BLC: Tavern demo hearing not required

According to the Boston Landmarks Commission (BLC), the surprise demolition of a historic former tavern at 804-810 Huntington Ave. last month did not require a community hearing.

But the BLC plans to revise its notification protocol following confusion over the project’s demolition, according to Friends of Historic Mission Hill (FHMH) co-founder Alison Pultinas.

The demolition of the former home of Burke’s Tavern last month took local officials and residents by surprise. The lack of notice led to a City Inspectional Services Department (ISD) stop-work order and questions about historic review.

A letter sent to the Gazette from BLC Executive Director Ellen Lipsey, following a March 7 Gazette article about the demolition, states that plan “did not trigger a hearing based on the staff review of criteria for a hearing.” The criteria includes factors such as architecture, streetscape contribution, listing in the National Register, pending Landmark designation, or association with important persons and events.

“Before signing off administratively, a BLC staff member contacted one of the founders of Friends of Historic Mission Hill, who did not raise any issues of significance,” the letter states.

Pultinas told the Gazette she was the FHMH member contacted, but also said that she did not realize what BLC was asking during or after their conversation.

“It was a very brief conversation. The staffer asked me if I knew anything about a community hearing being scheduled. I didn’t,” she said.

“I was confused because I assumed the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services would have answered that question and didn’t understand why I was being asked instead,” she said. “There was no conversation about significance or a [demolition] delay hearing.”

“I never actually saw the demolition application,” Pultinas said, adding that the BLC staffer told her it had no future project attached.  Pultinas said she assumed that meant the application would be rejected.

Pultinas also told the Gazette that following the miscommunication on this project, BLC told her that it would start using more email in its notices, to keep a written record of notifications and conversations.

“The BLC is understaffed. It has too much on [its] plate and the process needs to be looked at with new eyes,” she said. “It’s overburdened and needs more funding.”

The Gazette sought BLC comment for the March 7 article, but got no response. The BLC also did not respond to questions for this article.

The tavern was a one-story building with a corner entrance at Huntington Avenue and Frawley Street. Decorated with roofline moldings, including a shield and a lion, the structure was built in 1926 and was long home to Burke’s Tavern, an earthy Mission Hill landmark. Burke’s Tavern, owned by the same family for at least two generations, was known in decades past for hosting music acts. Burke’s closed in the mid-1990s and the place later became Pat Flanagan’s. That also closed, and the building had been vacant for at least several years.

The BLC approved tearing down the 87-year-old tavern last fall. There are no current plans to replace the building.

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