The Bunker Hill Redevelopment design team came much closer to pay-dirt in their newest designs for the first two buildings in the project, presenting the revised looks to the Boston Civic Design Commission (BCDC) on Tuesday night.
The meeting was a subcommittee to continue a conversation about the design of Buildings F and M – the first two buildings in Phase 1 that are expected to start construction this summer. The overall development plan was approved by the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) Board last month, but the design details for Phase 1 are still outstanding before the BCDC.
The first designs – especially for Building F, which is a 250-unit mixed income building that lies behind the Kennedy Center building – got blah reviews in its first iterations. It was considered much too modern and not exactly fitting with the area. According to those on the subcommittee, that changed with the new designs.
Translating the Town’s architecture into a series of dots and dashes in line with Morse Code, the new design worked off of principals that followed the so-called “Morse Code” of Charlestown. It also looked at how larger buildings often faced a park, like at City Square, and became ‘monument’ buildings, while the smaller structures served as ‘fabric’ buildings.
“We don’t feel the design is perfect yet, but we feel we’re on our way,” said Architect Tamara Roy.
What has now been shown of Building F is a new massing with different story levels of 10-stories, eight stories and seven stories comprising the structure. The middle area of the building is 10 stories and faces the new park behind it and faces the courtyard that will abut the Kennedy Center. That building is constructed out of grey or tan materials and evokes the same architecture as buildings that face City Square like the Charlestown Courthouse or the Appalachian Mountain Club building.
Two seven story masses site alongside the middle building and are made of red brick to match the church and other buildings around it – a combination that was a hit with the BCDC Committee members much more so than the previous modern designs.
However, the team got modern on the edge nearest the Mystic/Tobin Bridge and put an eight-story massing in place that BCDC members felt was too busy and unnecessary. The project team said it was supposed to evoke a connection to the RopeWalk building on the other side of the Tobin.
“I really like the middle building,” said BCDC’s David Manfredi. “It’s holds the space and feels monumental. You set it up very well with the two typologies that there were monumental buildings and more fabric buildings…I don’t know if you need to do the playful things with the building on the left. I like the building in the middle and I like the buildings on the park. They’re strong and simple. When you get to the corner, there is something very different. I get it – it’s whimsy. The ideas are strong, but it’s one gesture too many.”
The new design also include a very interesting courtyard that is both public and private, with plenty of space in the front of the building for relaxing or playing – as well as a private space for a community garden and the elevation of it all raised for resilience. On the back side is the large destination park that will be part of a future phase. It will now be bookended by the new design of red brick and grey materials facing it.
Building M is an all-affordable building with a massing of a six-story L-shaped structure that uses tan brick materials and what appears to be metal bays – evoking some of the fabric buildings in the Town. The four-story components are more modern materials and look, but are meant to also have the feel of a typical row house in Charlestown along Bunker Hill Street.
Building M sits at the corner of Tufts and Medford Streets, with the lower story parts facing Medford Street and Charles NewTOWN.
Manfredi said he found the new design for Building M “very successful.”
BCDC member Anne-Marie Lubenau said she wasn’t sure at first about the four-story components, but had grown to understand and like them in context with other structures around Bunker Hill.
Member Mimi Love also liked the overall new design as well, including the much-different four-story buildings.
“I actually feel really great about the four-story buildings and not having that top distinguishing piece there,” she said.
One hang-up though continues to be about saving mature trees on the site. Resident Johanna Hynes appeared before the Committee to say she had a petition nearing 2,000 signatures to save more trees.
“When Charlestown comes together on an issue, they really come together and the community is on the same page here,” said Hynes.
Already, the team has detailed many trees they are saving, including six at Building M and eight at Building F. However, members of the Committee asked that another meeting on trees and more detailed plans about the sizes of trees saved and the sizes of trees removed – as well as the sizes of new plantings.
Resident Intiya Ambrogi Isaza said she isn’t against the advocacy for trees, but doesn’t want to see that issue hold up starting Phase 1.
“I don’t have anything against the trees, but I do think getting people housed and easing up on the dearth of housing in Charlestown and Boston in general is important to me,” she said. “I’d like to see this project approved and moved forward and providing housing to people, particularly the Bunker Hill community.”
Zoning Commission Approves Bunker Hill Redevelopment Plan
The Boston Zoning Commission approved the Bunker Hill Redevelopment plan on Wednesday morning, solidifying the approval that was voted by the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) Board last month.
The approval by the Zoning Commission was the final step to codify the overall 10-year phased plan for the development, as well as the more specific zoning tools needed to move forward with the plan.
That specific zoning tool approved was a U-Subdistrict within the existing Urban Renewal Plan that carves out 26 acres of property within the Bunker Hill Development site bounded by Medford, Decatur, Vine, Bunker Hill and Polk Streets.
“We are appreciative and humbled by the robust input from the CRA and residents of Charlestown and optimistic about the momentum following the BCDC meeting last night and Zoning Board approval Wednesday,” said Addie Grady, executive director of the Bunker Hill Housing Redevelopment, and Senior VP at Leggat McCall Properties “We are one step closer toward tangible, equitable mixed-income housing that is socially responsible and environmentally sustainable.”