Jamaica Plain residents, business owners and neighborhood associations banded together questioning the process that allowed Chase Bank to make unpermitted renovations to its new Centre Street location.
Led by a triumvirate of licensed architects, who were either chairpersons or members of the former Jamaica Plain Centre/South Main Street's Design Committee, the permit process was doubted. After doing their own research, Ed Forte, Michael Epp, and current Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council member Gert Thorn, learned that Chase Bank was doing work that required a design review, which had not taken place. They also felt that the renovations, specifically the metallic-look, was out of character of the area of 701 Centre Street.
The trio wrote to a plethora of city departments, city officials, and elected officials, to voice their concerns. They discussed the issue with Boston Planning & Development Agency, and Inspectional Services Department personnel, which resulted in a stop order being issued to Chase.
The Jamaica Pond Association also wrote letters to ISD and BPDA, issuing concerns about the process, and requesting a public design review mandated within the city's zoning code.
ISD originally issued a permit on July 25 to change the occupancy from a restaurant (previously Bukhara) to a bank. The project did not require a design review, said Brittany Silva, Administrative Secretary of ISD, to Jamaica Plain News.
"After the work began it was brought to our department’s attention that additional work might have been taking place at this site. In response to the complaints, a building inspector conducted an inspection and compared the work taking place to the approved drawings. It was determined that the work exceeded the terms of the permit and a stop work order was issued," said Silva.
Chase was told to file an amendment related to the changes of the windows, and the bank did file an amendment on Nov. 14.
But Chase disputes ISD's claims.
"Chase was never issued a stop order. In designing this branch we’ve worked in good faith with the city, and followed the guidelines for the approval process," said Carolyn Evert, VP or Northeast Regional Communications for JPMorgan Chase.
BPDA's Urban Design staff would meet with Chase Bank officials to inform them of community's concerns about the exterior changes to the building, said Bryan Glascock, Deputy Director for BPDA, via email on Nov. 26 to a group of community members.
"BPDA staff made clear that all signage was subject to design review under the Neighborhood Design Overlay District zoning..." said Glascock. "The bank committed that their design team would work with UD staff on a solution that brings the bank storefront into harmony with the adjacent Carrot Flower storefront and the rest of the building."
"We have listened to the community to address their concerns to the exterior, and are working on a plan that will revise our storefront to be consistent with the rest of the building and adjacent tenant," said Evert.
Forte said they would like to see a restoration and reconstruction of the original historic storefront, which is consistent with design guidelines in the zoning code.
"We do feel it is important that proper procedure be followed to demonstrate consistency and confidence in the zoning and permitting processes. We know for instance that the abutting business owner (Carrot Flower) was cited for design review, even though no alterations to her storefront were undertaken," said Forte in an email to Jamaica Plain News.