BLC Votes Not to Impose Demo Delay on Building at 197 Green St.

A demolition delay hearing was held for the building at 197 Green St. on March 10. A demolition delay is conducted in three parts: the review of the community meeting process, a determination of significant and potential imposition of demo delay, and only if the Boston Landmarks Commission (BLC) chooses to impose the delay, the applicant will then present a proposal for a new structure in the place of the demolished building. In this case, the BLC voted not to impose the demolition delay after hearing more about it.

The building at 197 Green St. is now most known for its colorful paintings on the facade, and has come to be known as the “graffiti house.”

BLC staff determined the community meeting process to be adequate, so they moved onto the next step of determining the significance of the building.

BLC Preservation Assistant Gabriela Amore said that BLC staff has determined the building to be significant and one whose loss would have an impact on the history of the neighborhood. She said that BLC staff found the house to be a “preferably preserved building” due to its contribution to the history of Jamaica Plain.

Amore said the building is the oldest remaining building on the street, and is a remnant of the Green Street transition and widespread suburbanization of the era, as it was likely constructed between 1854 and 1858.

Matt Eckel of zoning law firm Drago + Toscano said that the building has had a number of owners throughout the years, and has gone through several alterations to the original historic facade, including the replacement of the shingles and windows and the addition of a rear porch. He added that the building is currently vacant, and has been since 2013. There was no structural integrity report submitted to the BLC, though the applicants said that it is “quite beaten up,” though that was not being used as an argument for demolition.

Eckel said that if the structure is demolished, the project team is “looking at ways to keep the character alive” through retaining some of the moldings, bricks, banisters, and window surrounds to use in a new structure.

The BLC received several letters in support of invoking the demolition delay and some not in favor of invoking it. 

BLC Chair Lynn Smiledge agreed with staff that the demolition of the building would be a “loss,” but “90 days is 90 days,” she said.

The BLC voted to not impose the demolition delay, which means the applicants can demolish the building without a waiting period. The BLC did recommend to the applicants that they allow the JP Historical Society to enter the building and document it, and to also consider performing an archaeological investigation, as the lot is still intact.

BLC member Kirsten Hoffman, who has a background in archaeology, said that it could just be one foot by one foot holes in the ground, but doing so may help the owners and historians learn even more about the history of the house.

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