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James Collins Mansion proposal sent back to the drawing board

Posted by Patrick Rosso  April 10, 2013 03:21 PM

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The battle to save an East Broadway property took an interesting turn Wednesday night, as the owner of the property sought approval from the city’s Landmarks Commission to demolish the structure.

Charles Shilas, the owner of the property at 928 East Broadway known as the James Collins Mansion, has proposed to demolish the structure to make way for 11 condominiums. Because of the structure's age he must get approval from the commission before it is razed.

The house, which was constructed in the 1860s, sits on a 15,625-square-foot lot, according to the city’s Assessing Department. James Collins was a wealthy wine and liquor distributor.

At Wednesday’s hearing the commission sent Shilas back to the drawing board for not having properly completed the community process, which includes an advertised public meeting.

Wednesday's decision was a small victory for residents opposed to the demolition of the house.

Two separate petitions in opposition to the building’s demolition have garnered more than 500 combined signatures. A separate petition with close to 300 signatures has also been submitted to the commission seeking to designate the site a landmark.

“The building is a historically significant structure that tells a story,” said Robert Allison, president of the South Boston Historical Society. “It’s essential to the character of the City Point neighborhood.”

The property was one of the first significant residential structures to be built in South Boston’s City Point neighborhood, it helped define a neighborhood that had many industrial uses, and is an important structure reflecting the city's immigrant history, Allison said.

Shilas, who has attempted to sell the house in the past, must now start the process over again with another community meeting.

In 2007 the single-family property, a former rooming house, was put up for sale by Shilas with an asking price of $3.1 million, according to the Boston Business Journal.

It was assessed for close to $1.1 million in 2013.

With 8,690 square feet of living space, the three-floor home has 22 rooms in the main house with a separate three-unit structure located in the rear of the lot, the Journal said.

Unlike in 2007, however, residents are now working to designate the property a landmark, which could stop any potential demolition.

A hearing before the Landmarks Commission has been tentatively set for April 23 regarding the petition to designate the site a landmark. If the Commission decides to move forward with the landmarks process a study will be conducted and then a final decision will be made whether or not to designate the property a landmark.

Email Patrick D. Rosso, Follow him @PDRosso, or friend him on Facebook.

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