For a little more than an hour Wednesday night, about 20 Back Bay residents debated the advantages and disadvantages of a wealthy family’s application to build a garage on each of two properties they own on historic Marlborough Street.
Although characterized as a mostly civil discourse by those who were at the monthly Back Bay Architectural Commission meeting, there were some lobs of “1 percenter problem,” and “suburbanites,” while others argued that strict historical restrictions shouldn’t stand in the way of garages.
In the end, Judy and Steve Pagliuca were granted permission to build one two-car garage at 362 Marlborough St., but not at 352 Marlborough St. Steve Pagliuca is a top executive at Bain Capital and a co-owner of the Boston Celtics. The couple are residents of Weston, and the Back Bay properties were purchased last year.
Reaction from residents familiar with the couple’s proposal was mixed.
Peter Der Manuelian, a Harvard University professor, and his wife Lauren Thomas, who live two doors down from one of the Pagliucas’ properties, said they found the commissioners’ decision troubling.
“We see the proposed changes as being rather invasive and being a real problem for preserving the value of the neighborhood,” Der Manuelian said. “It’s setting a searing precedent; other people will petition to build all kinds of garages and it’s really scary -- more cars in the alley, more congestion and removing of the trees, which are so valuable to the area.”
Thomas, a member of the Garden Club of the Back Bay and of the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay, said she helped collect more than 120 signatures in a petition opposing the garages and removal of trees to make room for them. She said that Judy Pagliuca attended the meeting Wednesday, and that she agreed to work with the Garden Club.
Jolinda Taylor, co-president of the Garden Club, said that although she would have preferred both applications had been denied, the final decision was “fair, just, and made sense.” The two proposals were actually significant reductions from the Pagliucases’ original request to the commission for two garages at the two locations that would have fit a total of about 12 cars, Taylor said.
“It’s a charming unique set of late 19th century buildings that the people who live here really appreciate and hope to see it saved for future generations to appreciate too,” Taylor said. “There was probably a little fear that they’re well-known and they brought in their own zoning lawyer, their own arborist, they were well-heeled and made good arguments.”
Steve Pagliuca did not return a request for comment. Joe Holland, of the Holland Cos., the builder named as the projects’ applicant, also did not return a request for comment.
The commission allowed the couple the right to build the sloping parking garage in the rear of 362 Marlborough St. that would replace an addition built there in the early 20th century that wasn’t original to the building. The structure would be one-story high with a garage door and a rooftop deck. They denied the 352 Marlborough St. application because it would have replaced an original facade, which is a no-no.
Susan Prindle, co-chair of the neighborhood association’s architectural committee, said she did not like the decision and anticipates an increase in garage applications, which she deems unnecessary.
“Parking is a magnet for cars,” Prindle said. “It’s a neighborhood well served by public transportation and very walkable.”