Residents’ Association Opposes Five-Story Addition at 97 Salem Street

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The North End / Waterfront Residents’ Association (NEWRA) voted to oppose a proposal for a five-story addition at 97 Salem Street at their July meeting. The final vote was 7 in support and 26 opposed.

The proposal was presented by Attorney Daniel Toscano. Watch the presentation in the video above and follow along with this summary.

The building is currently a single-story commercial space occupied by Curator. Prior to that, it was Boston Common Coffee Co. It is between North End Fish & Sushi and Antico Forno. The proposal is to add four residential units on top of the commercial space. The top unit would be a duplex, so the total addition would be five stories.

The zoning code violations include a parking violation (no parking would be added), roof structure violation for building on the current roof, floor-area-ratio which would be 3.5 (the requirement is 3), and open space.

The original plans have been changed to meet some of the neighborhood concerns. These changes include the elimination of a roof deck, elimination of all rear decks except for unit 4, elimination of a basement, and creation of an interior trash, mechanical and storage space in the back of the retail space.

The retail space on the first floor would be 615 sq. ft. As the building goes up, the size of the units decrease, in an attempt to keep from blocking back windows of the buildings on Parmenter Street. All units are 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. The second floor unit would be 974 sq. ft., third floor 880 sq. ft., and fourth floor 827 sq. ft. The fifth and sixth floor would be a duplex unit measuring 1,546 total sq. ft. with 2 bedrooms and 2.5 baths. This unit would also have a 50 – 60 sq. ft. private deck.

There would be two means of egress and an elevator, which is a requirement for building up five stories.

Questions from the audience begin at 14:15.

Concerns were raised about the design not fitting in with the neighborhood and surrounding buildings. Attorney Toscano stressed that the plans would still go through a design review.

Abutters read a letter of opposition at 15:25. The top concerns were sunlight and air flow for Parmenter Street units, as well as fire safety. Also mentioned was a fear of setting a precedent for building up to that height all along Salem Street.

The building owner addressed concerns about fire at 20:44. He stressed that the current building is already taking up the entire lot, so nothing would change in terms of firefighters’ access behind the building.

The owner requested a shadow study be completed. The results for the summer solstice and the winter solstice are presented at 34:08.

The North End / Waterfront Neighborhood Council (NEWNC) also opposed the development at their July meeting. Watch that video here.


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7 COMMENTS

  1. In the 1980s I led the community effort to address new development in the North End at that time. We successfully addressed the issue of height and roof-top structures with the adoption of zoning codes which previously did not exist. Before then, abutters and neighborhood organizations had no legal recourse to address new development. However, the question of architectural design was not resolved as our Landmark District and Historic District proposals did not advance. The result is that much of today’s new round of development is again not in conformance with the historic character of the area. The North End thrives in part due to its old world charm. Loose that and you lose an important part of what makes the North End a special part of Boston. I hope that today’s community leaders will seriously consider design and call for new city ordinances that will guide the process.

    • You do realize that the thing that makes the North End special is the height of the buildings relative to the width of the streets they front, right?

      Also, please tell me how the North End still has “old world charm” when we allow cars to litter the streets and require former ground-floor retail spaces to become apartments with hideous street frontage.

      By allowing this building to remain a one-story eyesore, you are perpetuating the effects of mid-20th Century urban planning which tried to wipe the “old world charm” from the face of this city, among many others.

      • ?? He only mentions the design process. Your reply regarding height ordinances (which sounds like he helped shape) has nothing to do with the statement.

      • You make very good points. I’m not suggesting that the building remain one story. I am the one who proposed and directly worked with the BRA to develop the 55’ height limitation. Building up within the context of the area is appropriate. Former ground-floor store fronts now “hideous street frontage” (your words) could be addressed with Landmark or Historic District status, both of which I originally filed with the city in the mid 1980s. With the height limit and rooftop ordinance achieved, interest in those proposals waned. That being said, there is no reason to continue the development mistakes of the past.

  2. Maxime is so right. Living near the Freedom Trail, I often encounter visitors from other parts of the world. The first thing they always say is “We love the height of the buildings relative to the width of the streets!” Old World charm, historic landmarks, unique shops and restaurants and a livable, functioning neighborhood are never mentioned.
    p.s. It’s always wonderful to see comments from Peter Petrigno. North Enders owe him a great debt of thanks.

  3. Couldn’t agree more about the need for historic district protection. I moved to Boston from New York several years ago and was really surprised to learn how little of the city is protected–it’s mostly concentrated around the Back Bay, South End, and Beacon Hill. I agree that one-story commercial is not the best use of the space, nor am I a fan of ill-conceived ground floor commercial-to-residential conversions, but surely there’s a middle ground, one that is more in keeping with the neighborhood’s historic character.

  4. Listen boys and girls, in reality, you can’t stop them. You can voice your concerns, but in the end, unless the developer wants to meet you a quarter of the way, he’ll get the permits to build. The North End is already in the changing mode. It’s the back bay and south end, money talks and high rents are here to stay in bigger buildings. Sad, but true.

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