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This blog is a place for dialogue on issues and actions relating to Boston's unique built environment and the preservation and continuing evolution of historic resources within it. My goal, as the Executive Director of the Boston Preservation Alliance, is to post timely, relevant and thought-provoking intelligence, ideas, and insights that will engage conversations, inform our actions, and broaden perspectives on preservation.

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Greg Galer, Executive Director, Boston Preservation Alliance

Executive Director

AllianceViews Blog

The TOP 10 of 2017

The Alliance is about protecting places, promoting vibrancy, and preserving character. As 2017 comes to a close, we look back on the moments that defined the year.

December 27th, 2017  |  Posted by: Greg Galer

  1. Boston Brings Community Preservation to Life

    You voted yes! In November 2016, 74% of Boston voters approved the Community Preservation Act to support historic restoration, affordable housing, and parks and green space. Following this successful effort, our Director of Advocacy, Alison Frazee, served as co-chair of the Yes for a Better Boston Steering Committee to move the program from idea to reality. Starting in 2018, about $20 million in funds will be available each year for Boston neighborhood projects in historic restoration, affordable housing, and parks and open space. Learn more about upcoming Community Preservation Neighborhood Forums and how to apply for funds.

  2. Federal Historic Tax Credit Saved!

    In a major win for the national preservation community, the federal Historic Tax Credit was brought back from the brink despite the passage of an aggressive 2017 tax reform bill. For months, the future of the 20 percent tax and rehabilitation incentive was in question; the proposed House version of the bill eliminated the Historic Tax Credit while the original Senate bill reduced the credit by half. Culminating several recent years of preemptive advocacy, the effort geared up even more with our annual visit to DC this March. We worked in coordination with local and national agencies to pressure legislatures to save this revenue-positive preservation tool. Although the legislation weakens some elements of the HTC, the inclusion of the decades old rehabilitation incentive at 20 percent is a remarkable feat. Special thanks to Boston City Council, Mayor Walsh, and each of you who contacted your representatives when we asked for your support!

  3. Decades Later, Boston Theaters Take Center Stage 

    This spring, the National Trust highlighted once-endangered sites that are “now thriving and contributing to their communities” as a way to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of their Most Endangered listing. The Boston Theaters, and our work in particular, was named  one of 11 success stories chosen from the last three decadesArchitectural Digest picked up the story, calling the inclusion of the Boston theaters “a major coup for the the Boston Preservation Alliance, who tirelessly advocated for the theaters through building public and government support, as did the late Boston Mayor Thomas Menino.” The three theaters—the Paramount (1932), the Boston Opera House (1928), and the Modern (1876 and 1913)—are located on Washington Street in the now booming but historically endangered Ladder Blocks District.

  4.  The Alliance Testifies at State House on Shadow Laws

    Our status as an independent, nonprofit advocacy organization was put on full display this summer, when we testified against a home rule petition to change a state law impacting land use and development in Boston. While we support redevelopment of the Winthrop Square garage site and have a good relationship with the developer (last year we recognized their work on a project just a few blocks away), we held that the bill was a premature and ill-conceived attempt to change state shadow laws to accommodate the height and shadows cast by a single tower before the details of the proposal had been revealed and before its implications were able to be assessed. The process, moreover, set a poor precedent for changing existing, protective regulations if enough money is on the table. (The bill was eventually signed into law, but not before generating a flurry of attention, including an Alliance feature in The New York Times.) The Alliance testified against “An Act Protecting Sunlight and Promoting Economic Development in the City of Boston” first at Boston City Council and then again at the State House Hearing. You can read the testimony here.

  5.  16,549 reasons to Save the Sign!

    When Boston University announced its intention to sell the building that supports the CITGO sign, the future of the Boston icon became unclear. The Alliance started a petition to give the public an opportunity to indicate their support for Landmarking the sign. By March, more than 16,500 people had signed the petition in a story that made national headlines. Later that month, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announced that a deal had been reached that would keep the sign shining for “decades to come.” For reasons that we outlined here, we continue to advocate to make the sign a protected Boston Landmark.

  6.  Heroic Renovations Brighten City Hall

    We were pleased to see progress in 2017 in our long-standing effort to celebrate and enhance the long-maligned (or, depending on who you ask, much-loved) Boston City Hall. We’re proud to have helped guide and support Mayor Walsh and his team in developing a master plan and to support projects completed this year, including renovating the lobby, making the City Council Chamber accessible to all, and increasing overall public engagement with this remarkable mid-century,“heroic” building. Now that the city has received a “Keeping it Modern”Getty Foundation grant for conservation and is moving ahead with the next phase of work, we anticipate even more excitement in 2018!

  7.  Boston Red Sox take home President’s Award at Fenway Park

    There were lots of highlights at our 29th Annual Preservation Achievement Awards, (ask us about the World Series trophies), but one of them had to be when Larry Lucchino thanked for us for “cajoling” the Sox to Save Fenway Park. See the full video or a video short here.

  8. St. Gabriel’s Monastery and Church: Keeping the Conversation Going

    For centuries, Boston’s churches, synagogues, chapels, meetinghouses, and parish halls were centers of community life. But now, with shrinking congregations and societal shifts, these socially and architecturally significant structures have become increasingly vulnerable to neglect and demolition. When the St. Gabriel’s project was first proposed, it included demolition of a historic church building beside the Landmarked St. Gabriel’s monastery in Brighton. Early on, the development team came to us for guidance. We encouraged them to rehabilitate the church, utilizing its unique open volumes for public spaces. We also asked that they sensitively restore and preserve several other historic landscapes and features throughout the site which are now included in their proposal. We have been happy to support this project which brings hundreds of housing units to Brighton and preserves this special, historic site. Through conversation and cooperation like this, the Alliance is often able to help project teams find solutions that preserve and better utilize historic resources and make for better projects for everyone.

  9. East Boston Residents Speak Up for Maverick Square Rowhouses

    With development putting pressure on every neighborhood in the city, we were pleased this year to help East Boston residents push back on a proposal that would have eroded the character of an important corner in Maverick Square. With little historic fabric left in the square, the demolition of two historic rowhouses and the relocation of a Landmarked street clock would have been huge losses to the community. The Boston Landmarks Commission put a 90-day demolition delay on the rowhouses and just before it expired the Commission found that the owners were in violation of a requirement to secure the buildings and refrain from any destructive activities. A moratorium was placed on the properties preventing demolition for two years. During the moratorium, we will continue to work with the owner and the neighborhood to hopefully redefine the project in a way that allows for a sensitive development that the residents of East Boston embrace.

  10. In Memoriam: Howard Elkus, Visionary Architect

    When Howard Elkus (1938-2017) died unexpectedly this April, the city lost not just one of Boston’s architectural giants, but a devoted advocate and friend. A principal and co-founder of Elkus Manfredi Architects, Mr. Elkus leaves a legacy of artful mixed-use designs that knit together neighborhoods, including major contributions to the revitalization of Boston’s downtown Theatre District and the rebirth of the Seaport District, for which his firm won several Preservation Achievement Awards. “A wonderful thing about civilization is that it’s marked by its architecture, its artifacts. And preserving those is a top priority for any society,” he once said. We couldn’t agree more, and, in a nod to Mr. Elkus, will continue speak up for preservation alongside thoughtful change in the city.




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