Saturday, September 11, 2010

Friday Morning at the Historic Preservation Commission

After the August meeting of the Historic Preservation Commission, Gossips published an article about 226-228 Warren Street, explaining some of the problems presented by the project. At the end of the August meeting, the HPC ruled that the application for 226-228 Warren was complete, giving themselves sixty days to work with the owner to get things to the point where they could grant them a certificate of appropriateness or, failing that, to deny the application.

Yesterday the owner of 226-228 Warren Street was back before the HPC with revised plans that addressed the HPC's objections to the previous plans. The plans involve rebuilding the central chimney, which was recently demolished, retaining the asymetrical placement of windows on the upper floors, introducing two storefronts on the ground floor with bracketed projecting display windows, similar to other storefronts on this block of Warren Street, and moving one of the ground-floor doors to the left of a display window. The HPC reviewed the revised plans and granted a certificate of appropriateness.

In another decision made at the meeting, the HPC denied a certificate of appropriateness to the new owners of 430 Warren Street who wanted to replace the two-over-two wood windows that are original to their building with six-over-six vinyl windows with fake dividers. The Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties, by which the HPC operates, requires that original historic fabric be restored or repaired; if that is not possible it must be replaced with something made from the same materials which reproduces the original. The proposed replacement windows fell far short of meeting the requirement, and the HPC told the applicants that they could not grant a certificate of appropriateness.

The owners argued that they had already purchased the windows. They complained that the application for a certificate of appropriateness nowhere states the obvious: that if you purchase materials or enter into a contract before your project has a certificate of appropriateness, you do so at your own risk. They explained that they didn't realize the Historic Preservation Commission would be more concerned with historic accuracy than with appearance, making it clear that they thought their new windows would look better than the building's original windows.

The HPC held their ground and denied the certificate of appropriateness. The owners, when told about the provision in the law to appeal the denial of a certificate of appropriateness on the basis of hardship, expressed their intention to pursue that course of action. This will be the first time in the history of the Historic Preservation Commission that the hardship appeal will be made and hardship process tested.

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