Monday, September 30, 2013

Join Us for an Open House and Community-Wide Photograph at the Roslindale Substation

To celebrate the Roslindale Substation’s listing on theNational Register, Historic Boston, Roslindale Village Main Street and Peregrine LLC will host an Open House and Community-Wide Photograph at the Roslindale Substation on Saturday, October 19th –rain or shine. The Substation will be open from 10 a.m. until 12 noon and the Community Photograph with Mayor Menino and local officials will be taken at 11 a.m. in front of the Substation at 4228 Washington Street in Roslindale Village.  

Everyone is welcome

Visit for more information.

Friday, September 27, 2013

All Saints, Ashmont, Restoration Charges Forward

This guest blog post was written by former long-time HBI staffer Jeffrey Gonyeau who, since last March, has been working on the All Saints restoration project providing fundraising services and other project support. Please feel free to contact him at if you have any questions about the project.

Early this summer, the comprehensive restoration project at All Saints, Ashmont, in Dorchester shifted into high gear as Consigli Construction began the first phase of work.

Phase I of the project focuses primarily on roof replacement on the church and roof repair on the adjoining Parish House, complete masonry repointing, stained glass window restoration and other window repairs, the creation of a new accessible ramp and landing at the primary tower entry to the church, and the installation of new, larger bathrooms in the Parish House.

This work has required the complete scaffolding of both the exterior and interior of the church and Parish House. What seems like acres of green, protective scrim netting almost completely obscures the building, creating a new “Green Monster” in Peabody Square.  The bright green scrim is actually visible in the distance on the southern horizon from inside tall buildings in the Back Bay, some 6 miles away.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Old Filene’s Building to Get New Life

On Tuesday, September 17th, 2013 Millennium Partners broke ground on their next big project in Boston. The project, called Millennium Tower, is located at Downtown Crossing and will be part restoration and part new construction, as it fuses the old and much loved Filene’s Building in with a stunning sixty-story glass tower. The reactivation of the Filene’s building has been a dream since the store closed in 2006. The structure holds a special place in the hearts of many Bostonians who remember holiday trips to Filene’s or the deals found in the inimitable Basement store.

Filene’s was started in Boston in 1851, and grew to become the “World’s Largest Specialty Store”, and to revolutionize the way that people shop. The landmark Filene’s store on the corner of Washington and Summer Streets was opened with much fanfare in 1912. Placed prominently in the heart of Boston’s downtown shopping district, Filene’s hired one of the most famous American architects of his day, Daniel Hudson Burnham who was known for his design of the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Union Station in Washington DC, and the Flatiron Building in New York City. However, he had also become the premiere architect in the emerging field of department store design. As a result, the Filene building was created specifically for the modern shopper.

In its new incarnation, Burnham’s famed building will once again serve the tailored commercial needs of the people of Boston. This is not the first development project that Millennium Partners has undertaken in the Hub. They are currently putting the finishing touches on Millennium Place, an upscale condominium building further down Washington Street. They were also developers of the new Ritz Carlton hotel and residences on Avery Street, completed in 2001, so they know first-hand that the woes of the Combat Zone are over, and that Downtown Boston is, in fact, an attractive and centrally located place to live. With this in mind, Millennium is trying to outfit the Burnham building, and its connected tower with the needs of a modern apartment dweller. They just finalized a deal with local grocery company, Roche Bros., which will be tenants in the remodeled building and the first full-service grocery store downtown. So, once again the building will be supplying every day needs to the hustle and bustle of a growing downtown residential neighborhood.

Historic Boston is so pleased to see that Millennium Partners has taken on another catalytic restoration project in the heart of Boston. HBI holds an easement on the Albany Building, a preservation project completed by Millennium in 2007.  They have a proven track record of devoting themselves to the revitalization of urban downtowns through thoughtful development, and their work in Boston is no exception. In yet another act of support for Preservation in the Hub, Millennium Partners also made a significant contribution to HBI’s Trilogy Fund last week, for which we are very honored and grateful.

We look forward to seeing Burnham’s famous Filene’s Building returned to its original splendor.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Boston’s Next Mayor and Historic Resources – Surveying the Candidates

As Boston's mayoral candidates sprint towards the primary, they are constantly finding themselves in neighborhoods whose very character is defined by historic buildings and landscapes.  A recent survey by the Boston Preservation Alliance shows that the candidates universally acknowledge the positive role of historic buildings and preservation efforts on the city's growth and success.  With 9 of the 12 candidates responding, most state that preservation is important to the city's character and an important part of the role of the mayor, though there is not a consensus on how to fund, regulate and promote preservation efforts going forward.

Every candidate responding to the survey (see below for a full list) indicates that historic preservation plays a positive role in Boston's success andenhances the city's desirability as a place to work and play. The majority of the candidates believe that historic preservation has “enhanced a great deal” the city's desirability as a place to work, operate a business and invest in real estate, echoing a common theme of the Alliance.  Only candidates Michael Ross and Robert Consalvo believe that preservation plays only “some role” in enhancing Boston as a good place to work/operate a business and Ross sees only “ little” impact of preservation as a good place to invest in real estate and development.  Others feel that preservation has a “great deal” of influence in those investments.

The candidates were almost evenly split on the question of whether Boston's historic resources have been adequately protected in the past decade (Conley, Consalvo, Ross, Richie – yes) (Arroyo, Barros, Walsh, Connolly, Walczak – no) -- possibly reflecting the dichotomy between the current Mayor's many preservation successes and the simultaneous limitations of the current system with respect to analysis, planning and funding. All but one candidate would strive for greater protection of Boston's historic resources (Walsh choosing “no opinion”)  and additional funding (Consalvochoosing “no opinion”).

Friday, September 13, 2013

The IRS vs. South End Homeowners, Round 2

Boston's Historic South End
In part one of this story, the IRS was not successful before the First Circuit Court of Appeals in disproving the validity of the preservation easement created by a South End couple. While the appeals court acknowledged that the couple arguably failed to conform to the letter of the law in the Internal Revenue Code, the court found the IRS’s interpretation of the code to be unduly rigid. In the court’s eyes, the IRS’s expectations stifled Congress’s intent in creating the preservation easement tax deduction. Much to the chagrin of the South End couple, however, the story did not end there. The appeals court sent the parties back to tax court to resolve another issue; not only did the IRS believe the preservation easement that the couple donated to the Trust for Architectural Easements was invalid, it also argued that the true value of the donated easement was zero.

A homeowner that grants a valid preservation easement receives an income tax deduction equal to the value of the easement, essentially the difference in fair market value of the property with and without the restrictions placed on the property by the easement. In essence, the IRS’s argument is that because the South End couple’s 19th-century row house was already subject to the South End Landmark District preservation restrictions imposed by the Boston Landmarks Commission, the preservation easement the couple donated to the Trust placed no additional restrictions upon façade changes to the row house’s Venetian Gothic exterior. In other words, the IRS contends, the difference between the row house’s fair market value with and without the easement is zero since the restrictions imposed by the easement already existed due the home’s location in a designated landmark district.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Roslindale Substation Listed on the National Register of Historic Places!

HBI  is pleased to report that the Roslindale Substation has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places!

"The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the Nation's historic places worthy of preservation. Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America's historic and archeological resources".

Read more about the substation, it's history, and what it means to be on the National Register here.

Connect Historic Boston Wins $15.5 million Federal Grant

Mayor Thomas M. Menino today announced the City of Boston has been selected as a recipient of a $15.5 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER discretionary grant, to fund alternative transportation projects under the “Connect Historic Boston” initiative.
“Connect Historic Boston” will create safe, attractive, and easy-to-navigate pedestrian and bicycle connections between two of Boston’s most prominent assets: the public transit system and the City’s historic treasures. TIGER grant funding has the potential to generate a sea of change in the use of alternative transportation modes by residents and visitors to experience Boston’s rich history. The projects will reinvigorate local businesses and generate a new slate of tourism-related jobs. Funding from the TIGER grant will be used for the reconstruction of a decades-old and inadequate system of paths and sidewalks that bring people to and from Boston’s historic sites.  Designs are ready for four major projects: The Blackstone Block, Constitution Road, Joy Street and a Connect Historic Boston Bike trail.

More information can be found here.

Friday, September 6, 2013

IRS Loses Challenge to South End Homeowners’ Preservation Easement

Much like the historic rehabilitation tax credit, private donations of historic preservation easements have been an effective federal-level historic preservation initiative. The Internal Revenue Service, however, launched a broad investigation into perceived abuses of the easement program over the last few years. One such investigation led the IRS to challenge deductions claimed by a Boston couple that donated a façade preservation easement—restricting exterior changes to their mid-19th-century row house in the South End, notable for its Venetian Gothic-style façade—to the Trust for Architectural Easements.

The Internal Revenue Code provides an incentive in the form of an income tax deduction to taxpayers who donate a property interest for conservation purposes to a nonprofit or government entity. Owners of historic homes often take advantage of this tax benefit by granting a preservation easement in their property, which restricts their right to modify the exterior of their historic home. To be eligible for the tax deduction, the preservation easement must be in perpetuity. This means that the nonprofit or government entity to which the homeowner grants the easement can enforce the easement’s restriction against modifications of the home’s exterior against not only the owner who grants the easement but also against all future owners of the historic property. In return, the homeowner that grants the easement receives an income tax deduction equal to the value of the easement, essentially the difference in fair market value of the property with and without the restrictions placed on the property by the easement.  

Some historic preservation nonprofits assist homeowners in qualifying for this tax deduction, and HBI is a good example of one. In fact, HBI currently holds seven preservation easements in its portfolio. In return for assisting a homeowner qualify for the deduction, HBI serves as the recipient of the preservation easement and manages the enforcement of the restrictions that the easement places on the historic property. Similar to other nonprofits, HBI typically also requests a contribution from the homeowner to compensate HBI for both assisting the homeowner in creating the easement and for HBI’s ongoing enforcement of the easement. The contribution is usually a percentage of the value of the ultimate tax deduction the homeowner receives for donating the easement to HBI. HBI also places easements on its own projects in order to monitor its investments after the properties are sold to willing buyers.