Is This Boston Garage Historically Significant? Bureaucrats Need To Know

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Someone wants to tear down a dilapidated garage on property that the person owns in Boston.

The owner needs the city’s permission to do it. And other people, who don’t own the land and will likely never step foot on it, can delay it for months.

The Boston Landmarks Commission received an application earlier this month to tear down a garage located on the property at 196 Park Street in West Roxbury. It gave people until Friday, October 29 at 5 p.m. to put a in comment.

If commission members decide that a building that someone wants to tear down has significance, then the commission must hold a public hearing on the matter within 40 days, according to the city’s web site. At the hearing, they discuss alternatives to demolition. The commission has the power to delay a demolition for up to 90 days after the hearing. However, the commission can’t stop the demolition; after that timeframe, the property owner can get a demolition permit.

The demolition delay can delay the process by up to 20 weeks.

The West Roxbury garage isn’t the only building the city’s Landmark Commission has sought input about in recent times. Commission members also want to know if this detached two-car garage in Brighton has any historic significance.

A boarded-up house on Cass Street in West Roxbury also falls under this category.

And the same is true of the Boston Red Sox team store across the street from Fenway Park.

Why does the city keep asking about buildings that people want to demolish? Article 85 of Boston’s zoning code requires it. Adopted in 1995, the article slows down the process of demolishing certain buildings in the city. The city’s landmarks commission must review applications to demolish buildings in the city under a few circumstances. It’s true of any building located in Downtown or Harborpark, any neighborhood building that’s at least 50 years old, and all buildings in a Neighborhood Design Overlay District. 

The Neighborhood Design Overlay District criteria apply to certain neighborhoods in places like Dorchester, East Boston, and the Fenway. The city’s code says that the demolition standards exist to “protect the historic character, existing scale, and quality of the pedestrian environment of these neighborhoods, which give the Fenway area its unique architectural character. Whether through new construction or rehabilitation, development of housing within these Neighborhood Design Overlay Districts that preserves and complements the character of the existing housing stock and enhances the historic quality of these neighborhoods is encouraged.”

When someone applies to demolish a building that fits the aforementioned criteria, the public has 10 days to submit feedback on it and state if the building has any significance.

The Landmark Commission has broad criteria for significance. Here are ways commission members can consider a building significant:


(a) the building is listed in the Landmarks Commission’s Comprehensive Preservation Survey as a building that is: 

(i) listed on the National Register of Historic Places; 

(ii) recommended for such listing; or 

(iii) the subject of a pending application for such listing; or 

(b) the building is the subject of a petition to the Landmarks Commission for designation as a Boston Landmark; or 

(c) the Landmarks Commission staff finds that the building is historically or architecturally significant because of period, style, method of building construction, or important association with a famous architect or builder; or 

(d) the Landmarks Commission staff finds that the building has an important association with one or more historic persons or events, or with the broad architectural, cultural, political, economic, or social history of the City; or 

(e) the Landmarks Commission staff finds that the building is one whose loss would have a significant negative impact on the historical or architectural integrity or urban design character of the neighborhood.


A spokesman for the Boston Landmark Commission could not be reached for comment on Friday.


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