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.
Thanks to architects Ed Forte, Michael Epp, and Gert Thorn for their ongoing diligence regarding Chase Bank’s design downgrade of 701 Centre St. without communication with the community, in spite of being located in the midst of a Neighborhood Design Overlay District. This is not the first time community input has “slipped through the cracks” or been waived away for businesses and developers and will not be the last, without community vigilance. As abutters to both 701 Centre and the recently built, oversized condo building at 11 Burroughs St., we are disappointed that regulations pertaining to these projects were overlooked and abutters were not notified of these neighborhood changes. When we made renovations to our house, we were obliged to delay construction for over two weeks until all 80 of our abutters had the opportunity to weigh in on the new design.
We are licensed architects practicing for over 30 years each, long-standing members of the Jamaica Plain community, and were chairpersons or members of the former Jamaica Plain Centre/South Main Street's Design Committee. We are writing to express our disappointment, dismay and disbelief over the recent storefront alterations at 701 Centre Street (former Bukhara, now to be Chase Bank) and to raise concerns over what we perceive to be a breakdown in permitting processes and architectural design review in our neighborhood. As volunteers to the former JPCSMS Design Committee, we were privileged to lead and work with a team of enthusiastic community volunteers who cared about design, were curious about understanding what makes "good" design versus "bad," and were always looking for ways to translate that to the district streetscape. Our design committee always sought to work in close coordination with the city, other community groups and the BPDA to encourage not only adherence to Main Streets design guidelines, but to design guidelines embedded in the city of Boston Zoning Code (many of which are the same, or are generally just good practice). Typically, projects requiring design review under zoning that occurred in the district would be referred to our committee for review, and we would be asked to review any project seeking Main Streets funding in the district.
Board members are needed for Jamaica Plain Centre/South Main Streets and one of the board's initiatives will be addressing the coming Chase Bank. Board members are volunteer positions and provide a great opportunity to get involved with Jamaica Plain's central commercial district. "We recently learned that JP Morgan Chase will be opening a branch in the district. We have heard from residents that they would like to get more involved with addressing this new addition. This work will be part of our Economic Vitality committee and we need your involvement!"
A new bank branch will fill a prime vacant commercial spot on Centre Street that already has four banks within 100 yards of its location. A JP Morgan Chase employee confirmed to Jamaica Plain News that Chase will be opening a branch at 701 Centre Street by the end of October. Chase will be going into the old Bukhara restaurant location, which moved from its longtime Centre Street location on April 1, 2019, to a new location in Forest Hills. Chase Bank will certainly not be filling a void of financial institutions on Centre Street. There are already four banks within 100 yards of Chase's new branch -- a Bank of America at 677 Centre St., Eastern Bank at 687 Centre St., Citizens Bank at 696 Centre St., and Rockland Trust at 725 Centre St.