The Boston Landmarks Commission (BLC) voted on October 26 to invoke a 90-day demolition delay on the existing single family home at 14 Eldora St., which has been a longstanding fixture in the Mission Hill neighborhood and many residents would like to see remain.
After determining that the community meeting requirements were sufficiently met as part of the BLC Demolition Delay hearing process, staff architect Yolanda Romero reported that staff has determined the house to be significant, and also reported that it was built in 1892.
Architect Philip Sima then went through some of the historic context of the existing house before the BLC took public comment on the same topic.
Sima said that Eldora Street is a residential street, but “it does back up against some institutional use.”
Right now, there is some “overgrown vegetation” on the front and sides of the building, as well as some on the retaining wall. He said that the siding is asbestos with asphalt roof shingles, and the windows are vinyl. “Some of the trim is still wood,” he said.
Sima also said that there is record of an alteration permit from 1947 “to re-shingle the outer walls of the building.”
When asked about the structural condition of the building, Sima said that he is not able to comment on the building’s “sturdiness” as he is not a structural engineer. However, “I know the applicant is not seeking relief based on it being structurally unsound,” he said. “Right now, there are people living in there.”
Rich Johnson, who said he is a direct abutter to 14 Eldora, said that he and the other residents of his condo building would like to see the delay imposed “so that we can have more time to review options with the owner.” He added that “we would prefer if the building were renovated as a single family home.”
Resident Dan Jackson provided some more historical context for the existing house. He said that the home and others surrounding it were constructed at a “very important time period in Mission Hill history,” when the Parker Hill Farm was turned into the Parker Hill neighborhood as Irish Americans joined the middle class and were able to buy their own homes.
“We feel that the historical record is crucial,” he said.
Another resident, Judith Weldon, said that she owned the home from 1974 until the early 2000s, when she had to move out because of the stairs. She said she raised her children there, as did the woman who owned it before her.
She said that Eldora St. is “known to us as a street where you know your neighbors,” though it has been “less so in recent years because it has gone over to more rentals, and particularly short-term rentals, as far as students and people staying less than a year.” She said that there are some remaining long term neighbors, and she hopes that the building will not be torn down.
Martin Beinborn of the Community Alliance of Mission Hill said that “we extensively discussed this property at our recent meeting last week,” and that “there was an overwhelming majority of the residents who would like this residence preserved as part of what Mission Hill is about.”
City Councilor Kenzie Bok, said she could not attend the meeting but submitted a letter saying that she “supports the nearby neighbors in their request for demolition delay,” and said that the alternatives to demolition proposed by the developer were “promising options.”
After hearing from the architect and the community, the BLC voted to impose the 90-day demolition delay, which meant that next steps included hearing alternatives to demolition for the building from the project team.
Sima said spoke about two alternatives, the first being one that would keep the existing house and construct an addition in the rear. He said that the existing building footprint would be kept in the front and the gable roof would be connected to the gambrel roof. A family room and a bedroom would be located in the basement or lower level and the interior of the existing house would be renovated. A kitchen, as well as living and dining rooms would be part of the addition.
This proposal is for three units and would require zoning relief for rear yard setback, he said.
Alternative two is an “extension of the bay gambrel roof bringing that further, closer to the side yard,” Sima said, and “excavating a large portion of the front area of the building to allow for additional living space.” He said there would also be excavation on the side of the building for a patio area as well as bedrooms, kitchen, and living and dining rooms.
Sima then spoke about the originally proposed building, which would require the demolition of the existing home.
On the ground floor at the basement level, there would be three parking spots with stairs and a lift up to the first floor. Three units are proposed here as well, each with three bedrooms and three bathrooms. The main entry would be at the first floor, and mechanical equipment would be located on the roof.
The siding would be fiber cement clapboard siding and a masonry base.
Resident Dan Jackson said that he likes the alternatives more than the proposed building, and believes that the second alternative will “preserve with the greatest amount of integrity” the existing building.
Rich Johnson said that he is in opposition of the triple decker new construction and also agrees that the second alternative is the better one. “Any increase in height is going to affect our quality of life,” he said.
Martin Beinborn said that he believes the proposed design “looks really boxy and out of context,” and also said it “almost looks like a mini dormitory.” He also said that constructing this building “would encourage what we are all fighting with in Mission Hill: partying spilling outside of the house.” He also said that the second alternative was the better one.
The BLC decided to keep the demolition delay in place until January 26, 2022.
“It’s pretty obvious how the neighborhood feels, and I think how Commissioners feel in that we would vastly prefer option one or two, which retains a lot of the character of the original structure,” said BLC Chair Lynn Smiledge.
“And we hope that you’ll continue a robust conversation with the neighborhood and think seriously about that.”