By Lauren Bennett
Special to the Gazette
The Boston Landmarks Commission (BLC) decided on Tuesday night to impose a 90-day demolition delay for 73 Sheridan St, a Victorian era house that was built around 1868.
Todd Satter of the BLC said that the staff determined that the building is significant, and “one whose loss would have a significant negative impact on the historical or architectural integrity or urban design character of the neighborhood.”
As per the Article 85 process, a community meeting was held on July 12 and the appropriate documentation from the meeting, including all documents presented and the attendance sheet, were submitted.
Developer and applicant Lee Goodman said that the building is restorable and “we are happy to restore it.”
“We’re not saying the building needs to be torn down,” he said.
The house sits on a 20,000 square foot lot, and the house itself is around 3,500 square feet with some non-historic additions off the rear. The developers are looking to build more units on the property, whether the existing house is preserved or demolished.
Owner Scott Underhill said he moved into the house in 1977 and added all of the “detail and fancy artwork,” since the house was covered in tar shingles when he moved in. He said that to his knowledge, there is no historical value to the design.
BLC Chair Lynn Smiledge called the house “unique,” and said that she thinks “it would be a terrible loss to the neighborhood” if it was torn down.
“We would love to have the ability to save the house and build on the lot behind it,” Goodman said.
But he said that they are continually met with written and verbal threats of zoning and variance challenges from abutters and understands that they “hold the cards.”
Several people from the BPDA have tried “multiple times to moderate this process,” Goodman said, “but they’ve been met with the same issues we’ve been met with, and they are they ones I believe who essentially encouraged us to begin this process to invoke the delay and at least keep the process moving.”
Goodman also said that the owners are “willing and able” to try and save the house if an agreement on a variance can be reached, and that he and the owners are willing to move forward and try to come to an agreement.
Before the Commission was able to hear any proposals from the architect, they were required to make a motion on whether or not to invoke the delay. As per the Article 85 process, if they chose to impose the delay, they could choose to waive it after hearing the proposal from the developer and/or architect. Commissioner Richard Henderson said that he believes it is preferable for the building to be preserved to be redeveloped, and the commission voted to impose the delay.
Architect Dartagnan Brown presented several different possibilities for how the property could be built upon, which have been presented at several community meetings.
Abutter Anthony King said that while he cannot speak for all of the neighbors, he believes that a common issue with all of the proposals is that there are too many units and the project is too big. He also said that green space is important to all of the neighbors, which could be compromised in some of the proposals.
Goodman said that since the FAR is .6, they can build 60 percent. “All the owners are saying is that they want to build what’s allowed by law,” he said.
Goodman said that every option for development has eight units, but many abutters did not want more than six units. One proposal was to restore the current house and build the new units behind it, and another showed three new rowhouses in a row. No proposal has been agreed on thus far.
“It behooves us as a community to work together on this hybrid type solution that at least accommodates that historic building and that accommodates that what I would argue as an architect is very much in scale in keeping with the neighborhood,” said Commissioner Richard Yeager.
Smiledge said that she is “impressed at the efforts to which the designers have gone,” calling the proposals “handsome.”
He said they have seen success with the 90 day delay. “It has worked and that’s why it’s there.”
Commissioner David Berarducci said that since the developer said that the footprint would be the same whether there are six or eight units, the issue becomes more about how many people the units will bring to the area.
“It would be a total disaster if this building was torn down in 90 days,” he said.
The Commission voted to uphold their earlier imposition of the delay so the developers and architects can work with the community to come up with a plan that works to incorporate the existing house into the new development.
Smiledge concluded, “We encourage you to continue the conversation.”