ARC: Four Story, 8-30g in Chickahominy will change the character of the neighborhood on a massive scale

On Wednesday night the Architectural Review Committee again gave feedback on Joe Pecora’s proposed 8-30g affordable housing development, with six units and first floor retail at 171 Hamilton Avenue.

Currently at 171 Hamilton Ave, there is a small, defunct barber shop, a two family house, and a garage in the rear.

New rendering of “The Hamilton” with crown molding at the top, black windows and doors, sign on awning saying “The Hamilton” and brick veneer.
Existing buildings at 171 Hamilton Ave include a defunct barber shop and two-family house.

The development, “The Hamilton,” previously appeared before the committee and received feedback, though the applicant’s attorney claimed he was not required return for another appearance before the committee, given the application is “pretty much as of right” as an affordable housing development.

The applicant’s attorney Michele Cronin said the owner was not required to return before ARC because the application was being submitted under the state’s affordable housing statute, 8-30g, which exempts developers from all local zoning regs with the exception of rare instances of health and safety.

The committee did have positive feedback to the new renderings. But they made suggestions, including that the applicant submit updated plans with additional renderings for the rear of the building, including parking area and create a more inviting entrance. Also to show the building in context of the adjacent buildings and streetscape.

The committee noted that the building will influence future buildings on Hamilton Ave.

This is a rendering of a building in Charleston that inspired the revised rendering at 171 Hamilton Ave.
Existing garage at 171 Hamilton Avenue.

“I’ve got to hand it to Joe (Pecora). He really did take heart to what everyone said,” said attorney Cronin. “The architecture is has been completely changed. He kind of took some inspiration from a building, I think this is in Charleston to tie into the brick on Hamilton Avenue….The architecture is completely changed from the first go-around. The facade has been changed to brick.”

Architect for the applicant Michael Boender took the committee through the architectural revisions, saying they had changed the siding to a brick veneer. He said, to the eye, no one will be able tell the difference between veneer and full brick.

He said crown molding had been added to the top of the building. They added black metal balconies, Anderson black windows and door entries with 3/4 glass doors with a panel at the bottom.

“The only changes we did were the finishes on the exterior to hopefully make it work for what everyone envisions for this part of Greenwich,” Boender said.

“I want to give my compliments,” said committee member John Conte, ARC vice chair, who grew up in Chickahominy. “I think it’s a great move in the right direction. This just seems to fit so much better, other than the fact that it’s still so huge still.”

Proposed rendering of the residential entrance at the back of the building.There was discussion about the poles holding up the back of the building not being the right heft.

There was discussion about the back entrance, which will likely be the main entrance for tenants, and the two poles there that hold up the building.

“This is such a handsome building now with the brick facade,” said ARC member Heidi Brake Smith. “There is some weight and heft to it. I’d like to make sure the two columns to make sure they are the right heft for the building. This is a very clean, elegant building.”

Committee member Graziano Meniconi said the redesign would blend better with the surrounding neighborhood, but called the columns too small and “inappropriate.”

He suggested setting back the fourth floor to make it look like an attic and creating balconies to make the building appear to be three stories, not four and give the impression of less volume and mass.

Committee member Kate LoBalbo suggested, at the rear, instead of a traditional column or pillar to bring the cornice around and cover the column in brick.

“Good job,” said Richard Hein, ARC chair. He said he also liked the idea of dropping the cornice to the crown of the third floor, and making the fourth floor an attic.

“You would see this in Paris or Boston – this fourth floor would be clad in slate or zinc to read as roof, like a vertical mansard with windows projecting or flush,” he said, also suggesting the fourth floor be clad in darker material and recessed on the facades.

Mr. Hein requested a drawing showing the new building in context with its neighbors and the streetscape.

“ARC is required to review this building within the neighborhood with regard to height, scale, material, context,” he added. “We don’t really know the scale of these buildings. It’s hard to identify the scale of the buildings across the street and left and right.”

Hein said it was likely the committee would make a motion to ask the architect return one more time to present responses to comments.

Attorney Michele Cronin reminded the committee that the application fell under the state’s affordable housing statute 8-30g.

“Because this is an 8-30g application we’re actually not required to come to ARC at all,” she said. “But we do value your input and I think the comments you have provided to date have made this a better building. The owner is going to move forward with Planning & Zoning and take your recommendations into consideration.”

She said the owner would not be willing to concede any reduction in FAR.

“We recognize the process,” Mr. Hein said. “To the credit of this committee The process has created a superior product for your client. We encourage you to engage, even on an 8-30g for these reasons.”

Mr. Boender, the architect, said the building was very appropriate for the neighborhood, because, he said, “This is not going to be the same neighborhood as we move on. Everyone is going to do something different and the zoning is going to change and allow you to do more appropriate as what we are showing now.”

There were no public comments on the development.

Hein, while noting the application was an 8-30g, made a motion that the applicant return to ARC one more time to respond to suggestions made during the meeting.

The entire committee voted in favor of the applicant returning again. The vote was 6-0, with Paul Pugliese recused.

Mr. Hein said the building would set a new precedent.

“We all know that this will begin to change the character of the neighborhood on a massive scale. That’s why the return (for another appearance before ARC) would have been beneficial. This will create a prototype and the committee cold add value to the prototype. We all know the market forces at play here.”

Previous iteration of proposed building at 171 Hamilton Avenue.
New rendering of “The Hamilton” with crown molding at the top, black windows and doors, sign on awning saying “The Hamilton” and brick veneer.