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Last updated: 9/1/17

Back Bay Architectural District

The Back Bay Architectural District was established in 1966 and expanded in 1974, 1979, and 1981.

The Back Bay Architectural District Commission (BBAC) meets the second Wednesday of each month to review proposed exterior design changes and alterations. Find out about the commissioner nomination process in the district's original enabling legislation. If you are interested, select Back Bay under the Energy, Environment and Open Space policy area using this link - there you can provide contact and other information.

Design Review Process

All proposed exterior work is subject to the review of the BBAC. You must submit a Design Approval Application to the Commission and it must be approved by the Commission before beginning any exterior work.

  • To save time and costs, contact staff early in the planning process to determine project compliance with guidelines.
  • Review all instructions and documentation requirements before submitting your application to ensure it is complete. Only complete applications will be added to a public hearing agenda.
  • Submit your application well in advance of a filing deadline in case it is marked incomplete and additional or revised information needs to be submitted.
  • Staff is not available to review applications for completeness immediately upon submittal.
  • Do not begin any work, or buy materials until after you have received confirmation your project has been approved.
History

The Back Bay was originally a tidal body of water, used for mill operations. In the mid-19th century extensive landfilling began, resulting in over 450 acres of usable land by the 1880s. The Back Bay was an early planned fashionable residential district, based on Baron Haussmann’s plans to remake Paris. As the tidal flats were slowly filled in, beginning at the edge of the Public Garden and extending westward, residential construction advanced on filled-in lots as they became available. As a result, Back Bay, when viewed in block sequence, illustrates the changing tastes and stylistic evolution of American architecture over the course of the mid- to late 19th and early 20th centuries. Commercial development started on Boylston Street around 1880, and on Newbury Street in the early 20th century, in some cases adapting existing row houses.  For more Back Bay history, please see this link.