A development proposal calls for the demolition of six buildings and the construction of two office complexes in Fenway's Kenmore Square. After acquiring the site for development from Boston University, Related Beal filed a Project Notification Form with the City in May of 2018 that outlined the proposal. The design of the buildings continue to evolve as the community, advocacy organizations, and the Boston Civic Design Commission weigh in. Part of the consideration for the development of the site is the iconic CITGO sign, which sits atop one of the buildings (660 Beacon Street) not targeted for demolition. The design team has been encouraged to create a statement corner building that does not block views to the sign. There are many in the community who are asking Related Beal to incorporate the existing corner building at 541 Commonwealth Avenue into the new project, preserving more of the historic fabric of the square.
The Alliance has been engaged with this site for several years, particularly in our efforts to save the CITGO sign. We have had numerous discussions with Related Beal, the Citgo Corporation, the Red Sox, BCDC, community members, and others to gauge concerns and evaluate the best solution balancing preservation with development at this location. We have expressed concerns about loss of historic fabric, loss of character and neighborhood identity, obstruction of views to the Citgo sign, and the introduction of incongruous new construction. While we have asked the proponent to reconsider the retention of the corner buildings at 541 Commonwealth, we acknowledge the poor condition of the building as well as its harmonious incorporation into an adjacent new structure are difficult challenges. Ultimately, a new, high quality design design for the corner and its adjacencies may be the best solution. The Alliance continues to engage with this project as the design evolves and encourage full exploration of a variety of alternatives.
Find project documents like the Project Notification Form and public presentations including BCDC at the BPDA website.
Highlights from our activity log:
- September 11, 2018
Alliance staff attends Article 85/Demolition Delay hearing at the Boston Landmarks Commission. The project is presented by the proponent; no photos are provided during the presentation of the current condition of any of the buildings and a structural report is not submitted or referenced. The proponent states that the buildings are in poor condition and not viable for reuse, particularly because the floor plates are not ideal for the office tenants they hope to bring to the site nor do they align with proposed new construction. The Alliance comments that we have toured the 541 Commonwealth Avenue building and agree that while it is in poor condition (the proponent notes its upper floors have been neither occupied nor maintained for decades) that Commissioners will be familiar with buildings in that condition that have been both rehabilitated and not. (Water damage to plaster, floors, outdated fixtures, etc.) Rehabilitation is possible.There are other public comments supporting preservation of 541 Commonwealth Avenue and some supporting new buildings on the site. Several members of the public speak to the historic significance of the building and its architect and its architectural contribution to the Square. The Commission invokes the 90-day delay on all buildings on the site and then hears a presentation from the proponent about their plan for the site and alternatives to demolition that they have explored. The proponent emphasizes issues with floor plate size and alignment and accessibility as reasons the existing buildings cannot be integrated into the project. The Commission hesitates to accept these conclusions and does not waive the delay. They urge more creative solutions that in particular integrate 541 Commonwealth Avenue but also asks for new construction that is more contextual to the Square. Therefore, the owner of these buildings must secure them from damage until December 11, 2018 at which time they may proceed with demolition if they have secured the permits to do so. There is a yet-to-be scheduled joint meeting between BLC and the Civic Design Commission on this project that was noted.
- July 26, 2018
Alliance staff tour the corner building at 541 Commonwealth Avenue to assess condition. Staff discusses rehabilitation options with Related Beal team members and makes plans for further dialogue about the current proposal for the site. Photos below.
- June 26, 2018
Alliance staff attends BCDC design review meeting. Two Commissioners are present and provide feedback; no public comment is taken. Three options are presented for the Commonwealth Building and three for the Beacon Building. In total, six existing buildings are proposed for demolition at 541 Commonwealth Avenue through 650 Beacon Street (not 660 Beacon Street) and new construction. Preserving views to the Citgo Sign, a pending Boston Landmark, is a consideration in the design of the Commonwealth Building. Commissioners urge the architect to design a strong, statement building to anchor the corner of the square. There is no discussion of incorporating the existing buildings into the project. Commissioners in attendance encourage further development of Scheme 2 of corner and Scheme A of mid-block buildings The proponent will return for further design review.
- June 11, 2018
Alliance staff submits comment letter, below, to the BPDA.
- June 6, 2018
Alliance staff attend the public Impact Advisory Group meeting. The proponent summarizes the project and responds to questions and concerns from IAG members. Most of the concerns from this group involve traffic patterns and pedestrian safety but the group is generally supportive of the proposal.
- June 5, 2018
Alliance staff attends BCDC meeting. After the presentation from the proponent, Commissioners ask a number of questions about the design, the pedestrian realm, and views to the CITGO sign. They push for a reconsideration of the design of the new corner building, asking for a strong statement but push for something that fits within the context and typology of the neighborhood. Some speak negatively of the proposed design: "impoverished, suburban" and "wrong for the site and Kenmore Square" urging a serious reworking of the proposal. Alliance Executive Director, Greg Galer, after thanking commissioners for recognizing the importance of context, comments that the new design at the corner should anchor the square and be as architecturally compelling as the historic building they plan to demolish. The project will be reviewed by the design subcommittee.
- May 17, 2018
Alliance staff meets with the project team from Related Beal and reviews updated renderings of the design of the corner building and discusses the plan to demolish three red brick buildings on Beacon Street for a new building. Staff expresses concern at the significant loss of historic fabric at this site, especially in light of other anticipated developments in the square that will significantly alter the character of the neighborhood. Staff also expresses concern with the proposal for the design of the corner building, noting that it does not respond to the existing architecture in the square. The project team shows an alternative design with a higher podium and less glass, which staff feels is a better direction for this site.
- May 10, 2018
Related Beal files a Project Notification Form with the BPDA, found here.
- December 1, 2017
Alliance staff meet with Related Beal to discuss general concepts for project and massing of potential new building which needs to preserve views to the CITGO sign.
In the News
Developer Related Beal on Tuesday went before the Boston Civic Design Commission to submit its updated plans to redevelop buildings on Commonwealth Avenue near Deerfield Street.
Emily Kahn, Boston Preservation Alliance Intern