Neighbors hope to save home from wrecking ball

The owners of a 160 year-old home at 10 Pearl Street were issued a 90-day demolition delay from the city's Landmark Commission on Tuesday, stalling their plans to raze the structure and erect two three-unit houses in its place.

During the delay, the owners are obliged to determine whether the home can be salvaged and discuss options for preserving the structure with a local civic group. Abutters and architectural preservationists hope that the delay and the favor of city officials will help them preserve the home, though they admit that is unlikely since it would require securing prestigious landmark designation for the structure.

The owners, Ricky Huynh and Donna Nguyen, have already secured the building permits required to build two new homes on the 9,000 square foot lot, which can be divided into two lots as-of-right by the owner because it falls within the Dorchester Avenue zoning district, where three-family homes need only a 3,000 square foot lot.

During an abutters meeting at 10 Pearl Street last Saturday and again, through a lawyer, at Tuesday's hearing, Hunyh &endash; who works as a contractor &endash; said that he bought the home intending to live in it, but decided to redevelop because it is too dilapidated.

His lawyer, who declined to provide his name to this newspaper, cited a structural engineering report commissioned by Hunyh that confirmed dry rot and a crumbling foundation had weakened the home past the point of repair.

Abutters and preservationists have protested that claim. They say that the home, which predates Dorchester's annexation by the city of Boston in 1870 and boasts some rare architectural features, is salvageable.

"It's almost impossible to have a house fail once it's existed this long," said Earl Taylor, president of the Dorchester Historical Society. "Whether it's financially feasible is another matter, but it can be salvaged."

Sarah Kelly, executive director of the Boston Preservation Alliance said the non-profit would be willing to commission an engineer for a second opinion.

The homeowners are scheduled to discuss their plans for the site at a meeting of the Columbia Savin Hill Civic Association's planning committee on March 24.