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Old 02-20-2008, 09:55 AM   #1
statler
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Proposed Bay Village Apartment Tower | 212 Stuart St. | Bay Village

I did a quick search but didn't find any threads dedicated to this project. It was mentioned in the Theater District thread, but I figure it should have it's own home.

Quote:
$30M Office Proposal Replaces Condo Plans at Hub?s 212 Stuart St.
By Thomas Grillo
Reporter


B&T staff photo by Thomas Grillo
The former JAE?s restaurant in Boston?s Theater District could become the
city?s latest office tower.


The curtain has fallen on another condominium project in Boston?s Theater District.

Hera Development Corp. is expected to file plans with the city for a 68,000-square-foot office building at 212 Stuart St. The 10-story tower replaces a previous proposal for luxury condos at the downtown site.

Under the latest proposal, the former JAE?s restaurant would be razed to make way for offices. Retail is planned for the first two floors, with Class A office space on floors three through 10.

Gary W. Hendren, project architect, said he has met with representatives of the nearby Bay Village neighborhood on many occasions to refine the project. He said the neighbors have agreed to write a letter to the Boston Redevelopment Authority ?not opposing? the project.

?Our proposal has gone through five iterations responding to the neighborhood?s comments,? Hendren said. ?We started at 12 stories but agreed to 10 after meeting with the neighbors. The JAE?s building alone had been approved at 115 feet and the neighborhood wanted 110 feet, so we compromised at 112 feet. I believe we have a very good relationship with the neighborhood.?

Brian Boisvert, president of the Bay Village Neighborhood Association, said residents consider the parcel an important gateway to the neighborhood. But he said concerns about height, density and historic preservation have been resolved.

Hendren said the $30 million proposal would be filed with the BRA in March.

?The developer and the architect have been very responsive to our concerns,? Boisvert said. ?They?re making sure that the facade along the Shawmut Street side will have the appropriate look, detail and scale in keeping with the neighborhood. They also agreed to set back the side of the building that faces Church Street to make sure that section remains pedestrian-friendly.?

The 212 Stuart St. property was built in 1840 as a religious center for the German United Evangelical Lutheran and Reformed Society. Later, the building became the Hope Chapel, and in 1985 was occupied by JAE?s restaurant. The building was vacated by the Pan-Asian eatery in 1999.

In 2006, the Boston Redevelopment Authority approved demolition of the 3-story JAE?s building by Ceres Realty Fund and Urban Residential. The team planned a new structure with 18 condominiums, including two penthouse units. But the $12 million project was never built and Hera bought the former restaurant site in November for $6.5 million. The developer also is negotiating to purchase the adjacent parking lot.
NLA
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Old 02-20-2008, 10:23 AM   #2
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Re: 212 Stuart St

Quote:
?Our proposal has gone through five iterations responding to the neighborhood?s comments,? Hendren said. ?We started at 12 stories but agreed to 10 after meeting with the neighbors. The JAE?s building alone had been approved at 115 feet and the neighborhood wanted 110 feet, so we compromised at 112 feet. I believe we have a very good relationship with the neighborhood.?
wow...that's just...sad...
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Old 02-20-2008, 10:50 AM   #3
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Re: 212 Stuart St

^ my thoughts exactly.

So I wonder what the neighborhood will do with their extra three feet of airspace. Methinks they'll be out in the streets having block parties in the summer, basking in all that extra sunlight they'll get (since of course buildings to the north of you cause humongous shadows).
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Old 02-20-2008, 12:43 PM   #4
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Re: 212 Stuart St

I really want to know how neighbors come up with their ideas of acceptable height. Seems to me the formula is: Developer proposes 2+ stories more than desired. Neighbors says it's too high. Developer chops off 2 stories and get what he actually wanted in the first place.
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Old 02-20-2008, 01:21 PM   #5
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Re: 212 Stuart St

Negotiation! When I read that line all I could think about was that the building was probably going to end up being 120ft with all the air conditioning units on the roof.
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Old 02-20-2008, 01:22 PM   #6
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Re: 212 Stuart St

The "Jae's" building was built by the "Hairenek Association" (what ever that is, or was) around 1940. There was an art deco style inscription to that effect on the street level facade which the current owner plastered over several years ago. I can't tell if Billy's parking lot next door is part of the proposal.
I'm usually all for "taller is better", but this is a touchy site. The row houses are nice, and it will take some clever design not to overwhelm them. In this economy, I wonder if the developer will be laying out the bucks for a clever design.
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Old 02-20-2008, 01:29 PM   #7
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Re: 212 Stuart St

Quote:
Originally Posted by DarkFenX View Post
wow...that's just...sad...
Quote:
"...I believe we have a very good relationship with the neighborhood."
It's very very very very sad AND extremely puzzling... because NOBODY LIVES THERE!!! What neighborhood is this anyway? The little rinky dink building on Stuart Street across the way from Park Plaza? My God!
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Old 02-20-2008, 01:38 PM   #8
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Re: 212 Stuart St

Bay Village. The architecture is pretty cool. Full of scaled down Beacon Hill style town houses. (Alot of Chinatown onced looked like this. You can see a few holdouts still.) Bay Village is one of the few (only?) enclaves of housing in pre-annexation Boston built for the middle class in the pre Civil War era. Worth a stroll, though perhaps not after midnight.
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Old 02-20-2008, 02:28 PM   #9
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Re: 212 Stuart St

Yep, Bay Village is right behind this property. The neighborhood is almost invisible from Stuart Street so if you're not looking for it, you can easily not know it is there.
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Old 02-20-2008, 02:29 PM   #10
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Re: 212 Stuart St

the quoted article says 1840, you say 1940, who's correct? In any event, it appears that the building will be demolished.
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Old 02-20-2008, 02:40 PM   #11
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Re: 212 Stuart St

I'm skeptical about the "facts" in the article. If you look at the side of the building as depicted in the photo you can see the outline of one of the row houses that stood at Billy's parking next door. That row house dated from about 1840, and gives you a sense of the scale of what was of what was there in those days. Perhaps some portion of the fabric of the "Jae's" building dates from 1840, but if so, it was heavily reconstructed and enlarged, including the addition of a substantial art deco facade.
Be that as it may, it won't be a loss, and hopefully the new building will be kinder to the neighborhood than the horrible Radisson garage, which you can see looming over the town houses at the end of the street.
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Old 02-20-2008, 02:43 PM   #12
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Re: 212 Stuart St

I thought I posted an entry on this, yesterday! It disappeared!

I would like to know the exact date of the building, as well. Is this the "original" building or a rebuild ...

Somewhere on these boards is a discussion on its history and ornate exterior ... no?

Last edited by JimboJones; 02-21-2008 at 09:22 AM.
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Old 02-20-2008, 02:49 PM   #13
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Re: 212 Stuart St

A better view?



FYI, the article says that the new owners of the JAE's building are negotiating the purchase of the parking lot, so that answers that question.

I don't see any harm in building this as proposed - it's already such a dark street behind there, the extra stories won't make it any worse. And, the foot traffic, etc., will enter from Stuart Street, so there will be little effect on the street. Same is true for auto traffic.

A nice shiny glass building would be wonderful.

Oh, and "I fear the building will overwhelm the townhomes"? So does the eight-story parking garage!

Oh, and I think you all should compliment the neighborhood association for working out an agreement with the developer. Sounds as if everyone is happy.
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Old 02-20-2008, 03:38 PM   #14
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Re: 212 Stuart St

Just to add something to the history of the building, according to the Mass. Supreme Judicial Court, as of 1938, the building had three levels:

"(T)he plaintiff (Hairenik Association) acquired title to the real estate in question and has since maintained the building as its headquarters. Printing presses, linotype machines and offices of the plaintiff are located in the basement and first floor of the building. On the second floor there is a hall with library facilities, which was used for social purposes for the Armenian people of Boston... The plaintiff continued to print and publish the newspaper Hairenik on the premises... (and) a monthly magazine in the Armenian language." See Hairenik Association, Inc. v. Boston, 313 Mass. 274, 276 (1943).

It would appear that the building reached its current configuration (i.e. more than 2 floors and a basement), either through new construction or a complete rebuild at a time period after 1938.

Yes, I'm sure a shiny new glass tower will be cute, but let's hope that no one will be so lacking in discernment as to consider the Radisson parking garage an appropriate design bench mark.
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Old 02-20-2008, 08:23 PM   #15
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Re: 212 Stuart St

Some quick notes on this one:

- The building in question was originally the Hope Chapel, and it is much older than the dates cited in this thread - exactly how old I do not know. It was renovated for commercial use in the late '30s. The opposite side facing Shawmut (not to be confused with Shawmut in the South End) is an older, neo-Gothic church facade, totally different from the Deco facade on the Stuart side, which has a cornerstone dating 1939.
- They are trying to preserve and integrate both facades in proposals shown to the neighborhood. This may be required by the Historic Commission, which to date has been more protective of this mongrel building than the Shreve building (perhaps because its developer is less connected).
- The squabble with BVNA over a few feet was a more significant issue dealing with precedent. The properties in question have a range of "as of right" zoning heights, most of which are quite low ... 50 feet on some parcels, 35 feet on part of the neighboring lot. The neighborhood and BRA came to agreement with the prior developer on a certain height far exceeding the relevant zoning ... and he promptly flipped the building on the basis of those approvals, netting several million on the sale, without any apparent effort to build anything. This pissed off the neighbors, who weren't keen to re-trade the deal. For those of you on this board who idolize developers, and rail reflexively against NIMBYs, note how a zoning variance transformed a $2 million property into a $6 million property without anyone lifting a shovel. The neighborhood would like to see this site developed but understandably isn't keen on simply raising the stakes for a chain of speculators.
- The adjacent lots on Shawmut are a sore spot with the neighborhood. Until a few years ago, a pair of 1830s townhouses stood there, which were part of the historic district. These houses were neglected by the owner of the parking lot, who kept applying to tear them down, presumably to increase the value of his plot. Along the way there was a fire that was ruled "suspicous." Draw your own conclusions. These houses made the Historical Society's "most endangered" property list for several years. Eventually, the owner was successful in getting the OK from the State to tear them down, supposedly because of safety concerns (the City never relented). A vocal minority in Bay Village would like to hold the zoning height on those parcels to the as-of-right 35 feet rather than give credence to the notion that one can build much higher if one manages to knock down historic buildings ... but obviously that situation is not the fault of the current developer and most are OK with the compromise.
- To those on the board who think "no one lives here," you should get out more ... there are residences within a few feet of this site, including some more 1840s townhouses. And as noted above, people lived on part of the site itself until not long ago. Indeed, a few of the residents of the neighborhood have lived there since before the godawful 57 hotel with its pedestrian-hostile garage was rammed down their throats by the BRA during much darker times. They are keen not to use this as a precedent - but note that the approved height of this project is somewhat taller than the garage - masking it is viewed as a plus by all.
- It's probably worth noting that Bay Village also gave a thumbs-up to the much larger One Charles, Columbus Center, and the W Hotel projects, all just outside the historic district - despite facing a lot of heat from other neighborhoods, especially in the case of Columbus Center. There are still some undeveloped parcels held for speculation in the heart of the district, and you can expect the neighborhood will take a harder line on keeping things in scale there ... but in general, this isn't the first place you should probably cry about NIMBYs. There's no way anything similar, part of which is in the historic district proper, would ever be approved in Beacon Hill or Back Bay.
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Old 02-20-2008, 08:32 PM   #16
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Re: 212 Stuart St

Quote:
The properties in question have a range of "as of right" zoning heights, most of which are quite low ... 50 feet on some parcels, 35 feet on part of the neighboring lot. The neighborhood and BRA came to agreement with the prior developer on a certain height far exceeding the relevant zoning ... and he promptly flipped the building on the basis of those approvals, netting several million on the sale, without any apparent effort to build anything. This pissed off the neighbors, who weren't keen to re-trade the deal. For those of you on this board who idolize developers, and rail reflexively against NIMBYs, note how a zoning variance transformed a $2 million property into a $6 million property without anyone lifting a shovel. The neighborhood would like to see this site developed but understandably isn't keen on simply raising the stakes for a chain of speculators.
This doesn't prove that the NIMBYs are right so much as it proves that Boston zoning is absurdly stupid.
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Old 02-20-2008, 10:12 PM   #17
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Re: 212 Stuart St

Thanks InTheHood for all that info; it really fills in a lot of the missing picture. And I agree with you that the BVNA is one of the most rational neighborhood groups around. Good for them.

A quick question: what was on the site of the Radisson beforehand? That thing is truly one of the worst buildings in all of Boston.

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Originally Posted by statler View Post
This doesn't prove that the NIMBYs are right so much as it proves that Boston zoning is absurdly stupid.
I dunno. The 30-50 foot height limits make sense here. Perhaps this one parcel fronting on Stuart deserves to be taller, but by and large I'd say the system works for this wee little area. At the very least I'll say the current zoning has created (rather left in place) my favorite neighborhood to be found within central Boston.

Perhaps a fine-grain upzoning of some peripheral parcels is in order (like what was done to various neighborhoods in Brooklyn three years ago: upzone lots fronting on avenues, leave the side streets alone), but that's it.
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Old 02-20-2008, 10:35 PM   #18
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Re: 212 Stuart St

In The Hood, thanks for connecting the dots. It is a great neighborhood, and I hope this works out!
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Old 02-20-2008, 10:54 PM   #19
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Re: 212 Stuart St

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Originally Posted by kz1000ps View Post
A quick question: what was on the site of the Radisson beforehand? That thing is truly one of the worst buildings in all of Boston.
I believe a portion of the Radisson was built on the former site of the Coconut Grove nightclub which burned to the ground. Hundreds died in the fire. I recall a plaque on the back of the Radisson garage marking the exact location of the Coconut Grove.
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Old 02-20-2008, 11:36 PM   #20
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Re: 212 Stuart St

OK, but what was there in between? Cocoanut Grove burned in the 40s, but this hotel opened in the 70s.
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