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Beacon Communities, PCA Transform Historic Ames Shovel Works into 113-Unit Rental Complex

10 Aug 2014, 10:34 pm

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor

Boston-based developer Beacon Communities completed a $46 million revitalization project at the Ames Shovel Works, a 19thcentury industrial complex in North Easton, Ma., that was listed as one of the 11 most endangered historic sites in the U.S.

Ames Shovel Works

Ames Shovel Works

The granite and wood factory complex at 50 Main Street is made up of 15 buildings spanning 8 acres of land. It was constructed in 1852 to 1928 by the Ames Shovel Company and is closely linked to the California Gold Rush, the great expansion of railroads and the American Civil War, when an iron shovel was almost as valuable as a rifle. The Ames Shovel Company ceased production in Easton in early 1950, and the complex was used by a variety of office, warehouse and light industrial businesses until 2009 when it was acquired by Beacon Communities for $6 million from property owners George and Robert Turner—whose previous demolition plans had mobilized city officials and community members to find a redevelopment alternative that would preserve the historical asset.

The Ames Shovel Works redevelopment project is the key component of the North Easton Village Revitalization Plan that also includes a makeover of the business center and a new wastewater treatment facility and sewer collection system that would serve the apartment community and more than 70 businesses in the area.

Designed by Prellwitz Chilinski Associates (PCA) to be a national model for preserving historic resources, the 117,000-square-foot mixed-use complex has 113

Ames Shovel Works

Ames Shovel Works

rental housing units adjacent to a 1.6-acre neighborhood open space that connects Main Street to the Ames site. Furthermore, a historic storage building was repurposed for the property’s maintenance staff, while a single family house was transformed into offices, gallery space and studios for the Easton Chamber of Commerce and the Easton Shovel Town Cultural District Art Co-Op. One of the unique challenges in this project was finding around 700 historically windows that would fit correctly in the window openings throughout the buildings while being energy efficient. Eventually Beacon Communities selected Marlborough-based Universal Window and Door, LLC to provide the windows that were financed through $10.35 million in state and federal historic tax credits.

The adaptive reuse project is expected to receive LEED for Home Gold and Silver certifications from the US Green Building Council, the development team announced recently.


Renderings courtesy of Prellwitz Chilinski Associates 

40,000 Sq. Ft. Skatepark Underneath the Zakim Bridge to Break Ground in Fall

4 Aug 2014, 4:29 am

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor

After more than ten years of fundraising, setbacks and design changes, Boston’s long-awaited skatepark is just a few months away from becoming reality with the help of a $1.5 million contribution from Vans, a footwear retail chain based in Cypress, Calif.

Lynch Family Skatepark

Lynch Family Skatepark

“We are really proud to be a part of this historical project and to bring a worldclass skate park to Massachusetts, the original home of our founders, the Van Doren family,” said in a press release Vans President Kevin Bailey. “We look forward to celebrating the park opening alongside the whole community,” he added.

The announcement was made by the Charles River Conservancy, a nonprofit group that works for the renewal of the urban parklands along the Charles River. Van’s donation adds to the $3 million that the nonprofit managed to raise over the past decade from various sources, including the Lynch Foundation for which the park will be named, the City of Boston, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the Boston Redevelopment Authority, and more than 400 skaters who also offered their support in the design stages. Additionally, Vans will chip in with $25,000 each year to the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) for ongoing maintenance of the skatepark over the next seven years.

The 40,000-square-foot Lynch Family Skatepark will be created on a former brownfield under the loops of the iconic Leonard P. Zakim Bridge in the North Point Park in East Cambridge. A team of architects from Canada-based Stantec and landscape architecture firm Halvorson Design Partnership designed the skatepark, while ValleyCrest Landscape Development will serve as general contractor for the project and California Skateparks will build the park. The construction crews will break ground on the project sometime during this fall, the Charles River Conservancy announced. The development team has yet to determine a final date of completion. The park will be managed by DCR and will be open for free for skateboarders, BMX freestyle riders, in-line skaters, scooter riders and athletes in wheelchairs. Once open, the venue will also house large-scale professional skating events, two of which will be held each year by Vans.

North Point Park occupies 8.5 acres of land in Cambridge and was opened in 2007 as mitigation for the parkland lost during the Big Dig, the megaproject that rerouted the elevated John F. Fitzgerald Expressway that ran through the heart of the city into a 3.5-mile tunnel.

Rendering credits to Stantec via the Charles River Conservancy

Brighton Marine, WinnCompanies Plan to Build Affordable Housing for Veterans in Brighton

25 Jul 2014, 6:11 pm

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor

Brighton Marine campus - veteran housing project

Brighton Marine campus – veteran housing project

A joint venture between WinnCompanies and non-profit organization Brighton Marine Health Center is looking to redevelop part of the 8.3-acre Brighton Marine campus into a mixed-use complex that will include housing units for veterans and their families.

The Boston Business Journal reports that the two developers recently outlined their plans in a project notification form that was filed with the Boston Redevelopment Authority. Projected to be built on approximately 1.5 acres along Commonwealth Avenue, the development will include a six-story building with 101 residential units and a below-grade parking garage with 49 spaces. The developers also plan to tear down four single-family homes that have been vacant for a while to make room for the L-shaped, mixed-use building.

According to the news source, the project designed by Chelsea-based The Architectural Team will include nearly 112,000 square feet of space, of which approximately 7,500 will be used as community space and the remainder will be residential space. Approximately 80 percent of the residential units will comply with Boston’s affordable housing requirements and will be rented to low-income veterans and their families.

Brighton Marine campus - veteran housing project - site plan

Brighton Marine campus – veteran housing project – site plan

While the development partners haven’t announced the exact cost of construction, the project is expected to generate 80 to 100 jobs during construction which is anticipated to start in the third quarter of 2015 and be completed after two years.

Located at 77 Warren Street in Boston’s Brighton neighborhood, the Brighton Marine campus was built in 1938 by the federal government as the new home of the U.S. Marine Hospital which was then located in Chelsea. In 1981 a group of patients who were receiving health care at the medical campus decided to join forces and purchase the hospital, which led to the creation of the Brighton Marine Health Center—a non-profit organization that serves the veterans in the area by providing social services on its campus and through its real estate.


Renderings via the Boston Redevelopment Authority

Boston’s Parks Get Greener with High-Tech Solar-Powered Benches

18 Jul 2014, 8:12 pm

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor

Since last year Boston was named the Number 1 Digital City in the country for its best practices in communication technology and public-sector information, it only made sense for the Hub to continue investing in innovation and energy efficiency and become more connected with its residents.

Soofa smart bench designers: Jutta Friedrichs, Sandra Richter and Nan Zhao

Soofa smart bench designers: Jutta Friedrichs, Sandra Richter and Nan Zhao

Boston’s most recent green initiative is a public-private partnership between the Streetscape Lab of the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics and the MIT Media Lab spin-off Changing Environments, a Verizon Innovation Program partner that uses Verizon’s 4G LTE network to connect wirelessly to the internet. According to city officials, several parks and public space in and around Boston will get new benches—not the regular wood benches, but “smart urban furniture” with built-in solar panels and charging points for smartphones.

Dubbed “Soofas,” the solar-powered benches were created by three women—marketing specialist Sandra Richter, electrical engineer Nan Zhao, and designer Jutta Friedrichs—all of whom come from Germany, where solar energy is highly popular. First unveiled at the White House Maker Faire in Washington, D.C., last month, the smart benches will be installed at Boston Common (the oldest park in the country), at Titus Sparrow Park in the city’s South End section, and along the Rose Kennedy Greenway. According to Mashable, six high-tech benches have already been installed in Boston since June 25 and four more are scheduled to be added in the following weeks. Changing Environments has already built around 100 smart benches and plans to create more if they prove to be successful for the city.

Soofa smart bench designer Nan Zhao

Soofa smart bench designer Nan Zhao

Thanks to the encased solar panels and computer, the high-tech benches will provide Bostonians enough solar energy to charge their smartphones and other electronic devices in parks, at playgrounds and even around sports fields. These charging stations will also collect and share location-based information such as air quality and noise level data.

Envisioned as magnets that invite people to enjoy outdoors while reading the news or catching up on an email without fear of running out of power, the “Soofas” are expected to reactivate the city and create a new shared social experience. To make this green initiative even more interactive, the three designers  of Changing Environments have invited Bostonians to go online and recommend a location for a solar-powered bench.

“Soofa is the first step into Smart Urban Furniture. The possibilities to update the city for the mobile generation are endless and long overdue,” said Sandra Richter, co-founder and CEO of the young startup.

Images via Soofa

Boston Bruins Sign Lease Agreement for New Practice Facility at Boston landing

14 Jul 2014, 3:14 am

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor

After having spent nearly three decades at the outdated Ristuccia Memorial Arena, the Boston Bruins will move closer to their fans into a new practice facility in the Allston/Brighton neighborhood.

Boston Landing

Boston Landing

The NFL team recently signed a letter of intent for a long-term lease at the massive Boston Landing campus that New Balance is building on a 14-acre site along Guest Street. Earlier in May Commercial Property Executive reported that NB Development Group—New Balance’s real estate investment and development arm—selected HYM Investment Group, LLC to co-develop the $500 million mixed-use project that will include a 250,000-square-foot world headquarters building for the sports footwear manufacturer, as well as 650,000 square feet of Class A office space, 65,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, a new commuter station, a boutique hotel, and a large sports complex spanning 325,000 square feet at 77 Guest Street.

“The vision that New Balance has for the Boston Landing project is exactly what we were looking for, and we are confident that through this partnership, we will build a facility that our entire organization will be proud of,” said Boston Bruins President Cam Neely in a press statement.

The new sports complex will be designed by Elkus Manfredi, the same architecture firm that created the conceptual plans for New Balance, the anchor tenant at Boston Landing. Winchester-based John Moriarty & Associates will handle the construction which is scheduled to begin next spring with a completion date tentatively set for fall 2016. In addition to the hockey rink, the Bruins’ new practice center will include around 25,000 square feet of locker room, as well as administrative offices.

According to the Boston Business Journal, the deal was brokered by Transwestern/RBJ on behalf of New Balance, while Dartmouth Co. represented the Boston Bruins.


Rendering of Boston Landing via Elkus Manfredi Architects

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