The Board of Appeals voted yesterday to let a developer proceed with plans to replace two bow-fronted buildings on Maverick Street with a new retail building, after determining a Landmarks Commission moratorium was based on a possibly flawed process.
The vote does not mean that the buildings at 144 and 146 Maverick St. (see what they look like now) will be immediately torn down and replaced with a 22,000-square foot building that Linear Retail Properties hopes to fill with such things as a restaurant or coffeehouse and a gym. But it lets the company go ahead with submissions to both the BPDA and the zoning board for their hearings and approval.
In addition to the two buildings at question, the company plans to tear down two other buildings for the project.
Residents argue the two bow-front buildings are part of a dwindling inventory of historic buildings in the neighborhood and should be preserved.
Last year, the Landmarks Commission voted a 90-day moratorium on work to let residents and Linear try to come up with a solution. In November, the commission voted to halt all work at the site for two years after residents and a staff architect presented photos and other evidence that Linear had violated the shorter moratorium.
At the zoning hearing, Linear attorney Richard Lynds acknowledged the company did hire a contractor to remove asbestos, but said that had nothing to do with impending demolition. And he said photos of a window and siding being removed were actually of work done on the buildings not covered by the landmarks commission.
Lynds continued that Linear never got a fair hearing from the landmarks commission. The commission did not proved the company any of its evidence for possible rebuttal until the hearing itself - and the company had to file formal public-records requests and an open-meeting-law complaint related to the November hearing, he said.
Landmarks Commission Executive Director Rosanne Foley acknowledged the two-year ban on all work was "draconian," but said current city ordinances gave the commission only two options - a two-year ban or doing nothing. She said the commission is trying to change that to give it, residents and developers more flexibility. She said Maverick Street is the first project in her three years at the post to have had the two-year moratorium imposed.
Foley did not respond to Lynds's allegations, saying she was unaware of the zoning hearing until earlier in the day and that the commission's architect, who was involved in the process, is on vacation this week.
Lynds said Linear did look at possible ways to save the buildings, but concluded it could not make that work with its proposal.
"These are old buildings and they certainly have some charm and character, but these don't rise to the level of, as the neighborhood calls them 'historic treasures,' " he said, adding the proof is that they are not listed on any national, state or city lists of historic properties.
Foley, however, said that might not be true and that the buildings warrant additional study. She said the city's "preservation documents are outdated" and are missing buildings that do have historic meanings.
Because of that, she said, the commission investigates landmark-designation petitions - which residents filed last fall for the two buildings - individually, regardless of whether the properties at issue are already listed somewhere.
Zoning Chairwoman Christine Araujo moved to overturn the two-year moratorium because "it appears there were some discrepancies," in the landmarks process. The board voted unanimously to lift the ban.