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Directors Chair: Updates coming to Bay Village historic district guidelines

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Landmarks Commission

The Commission plans to adopt the revised guidelines at a public hearing in spring 2020.

Each of Boston's nine historic districts has its own set of design guidelines. These guidelines are tailored to protect the unique characteristics of each neighborhood. Much like the building code that evolves with technology, so too should historic standards to keep up with best practices. This is done  because as preservation methods evolve, so too should regulations. The guidelines must also consider economic factors and address changing environmental conditions.

In 2017 the Bay Village Historic District Commission began work to update its guidelines. These guidelines remained unchanged since the district was created in 1983. The oldest buildings in Bay Village are brick rowhouses from the 1820s and 1830s. These buildings are usually four-story, with Federal and Greek Revival style details. Commercial buildings in the Art Deco style built for the film industry replaced some row houses between 1915 and 1950. Bay Village has always been the home of artists and tradesmen, actors and poets. It has also been the site of many night clubs, bars and restaurants.  Urban renewal transformed the east and south edges of Bay Village in the 1960s. Recently new condos have reclaimed commercial buildings and empty lots. Roof lines have also risen with careful additions.  

Historic Bay Village map, courtesy of Boston Public Library

To start the process members of the Commission toured the district to assess current conditions. This included the review of both successful and unsuccessful projects. During several public meetings the Commission invited the public for input. During these meetings the Commission identified sections of the existing guidelines that were unclear or out of date. Next, the group discussed the specific changes that would result in a useful set of design standards. We shared our work with the Bay Village Neighborhood Association and the Boston Landmarks Commission. Feedback from these groups will guide the revisions.

Work on a final set of guidelines is ongoing. The current draft upholds the tenants of the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties. The current draft also places focus on the City of Boston’s commitment to resilience to climate change. The Commission plans to adopt the revised guidelines at a public hearing in spring 2020. For updates or more information about this project please contact BayVillageAC@boston.gov.

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