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Developer unwraps plans to stick five modern floors above old three-story buildings on Boylston Street

Proposed expanded Boylston Street buildings

Rendering by Elkus Manfredi Architects.

A Florida-based developer yesterday filed plans with the BPDA for adding five floors to the three-story buildings that now house Abe & Louie’s, Crate and Barrel and the Atlantic Fish Co. on Boylston Street in the Back Bay.

Tavistock Development Co. of Orlando says it would keep the front facades of the four buildings at 761-793 Boylston St., all of which are more than 100 years old. It will also keep the two restaurants but completely gut the Crate and Barrel space and then add five floors for nine residential units and office space. The former Crate and Barrel space would include the lobby for the upper floors and a smaller retail space.

The restaurants would be allowed to stay open during construction, the company says, adding the residential units would occupy the top three floors, with office space on the three floors below that.

Because the project only calls for nine residential units, the developer will not set aside any as affordable or contribute to a city affordable-housing fund, because that only starts with projects with ten or more units.\

Tavistock says its design lets it make money while respecting "the scale and character of the urban street wall and the Back Bay Architectural District, by stepping the building back at level four, to not take away from the historic nature of the existing facade."

Tavistock hopes to begin 18 to 22 months of construction at the start of 2022.

BPDA filings and project calendar.
Photos of the buildings dating to the early 1900s.

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Comments

Hasn't the city caught on to the only nine units trick to avoid the affordable requirement yet??

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Voting closed 26

Why not just require 1/10th of an affordable unit per residential unit built, starting with one? No rounding -- you must either exceed the requirement or buy out fractional requirement with deposits into the affordable housing trust fund.

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Housing isn't expensive enough already, let's make it even more expensive!

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And affordable housing built with trust fund money typically doesn't end up in the same neighborhood as the non-affordable project.

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It’s not a “trick.” It’s the rule.

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It's come up at the Zoning Board of Appeal and the City Council is currently looking at how to either reduce the number of units or come up with a different metric for determining when to start contributions (I think Lydia Edwards is the sponsor of that).

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Is an "affordable unit" simply rent control by another name?

Who oversees this requirement on an ongoing basis? If it's not a City-owned unit, why doesn't an affordable unit simply become a nice perk for the owner to offer his nephew?

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Looks like the Boston Department of Neighborhood Development operates the rental through a lottery system. More info: https://www.boston.gov/income-restricted-housing-guide

Edit: But yes, rent control under a different name.

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That's not a trick. That's the point of the rule: It doesn't generate affordable housing, it reduces the creation of new housing overall, which is good news for the incumbent landowners.

Remember: The people who own and operate buildings are not the same people who build them. If you own and operate a building, it is in your interest to keep the supply of new space limited, so you do whatever you can to stop construction of new space.

Landowners used to do this by talking about how new housing would attract a "bad element" or how it might drive down property values.

But that looks evil these days. Instead, they claim to want more affordability. This endears them to the left and makes them look virtuous.

However, IZ requirements function as a tax on new construction, making it harder to build unless the market-rate prices stay high. The higher the IZ requirement, the less gets built - which keeps market rate prices high. So, you reduce the quantity built, and what does get built doesn't provide enough new space to put downward pressure on prices.

Some folks demand high IZ percentages on small projects specifically because there's no way to make a project pencil out, so nothing gets built.

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^^^ this!

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I assume this means Boston is losing yet another store! Sad to hear the Crate and Barrel space is going to be used for a lobby. I hope
C & B finds another space to occupy. Maybe the former Lord and Taylor building?

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Crate and Barrel is one of the few stores in that area that I frequently buy from. My guess is with so much open retail (so many things closing this past year) they should be able to find another spot. In Short Hills NJ they took over half of an empty Saks department store, so they could move to the either the empty Lord and Taylor or the empty Barneys space. It would be a good opportunity for them to expand their furniture department.

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Nice try, Howie. What about tearing down the ugly L&T building and blending in there?

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I'm almost always in favor of more housing and historic preservation. This project seems to fall short on both fronts. It's only looking to add 9 units in one of the most transit-rich areas of the city and it's looking to do so with an addition that sticks out like a sore thumb. I think the glass balconies are especially egregious. With only a 3-foot setback, it's hard for me to see how this addition won't just overwhelm the historic buildings below.

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Abe & Louies / Atlantic Fish are both "part of Tavistock Restaurant Collection; a Tavistock Group company". Probably not a naming coincidence.

... just smart business sense for the owners of the restaurants, which in "normal" times do quite well, to ensure secondary income around their restaurant projects.

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with the surrounding architecture? I hope BPDA starts working for the residents and the city more like they're supposed to instead of the developers.

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I like the 'new building within an old building' look. (See my favorite, the Penny Savings Bank on Washington St. https://bostonrealestateobserver.com/boston-penny-savings-bank-condos-2/

I like the set-back. Having tall buildings directly on the street makes for an awful canyon look.

The area is already a mish-mash of architecture. Apple, the Pru. Happy to add some housing (but also sort of crying/laughing since it'll be just adding more luxury condos to Back Bay)

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Look, I'm a YIMBY, and I cannot think of a time when I agreed with NIMBYs on this board.

But even I think the proposed project was not appropriate. Hell hath frozen over, I guess.

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