Photo by Matthew Dickey
This is the Arlington Building, AKA the Shreve, Crump & Low. It was first built as part of a row in 1904 as a branch of the Bryant and Stratton Commercial School. The school requested the large windows, which remain today. In 1904, Arlington street ended at Boylston Street as the Boston & Providence railroad terminal was behind a row of homes along Boyleston. When Arlington Street was cut through, The Arlington building became an anchor of the block.
The Beaux-Arts structure was bejeweled with Art Deco details in 1929. It became one of Boston’s first Art Deco buildings as the new flagship store for Shreve, Crump & Low jewelers. Shreve’s was established in 1796, making them the oldest jewelers in North America. Such famous items as the Cy Young Award were created by Shreve’s. They occupied the first two floors for 77 years (and still exist today in a building on Newbury Street).
See The Shreve’s Project Page
There is a lot of frustration and anger towards the upcoming demolition of the Arlington Building. It’s important to understand how we got to this point and what options are available.
- 2006: Over a decade ago, when the project to replace the buildings was first proposed, the Alliance and others in the preservation community attempted to protect the site through Landmark designation, which is Boston’s strongest preservation tool. Unfortunately, current regulations in Boston require Landmarked historic resources to be significant to the state, region, or nation and not just significant at the local level. The Boston Landmarks Commission was unable to approve the designation because they did not find the site had significance beyond the local level.
- 2008: The project was approved by the City through the normal process, following existing guidelines. The owner, The Druker Company, chose not to develop the property for many years and when they were prepared to move forward, they filed the required paperwork with the BPDA, called a Notice of Project Change, to present relatively modest changes to the proposal.
- 2009: An attempt was made to protect the properties through litigation. That effort was also unsuccessful.
- 2019: The proponent filed a Notice of Project Change (NPC) with the BPDA. The NPC process requires minimal additional review and the project was not required to go through the Boston Civic Design Commission process again. The changes were approved and the project continued to move forward. The Alliance met with the Druker team to discuss the revised project and give feedback.
- 2022: The Alliance maintains dialogue with the proponent, encouraging salvage of architecturally significant materials, and it is our understanding that the patinaed cornice and decorative grilles are likely to be salvaged. There are no additional options available to prevent demolition of the buildings that the Alliance feels are likely to be successful.
So what can you do to prevent this from happening in the future?
Help us advocate for changes to the process. Let Mayor Wu, elected officials, and leadership at the BPDA know that you feel:
- Project approvals should sunset so that after a certain amount of time proponents must file a new project and go through the review process again. This will allow changes in the neighborhood, needs and expectations of the community, new environmental goals, technology advancements, etc. to be considered more robustly. The City should not allow owners to delay approved projects indefinitely, leaving buildings vacant or underutilized and deteriorating in Boston neighborhoods.
- Projects returning after a significant delay should be required to file a new Project Notification Form, not a Notice of Project Change. This will ensure a more thorough review.
- Demolition of historic buildings and structures that are viable for continued or adaptive use should be prohibited. In a city that relies so heavily on its historic character and strives to meet progressive environmental goals, it is unacceptable that so many buildings are demolished with virtually no consideration of the loss of embodied carbon and energy, the loss of character and history for the neighborhood, and the impact on walkability, affordability, and livability to residents. Building reuse IS climate action and should always be the primary consideration by both developers and the BPDA. If it is determined that a structure is at the end of its usable life, it should be deconstructed and its materials reused.
Not ready to reach out on your own? Support the Alliance through membership and help make our advocacy stronger.
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What is the Alliance doing to prevent losses like this?
The Alliance is actively advocating for all of the points above and your voice makes us stronger. We will be serving on the newly-formed Commemoration Commission to promote new tools and processes that will strengthen our ability to protect historic resources across the city. We are partnering with environment advocates locally and nationally to increase understanding of the impacts of demolition versus building reuse, as well as salvage and reuse of materials when a structure is demolished. The Alliance is also working to ensure that historic preservation efforts include the places that matter to all Bostonians and represent all stories, not just prominent downtown buildings, and that our processes and tools provide all residents with the ability to protect the places that are meaningful in their communities. While we are saddened by the loss of any historic place, we will continue to use these losses to illuminate the need for more resources and improved systems.