HVNA Listens to Proposal for Leaning Building on Bennington St.

By Michael Coughlin Jr.

At its monthly meeting on Monday, the Harbor View Neighborhood Association (HVNA) learned more about a project that would include the demolition of an existing building at 531 Bennington Street that Attorney Richard Lynds described as the street’s Leaning Tower of Pisa.

The existing building at the site is a three-story, three-unit dwelling and was described as being in unsound structural condition by Lynds, who presented the project to the HVNA.

During the presentation, Lynds read from an engineer report concerning the building’s structural integrity that pointed out several issues, such as walls being out of plumb and leaning toward 529 Bennington Street, deterioration of the brick masonry foundation walls, and more.

Further, the report Lynds read from concluded that it would be safer to demolish the building and rebuild on its current footprint.

Moreover, Lynds explained that this has been presented to the Boston Landmarks Commission regarding a demolition delay application.

“The Boston Landmarks Commission has essentially waived any review of this and concur with our engineer and that they recommend certainly that we proceed with demolition,” said Lynds. He also added that a demolition permit is anticipated shortly.

With concerns about the structural integrity of the building in mind, the proposal for the project is to demolish it and build a four-story, five-unit residential building.

Regarding plans for the newly proposed four-story building, it was designed to align with the proposed zoning changes that stem from the Boston Planning and Development Agency’s (BPDA) neighborhood planning initiative PLAN: East Boston.

For example, Lynds went through some specific design features such as the height, lot coverage, rear yard depth, and how they are consistent with what is being proposed through the plan.

However, it was acknowledged by Lynds that since these proposed zoning changes are not currently in effect and a permit has been applied for under current zoning, the project would require relief under the current zoning code.

Also, an important aspect of the project to note is that the proposed building’s footprint would be consistent with the footprint of the current building.

“We’re not looking to expand the footprint of our building. We are increasing it vertically one level; however, we’re not changing it with respect to the footprint that you see,” said Lynds.

Following the presentation, a discussion about the project was held, and there were several comments and questions from those in attendance.

There were concerns from one attendee concerning the demolition of the existing building and whether it could affect the integrity of neighboring buildings. 

However, Lynds explained, “When any building is taken down in the City of Boston or Commonwealth of Massachusetts, there’s very specific requirements for demolition of the building, including site surveys for any adjoining properties.”

“Any contractor who’s going to tear a building down will make sure that anything they’re doing in that area — they’ll ensure that both buildings, left and right, will be documented, and conditions will have to be observed,” he added.

There was also a question in regard to the current zoning and proposed zoning from PLAN: East Boston and Lynds explained that they presently have to operate under the current zoning.

However, he explained that with this application pending, if the zoning were to change, anything that complies with the new zoning would no longer need a variance. However, the project would still need to go to the Zoning Board of Appeal for aspects of the plans that do not comply with updated zoning.

As the discussion progressed, other topics were discussed, such as some of the design aspects of the building’s fourth story and more.

Since this was the first presentation for the project, a vote was not held. The HVNA is slated to meet again on Dec. 4.

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