First-hand report from the December 29, 2009 meeting of the Zoning, Licensing & Construction (ZLC) Committee of the North End/Waterfront Residents’ Association (NEWRA). No vote was taken as this meeting is for informational purposes only.
David Crocini, represented by Attorney Daniel Toscano, presented plans to renovate 133 Salem Street. Crocini is 15 year condo owner/resident at 121 Salem St. and would like more space for his growing family, including 2 children.
The first floor of 133 Salem St. is Sheldon’s which is closing in January 2010. The new owner is looking to keep the first floor as a retail establishment, rather than a restaurant.
Preliminary plans were shown for 2 studios on the second floor with spaces of 510 and 475 square feet and a 1 bedroom unit at 685 square feet. The third and new fourth floor will be owner occupied and expanded. The 3rd floor has about 1,200 square feet of living space currently and the applicant would like to increase that to 1,600 square feet. The 3rd floor will also have a private roof deck. The fourth floor will connect to the third floor to include a playroom and 2nd private roof deck. Currently, there is only a headhouse on the fourth floor.
The existing height of the building is 43 feet which will be increased to 51 feet with the renovation and fourth floor addition. This height is 2 feet below the south abutter at 125 Salem St. and 1 foot higher than the north abutter at 137 Salem St.
A zoning variance is required from the City’s Zoning Board of Appeal to change the designation to retail on the first floor with up to 4 condos. Currently, the building is zoned for only retail. The upper floors are only used for storage today. In addition to the roof decks, small balconies might be added to the studio units.
Abutters at 125 Salem St. (La Galleria 33 owner) raised several concerns with the proposed plans. The fourth floor addition will block windows/sunlight and eliminate a fire escape path from their building. The fire escape currently goes down to an alley. In the abutters opinion, the property should stay commercial because it is a difficult space for residential use.
A second abutter attended the meeting and generally believes the renovation will increase nearby property values, but would like to work with the applicant on certain aspects of the design.
Attorney Toscano indicated that the owner wants to work with abutters and the historic commission to restore the building. “Everyone loves Sheldon’s but they are closing their shop and the building is rat-infested and in desperate need of repair.” Toscano believes the renovation will increase property values in the surrounding area as a largely unoccupied building is upgraded.
A ZLC co-chair noted that it is not necessarily in the best interest of the neighborhood to have all buildings rise to a uniform 55 feet. Besides the shadows, such infilling could create a tightness on the streets such as currently experienced on sections of Unity and N. Bennet Streets.
The small size of the two studios approximating 500 square feet was also raised as a concern. Such units are generally “dorm-like” and generally attract college students. The North End already has among the smallest apartments in the city. The owner appeared sensitive to the concern of the smallish units on the second floor and said he would consider combining them for an interested buyer. The units are expected to be sold as condos. The owner gave out his phone number: 617 699 5722 for any interested buyers.
The owner has not yet received a refusal letter from Inspectional Services identifying the required zoning relief. As such, this issue could be delayed until the February NEWRA monthly meeting where a vote will be taken. NEWNC also tabled the application at its December meeting.