Conversion of the Immaculate Conception Church into Condominiums

Photo of proposed project on the BRA website

Photo of proposed project on the BRA website

On Tuesday, July 5, the South End Landmark District Commission reviewed the design application for the conversion of the Immaculate Conception Church to 63 condominiums. This was the first design application put forth by Nunes Trabucco Architects and the second meeting with the South End Landmark District Commission (SELDC). Several South End residents living next to the church attended the public meeting at Boston City Hall to hear the developer’s proposed project and voice their concerns. The developer put together a PowerPoint presentation for the committee and the public.

The proposed development will be called The Cosmopolitan and Nunes Trabucco Architects is handling the project. This meeting was the first design application put forth before the South End Landmark District Commission. The developer previously met with the commission at its May meeting for an advisory hearing. At this previous hearing, the Commission listened to the proposed project and voiced their concerns and made several suggestions.

Immaculate Conception Church, 1973. (Photo property of the South End Historical Society)

Immaculate Conception Church, 1973. (Photo property of the South End Historical Society)

The South End Landmark District Commission does not have jurisdiction over the entire project. All exterior work at front facades, all exterior work at rooftops (when visible from a public way), and all exterior work at side and rear elevations (when side and rear elevations face a public way) are subject to the review of the South End Landmark District Commission. The project is also under review of the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA).

“The BRA’s Development Review Department facilitates the review of small and large scale development projects, pursuant to Article 80 of the Boston Zoning Code. Led by a team of Project Management staff, this department coordinates with BRA Planning & Urban Design staff, City Agencies, elected officials and the community to foster responsible development in the neighborhoods and the Downtown.” (from the BRA website)

According to the BRA website, the developers have submitted a Letter of Intent, but has yet been approved by the Board.

After listening to the presentation, the Commission asked questions and discussed their concerns with the project. Their main areas of concern:

  • Window tracery: The commission would like it preserved as this is a significant aspect to the building’s architecture.
  • Garage Door: The proposed garage door on East Concord Street needs further development
  • Recessed roof balconies: There are some parts of the roof balconies that the commission would like altered, such as the walls between each balcony being thicker.

After questions and comments, the Commission made a motion to accept the design application in concept with provisos. The applicants will need to take the commission’s concerns and suggestions to further develop their project and come before the full commission at a future meeting.

After the motion was made and before the commission voted, the floor was opened for public comment. Around 8-10 residents of the community stood to voice their concerns over the proposed project. The commission asked they speak only on things that are within the Commission’s jurisdiction. For example, residents concerned over the number of units, the traffic or construction noise, would need to contact the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA).

Some concerns that the public brought up:

  • HVAC yard (it was not discussed in the presentation and both the Commission and residents would like to know what developers have planned).
  • Copper roof located to the right of the garage. Both the commission and residents want to see it preserved. The developer stated that they had no intention of removing it; however, the cross attached to the copper roof may need to be removed (the Archdiocese will be removing all religious iconography on the exterior and interior of the church).
  • The plans for the building from Father Gilday Street were not discussed in Tuesday’s presentation and will need to be moving forward.

The Commission agreed with the public regarding these concerns and would like to see these items further developed and discussed at the next meeting. The South End Historical Society will continue to attend meetings regarding the church at City Hall and update the project’s progress through our blog and on Twitter.

This was the first of several public meetings that the developers of the project will attend at Boston City Hall. Interested in the South End Landmark District Commission? Be sure to visit their page on the City of Boston website and attend their monthly public meetings, held every 1st Tuesday of the month!

South End Architecture: Flemish Revival

Walking through the South End, the neighborhood’s streetscape is lined with row houses that at first look deceptively uniform. However, there are many variations in architectural style throughout the neighborhood. Although many people think of a Victorian row house as a specific architectural style, the row house itself is a blank framework on which several styles can be imposed.

A row house, also known as a town house, is a residence connected by a common or party wall to one or more other residences. Victorian refers to the period of the reign of England’s Queen Victoria (1837-1901), during which most of the South End land was filled in and the majority of houses built. South End row houses were built primarily between 1830 and 1880 as single family homes meant for middle class families who wanted easy access to downtown Boston.

289 Shawmut Avenue, 1972

289 Shawmut Avenue, 1972

One unique architectural style found in the South End that many may not be aware of is the Flemish Revival Style, which is part of the Renaissance Revival Style. Renaissance Revival is an all-inclusive term that covers many 19th century architectural revival styles that were neither Greek nor Gothic Revival.

The origin of Renaissance architecture is generally accredited to designer and architect Filippo Brunelleschi (1377-1446) He is also known as the first modern engineer and planner. Brunelleschi strove to bring greater “order” to architecture, resulting in strong symmetry and careful proportion.

The Renaissance Revival of the 19th century drew inspiration from a wide range of classical Italian styles. These architects went beyond the style that originated in Florence and included styles that would be identified as Mannerist or Baroque.

A great example of the Flemish Revival Style is found at 281-291 Shawmut Avenue, at the corner of Waltham Street. These Flemish homes are easily distinguished by their roof lines of stepped Flemish gables with convex and concave curves, much like those atop the houses lining the canals of Amsterdam.

Block 293-275 Shawmut Avenue, 1972

Block 293-275 Shawmut Avenue, 1972

These Flemish Revival homes on Shawmut Avenue were built in 1851-2 by a brick maker, and they all have very simple flat fronts on which nearly all decoration is done with intricately patterned brickwork, rather than carved brownstone, cast iron or granite. The homes were originally covered in a stone-colored smooth stucco finish, scored with false joints to give the impression that the façade was constructed of stone blocks. Other homes in the South End were also once covered in this stone finish, but it was difficult and costly to maintain.

Want to know more about the architecture in the South End? Stay tuned for an upcoming walking tour with Executive Director Lauren Prescott on the different architectural styles found in the neighborhood.