to advocate for the rehabilitation of the rowhouses, buildings that until relatively recently were occupied and certainly viable for reuse. We requested a meeting with the proponent multiple times but they did not engage. The Alliance provided written and oral testimony and communicated with City of Boston officials, the project’s attorney, and members of the East Boston community. The rowhouses were ultimately demolished and the historic street clock, a local Landmark, has been approved for relocation to a different site in Maverick Square.
Highlights from log
• September 24, 2019
The Boston Landmarks Commission approves a plan presented by the proponent to relocate the Landmarked clock to 20 Maverick Street (in front of the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center) and relocate the existing (replica) clock that currently exists at that location to Central Square in East Boston. The plan includes an agreement for full restoration of the historic clock with interpretive signage and future maintenance. With this approval, the proponent will be able to move forward with construction of the new development at 9 Chelsea Street. Given the circumstances and the desire to support the best result for the historic clock, the Alliance speaks in favor of the plan for relocation and restoration. It is unfortunate that the proponent elected to remove all of the historic fabric at this prominent corner location in Maverick Square, but we look forward to welcoming the fully restored clock back to the square in the future.
• March 12, 2019
The Zoning Board of Appeals approves the requested zoning variances including excessive height (>35’), excessive F.A.R., insufficient side yard setback, and conditional use. Because the project still needs approval from the Boston Landmarks Commission due to the location of the Landmarked street clock, the project cannot yet move forward as designed.
• February 14, 2019
The Board of the Boston Planning and Development Agency votes to approve the project. The proponent will still need the approval of the Boston Landmarks Commission to relocate the Landmarked clock.
• February 7, 2019
Linear Retail updates the project and presents the changes at a community meeting, which Alliance staff attends. A third floor is added to the building and the rear patio is removed. The design of the building responds to neighborhood context by breaking down the massing to give the appearance of separate storefronts, using masonry facades and piers, and modern expressions of bays and cornices. Unfortunately, these are all architectural features that existed in the historic buildings that the proponent demolished on the site instead of incorporating them into the new project. The street clock, which is a designated Landmark and currently in storage, is proposed for relocation either to the the sidewalk near the main entrance to the building or to a different location in the neighborhood. Relocation of the clock requires approval from the Boston Landmarks Commission (BLC), which the proponent has not yet requested or received. If BLC determines the clock should not be relocated the project will need to be redesigned. The community expresses concerns about the project at the meeting, largely about the proponent’s failure to cooperate with the community and the process.
• July 9, 2018
Linear Retail demolishes the brick row houses.
• June 12, 2018
The Zoning Board of Appeal decision to overturn the moratorium is filed with the Inspectional Services Department opening a 20-day window to appeal the decision.
• May 16, 2018
East Boston City Councilor Lydia Edwards files “Order for a Hearing Regarding Preservation of Historic Boston.” The matter was assigned to the Committee on Planning, Development & Transportation for a hearing. The Boston Preservation Alliance and others will be formally invited to attend.
• May 8, 2018
The Boston Landmarks Commission votes to accept a petition to designate the buildings as Pending Landmarks for the second time because a previous vote was contested by the project’s attorney. Alliance staff speaks in favor of accepting the petition to further study the historic significance of the buildings. As Pending Landmarks, the buildings do not receive the same protections as designated local Landmarks but the proponent is encouraged to participate in design review with the Commission.
• April 27, 2018
Alliance staff attends Historic New England’s conference about preserving Boston’s three-decker housing for family and affordable units. East Boston City Councilor Lydia Edwards serves on a panel. After the event, Alliance staff speaks with Council Edwards about the challenges presented by the Maverick Street project. Councilor Edwards agrees to continue the dialogue.
• April 25, 2018
Alliance staff shares concerns and disappointment with the Zoning Board of Appeals ruling with Chief of Environment. Meanwhile, we wait for the official written decision to be filed with ZBA and the appeals window to open. When the 20-day window expires, the owner can file for a demolition permit.
• April 24, 2018
Alliance staff attends Zoning Board of Appeals hearing. The proponent claims that the Boston Landmarks Commission erred in their decision to invoke a two-year moratorium and that no violation of the 90-day demolition delay occurred. No public comment is taken. The Executive Director of the Boston Landmarks Commission is given opportunity to speak. The Zoning Board of Appeals votes unanimously to overturn the moratorium.
• April 10, 2018
Alliance staff attends Boston Landmarks Commission hearing. Attorney Richard Lynds asks for the Commission to hear the proponent’s case again regarding a demolition delay violation. Commissioners ask for legal counsel and vote to continue the agenda item to the next hearing until legal advice can be provided. One Commissioner notes that the proponent was given an opportunity to provide more information at the November 14 hearing when the moratorium was invoked and they rejected that opportunity, claiming the Commissioners had all of the information they needed.
• March 5, 2018
The project is again deferred at the Zoning Board of Appeals.
• January 30, 2018
Alliance staff attends Zoning Board of Appeal hearing; case is deferred. Staff speaks with Attorney Richard Lynds and asks again to meet with the proponent, urging a conversation about a compromise that would incorporate the rowhouses into the project.
• January 29, 2018
Alliance staff discusses project with Chief of Environment, urging support for the Boston Landmark’s Commission’s decision to invoke a two-year moratorium.
• November 14, 2017
Alliance staff attends Boston Landmarks Commission hearing. The Commission unanimously votes to elevate the significance of the rowhouses above local level based on additional information received, a step necessary to consider accepting a Landmark petition. Attorney Richard Lynds argues that the Commission should not take a vote to raise the significance because this item was not on the agenda and the public was not given notice. BLC staff states that the process has been followed correctly. A presentation is made by an East Boston resident about the historic significance of the rowhouses: the buildings reflect a transition in transportation, neighborhood development, and architecture in the neighborhood; vernacular buildings are the voices of the people who lived in East Boston. Councilor Elect Lydia Edwards opposes demolition. Alliance staff says that the narrative presented is compelling enough to warrant further study and the petition should be accepted. The Commission unanimously votes to accept the petition for further study. The Commission now reviews evidence of an Article 85 demolition delay violation. BLC staff claims that the buildings had not been secured and that work leading to demolition had taken place. BLC staff says that the Commissioner of Inspectional Services confirmed that demolition had begun on the rowhouses. Photos were provided by neighbors of exposed materials and evidence of flashing removed from a chimney, though some photos presented were not of the buildings in question. The Attorney for the proponent claims that they are seeing this evidence for the first time and that the work that has been done on the property is for environmental abatement. The Commissioners discuss their options: no action, place a two-year moratorium on the properties, or negotiate an alternative. The Commission asks the proponent (since the 90-day demolition delay is soon to expire) if they would be willing to postpone demolition of the buildings for one month in order to provide time to collect the evidence needed to refute the violation claim. The team leaves the room and when they return the attorney states that the Commission has all of the information that they need and should make their ruling. The Commission votes to invoke the two-year moratorium (all voting yes except one voting no) based on evidence that the building had not been secured, flashing and caulking had been removed from a chimney, and the Commissioner of Inspectional Services had confirmed that demolition had begun.
• November 1, 2017
The Alliance sends a letter to Mayor Walsh asking for an intervention for this project and others across the city that demolish historic character.
• August 22, 2017
Alliance staff attends Boston Landmarks Commission hearing. The Commission rules that the buildings are historically significant and preferably preserved and invokes a 90-day delay from demolition of the two historic rowhouses.
• August 21, 2017
Alliance staff attends Boston Landmarks Commission Article 85 public meeting, which is held on the sidewalk in front of the buildings. Alternatives to demolition are presented but are not fully developed. Rather than redesign the project to show how the rowhouses could be incorporated, the proponent digitally placed a photo of the rowhouses on top of the current design proposal and explains how the floor plates do not align. With more than twenty members of the community in attendance there is significant opposition to the project.
• August 9/10, 2017
Alliance staff reaches out to the City asking for the removal of the project from the BPDA Board agenda for small project review approval given that various approvals at the BLC have not been received, and requesting further dialogue and review. The project is pulled from the agenda.
• July 7, 2017
The Alliance submits a comment letter to the BPDA urging the preservation of the rowhouses and a design that incorporates the Landmarked clock.
• June 20, 2017
Alliance staff provides an update to the Board of Directors. The consensus of the Board is to advocate to preserve the rowhouses within the development of the site.
• April 27, 2017
Alliance staff attends a community meeting. A new design is presented that better responds to the scale and rhythm of the existing architecture. Alliance staff asks about the Landmarked clock and Attorney Richard Lynds assures that the clock can be moved to a different location. Others in attendance ask for the preservation of the rowhouses. The community seems to appreciate the improved design but still does not support the project overall.
• March 22, 2017
Attorney Richard Lynds calls Alliance staff in response to previous call. Staff asks for a meeting with the proponents.
• March 15, 2017
Alliance staff attends a public meeting hosted by East Boston Main Streets. Attorney Richard Lynds presents the proposal to a large crowd. Lynds suggests moving a Landmarked clock from this location to somewhere else in East Boston. Lynds claims his clients believe the rowhouses are not historic and that there is no requirement to preserve them. Those in attendance expressed significant opposition to the project as proposed, specifically asking for the preservation of the rowhouses. The community also asked for more density and a mixed-use project at this site. Lynds explains that his client owns the property and will do what they see fit for their business model, whether or not the neighborhood approves. Alliance staff asks proponent to earnestly prepare alternatives to demolition for the Article 85 process.
• March 10, 2017
Alliance staff reaches out to site owner asking for meeting.
• March 7, 2017
Alliance staff briefly presents to Board of Directors and receives approval to continue to engage with the project and advocate for preservation of the rowhouses.
• February 14, 2017
Alliance staff attempts to contact Executive Director of East Boston Main Streets to understand their position on the proposed development. Another attempt to contact on Feb. 21 is unsuccessful though we eventually understand that the organization does not plan to take a strong stance against the demolition of the rowhouses.
• January 2017
Jeffries Point Neighborhood Association reaches out to the Alliance with concerns about a proposed development for 9 Chelsea Street at the corner of Chelsea and Maverick streets. The East Boston community feels that the City has not made historic preservation a priority in their neighborhood and that their historic character is being lost at an alarming rate. They are particularly concerned about the proposed demolition of two brick buildings at 144-146 Maverick Street.Alliance staff communicates with abutters and East Boston residents about the proposal and their concerns. The Alliance’s Advocacy Committee is informed of the proposal and provides guidance to staff.