It was another heated community meeting regarding the proposed building and tenants at Cross Street Plaza. Charter Cross Street LLC, an affiliate of Charter Realty at 198 Hanover Street, filed with the Boston Zoning Board of Appeal to change the legal occupancy at the property to include a Citizens Bank with an ATM. The tenant would occupy the center of the three bays in the new building. Recall that Starbucks, another proposed tenant, was recently shot down by city officials after significant community opposition.
Members of the North End / Waterfront Residents’ Association (NEWRA) voted to oppose the application, with 9 in favor and 11 against. The hearing and advisory vote to city officials was held on September 13, 2018 at NEWRA’s monthly meeting.
Efforts by meeting moderators, Charter Realty’s Karen Johnson and Citizens Bank’s Amanda Marshall to limit discussion to the Citizens Bank proposal were unsuccessful as abutters and other residents focused on their distaste for the overall design of the building. Despite significant opposition in 2016 to the glass and metal design of the one-story (plus mezzanine) building, Charter Realty has already received city permits for core and shell construction. The Boston Redevelopment Authority, BRA (now, the Boston Planning & Development Agency, BPDA) has also approved the design as part of their small project review.
In particular, abutter Angie Romano (Romano Florist) expressed extensive opposition to the building plans as expressed by attorney George Jabour at the NEWRA meeting (03:42 in video and again at 13:50). Jabour implied the mezzanine level heights, up to 10 feet higher than the pre-existing structure on the Hanover Street side, may have been misrepresented by the proponent “as of right” under Article 54-18 of the zoning code. This view was disputed by Charter Realty’s Johnson who cited the provisions of Article 49A of the Greenway Overlay District zoning that apply to this parcel. Johnson implied that an adjoining structure on the lot, at 54 Salem St., is 43 feet high and therefore allows the added height (14:30 in video).
NEWRA’s zoning chair, Victor Brogna, followed up after the meeting indicating that Article 54 of the Boston Zoning Code contains a Section 54-18 titled Roof Structure and Building Height Restrictions providing in part, “The height of any building existing as of June 24, 1985, shall determine the allowed building height on that lot subsequent to total or partial demolition or destruction of such building.” NEWRA’s President McGee requested the City provide the building plans that were filed with Inspectional Services.
Citizens Bank has operated at the corner site for several years. The renderings below were provided to show the updated design of the bank. There would be an ATM, bank with offices and a mezzanine (click to enlarge).
The debate regarding the building and its approval by the city continued for most of the 25 minute discussion. At one point, a NEWRA member asked the Sergeant of Arms to intervene (22:40 in video).
NEWRA’s opposition of the Citizens Bank at 198 Hanover St. joins that of the North End / Waterfront Neighborhood Council (NEWNC) which also voted against the proposal. Both neighborhood groups are advisory to the city’s Board of Appeal that will make the final determination.