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Famous Fine House Will Be Repurposed To Townhouses

Heights Senior Staff

Published: Thursday, May 3, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01

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Graham Beck / Heights Editor


For the past century, 45 Selkirk Road, known by the Brighton community as the Fine House, has served a number of purposes. It opened its doors as an elementary school for the blind in the late 1800s. In the mid-1900s, a new buyer added a few bathrooms and made several other renovations to turn it into a single family home. Its third buyer gave the house purpose in the Boston College community, where it has served as a popular off-campus housing option for the past decade. With yet another buyer, the house makes its fourth transition, which will become its most transformative yet, as the historical Fine House will undergo major repurposing to become four townhomes.

“We knew by December that we would be the last residents,” said Nate Gersten, one of the seven current residents of the Fine House and CSOM ’13. “We tried to open it up to as expansive an amount of people in the BC and Brighton community as possible. We wanted people to know that when they came here that it was a classy event.”

Gersten and his roommates were made aware of the pending plans in August when they signed a nine-month lease. Originally, Gersten said, the house was no longer on the market, but discrepancies between proposed plans and the demands of both the zoning board of Brighton and Brighton-Allston Historical Society delayed the repurposing. This delay allowed BC students to rent the house for one last school year.

“Every time I sit on the deck, I feel like I’m living a bit of BC history as the last Fine House residents,” Gersten said.

While BC students have rented the house for the past decade, the community still holds it in high esteem as one of its oldest standing homes. Gersten and his roommates offered to purchase a vintage sign that was hung in the house as a memento, but the Allston-Brighton Historical Society denied their request. “We offered money for it, but the owner said that as part of the house getting knocked down, the community wanted that sign,” Gersten said. “The historical committee had a huge say in what could and couldn’t be done to the property. It’s amazing they were allowed to build four townhomes on it at all.”

The new owner, Ara Barsoumian of Tiba Investments, LLC, must comply with several restrictions created by the zoning board. Among them include a restriction against changing the exterior color of the house from its off-white and light blue trimmed color scheme, as well as a demand to keep the large staircase in the main foyer standing. The new plans for the property involve refashioning the standing Fine House into two townhomes with the intention of adding two more townhomes to either side. Each home will have a garage as well.

“[Barsoumian] wants them to be more focused on the high-earning professional who’s working in Boston but wants to live outside of it in a luxury, new, modern, remodeled townhome,” Gersten said. This change in ownership and market marks a growing trend in neighborhoods that possess historic homes, such as the Brighton-Allston area.

“In speaking with full-time neighbors that own their properties, they have seen an increase in properties being sold by what used to be full time residents to now absentee landlords that transition the property into rental units,” said Kristen O’Driscoll, assistant dean for off-campus student life and civic engagement in the Office of the Dean for Student Development. “I would anticipate that the community would prefer the historical homes be owned and maintained by full-time residents instead of used as rental property, regardless of who the tenants are.”

O’Driscoll does not believe this growing trend hinders the feasibility of obtaining off-campus housing in the future, however. “As long as there is a college and students that need to live off campus, there will be rental properties to accommodate them,” O’Driscoll said. “For some landlords, there is a major financial benefit to rent to college students, and each year you are almost guaranteed a client base.”

While the Fine House served as a source of off-campus culture, BC administrators hope to find other ways of developing BC history and culture in its off-campus community. “We are trying to minimize the ‘learning’ part of the experience so that it doesn’t come at the expense of the non-student community,” O’Driscoll said. “I would love to hear from students what they think could help with the off-campus culture.”

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