Letter: Preservation group is consistent in fighting JP project

October 26, 2012
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A recent article suggests inconsistency in the role and approach of the Boston Preservation Alliance due to personal interests of Peter Roth, chairman of the Alliance Board of Directors. (“One developer under fire puts heat on another,” Oct. 12.) The Alliance advocates for historic preservation projects in Boston that promote the thoughtful long-term use of our diverse historic resources. We want not simply to preserve what exists, but to leverage the unique character of our neighborhoods into an enhanced quality of life for all our citizens.

Like apples and oranges, the projects discussed in the article, the New England Home for Little Wanderers and the Blessed Sacrament campus, are very different in their approaches to preservation.

Blessed Sacrament is a preservation-friendly, adaptive reuse of historic structures. All seven buildings on the campus are being preserved with new uses. When the Alliance reviewed this project, it had been developed with extensive community involvement and supported by the Boston Landmarks Commission as well as the Alliance. The Alliance believes the standards of preservation and rehabilitation utilized here to be a success.

The Alliance has not been involved in recent discussions, as they have no impact on the preservation aspects of the project.

The proposal for 161 S. Huntington Ave. will demolish all buildings, including the 1914 Knight Building, as well as many historic, landscape-defining trees. We share the neighborhood’s concerns regarding a proposal that destroys a viable historic building for a massive, out-of-character new structure. It removes a Boston legacy from a district of historic buildings that were carefully planned for “Institution Row,” instead of successfully integrating historic and new construction, as neighboring institutions have done.

The Alliance engaged developer Mr. Curtis Kemeny several months ago to foster dialogue promoting a more preservation-friendly design. We even promoted a taller project that would better preserve historic resources. Absent interest by the developer in historic preservation, the Alliance responded to the request of neighborhood leaders to help guide and coordinate advocacy efforts to protect the historic building, based on our experience in that area.

The chairman of our board, Peter Roth, is a lead developer in the Blessed Sacrament project. However, when our board evaluated that project, we followed our conflict of interest policy, which assured that he was afforded no more opportunity to promote his plan than any other developer. He played no part in the Alliance’s decision-making or actions on that project.

With regard to 161 S. Huntington Ave., our entire board has been fully engaged and a number of members have offered opinions, guidance, and recommendations to staff about ways to effectively promote quality historic preservation.

We are disappointed that the BRA approved this project on Oct. 18, despite unified neighborhood opposition. The community has vowed to continue the fight to the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Thank you for the opportunity to clarify the Alliance’s role. We are always eager to work with the community, developers and other interested parties on ways to promote and integrate historic preservation into new development projects.

Greg Galer, Executive Director

Boston Preservation Alliance

Boston

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