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Board rejects glass-enclosed roof deck atop Comm Ave. private club as affront to Back Bay architecture

A developer's plans to rebuild the dowdy Algonquin Club at 217 Commonwealth Ave. as a place for rich millennials to unwind hit a snag recently when the Back Bay Architectural Commission ruled a proposed glass-enclosed roof deck just would not do.

The Boston Sun provides the blow by blow of the Sept. 12 commission hearing, at which members said they're not necessarily opposed to topping off the building with a roof deck, just not one wrapped in the glass panels Sandy Edgerley's architect proposed as a way to cut down on any offensive noise from the chattering classes who would congregate there.

Edgerley says the deck and other updates, which would include a fitness room, are vital to keep the club from dying out with its current membership, which has been declining for years. Her proposal, which also includes a valet to end double parking on Commonwealth Avenue, has mostly gathered support in the neighborhood, except for the roof deck.

The architect agreed to come back to the architectural commission with new plans to satisfy both the noise and esthetic concerns.

The zoning board approved the roof deck last month after Edgerly's attorney said she would agree to limit capacity of the 1,300-square-foot deck to 65 people, even though it could support 400, and to not allow live performances there. She also plans to install sound-monitoring equipment around the deck's edges so that parties that started veering towards excessive loudness could be told to pipe down.

Free tagging: 


Can we retroactively reject its construction? Asking for a friend.

Voting closed 45

Don't have a ton to add but say it's really a remarkable building inside. I had a member give me a tour a couple years back. Not really for me, though, as it's basically a place for conservative-minded people to mingle, but really good for anyone looking for a super-secret exclusive lair/hideout from the hoi polloi.

Voting closed 14

Yeah - super secret.

Voting closed 7

Glass enclosed roof decks were a thing at all the old timey social clubs around the dawn of the 20th century and lots of Boston Hotels in the Back Bay had them.

Voting closed 6

have glass-enclosed spaces on roofs in the Back Bay


Voting closed 12

Back Bay Architectural Commission

This group should not exist. NIMBYism is already a scourge in the Boston area. What does it take to get rid of groups like these? Can people vote them out?

Voting closed 13

...regardless of the individuals serving on it. The existing body of requirements is pretty hardcore, so (imo) voting people on or off would make relatively little difference in matters like this. Given the value of real estate in that neighborhood, I don't see it becoming any less hard-nosed for the next half century or so (barring economic/environmental catastrophe).

The BBAC was created as a result of state laws establishing Boston historic districts and the preservation thereof. Another cosequence of Boston not having home rule.

Acts of the General Court 1960
Acts of the General Court 1975

(Btw, this roofdeck brouhaha is nothing compared to how picky they can get - for instance, good luck getting the BBAC to allow you to replace wooden window frames with ones that are visually identical but made of more durable material, in any building facing Comm Ave between the Public Garden and Mass Ave. VoE).

Voting closed 10

The developer proposing to restore the Algonquin Club is doing the neighborhood and Boston a great service -- it's a wonderful building and has been allowed to deteriorate over the years.

However, glass enclosed patios are a modern addition and not consistent with the architecture of the Back Bay, and especially not a McKim, Mead and White building. The Back Bay Architectural Commission has not allowed them, and, in fact, denied a similar proposal by the same developer earlier this year. The architect and developer should be able to keep their proposed patio but find a way to eliminate the glass walls and also eliminate the other new structures which will be quite visible from the south side of Commonwealth.

Voting closed 20