Thursday, October 28, 2010

Boston Welcomes New National Trust President

While Stephanie Meeks declared herself to be on a listening tour to Boston on October 1st, she gave the distinct impression of someone who recognizes preservation as a community revitalization tool for urban neighborhoods.

As the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s new president, Stephanie visited HBI’s project underway at the Eustis Street Fire House in Roxbury’s Dudley Square, toured the South End’s Washington Gateway, and Dorchester’s Upham’s Corner to see the work of Boston’s Main Street programs where the Boston Preservation Alliance, HBI and the City of Boston have collaborated on preservation strategies over the past two years through the Trust-funded Partners in the Field grants.

Over coffee, Stephanie questioned HBI, BPA, City and Trust staff about the tools and resources needed to make preservation and preservationists more effective in Boston. She is looking to understand the places where the National Trust can play a unique role. Some of the things she is exploring include a national revolving fund that provides capital and capacity for preservation projects, and ways to bolster and expand the role of the well-heeled National Main Street program.

Stephanie noted that more Americans now live in urban communities than in rural. We are impressed with her clear understanding of the importance of community based preservation programs and projects to urban communities, and equally impressed with her interest in diversifying the pool of people and partners engaged in that work.

HBI looks forward to a long and fruitful partnership with Stephanie and her colleagues at the National Trust.

For more information about Ms. Meeks, please take a look at this video interview.

Friday, October 22, 2010

MIT's Sustainability Lab and Historic Boston Present a Carbon Calculator

In April, we blogged about a project of the 1772 Foundation and MIT’s newly formed Sustainability Lab to measure and compare the carbon outputs of new construction with historic rehabilitation. Historic Boston’s project at 65 Pleasant Street was the test case that was used to build a dynamic carbon impacts model in Excel that might be used by policy makers and green building planners going forward.

The purpose of the model was to compare the carbon impacts of preserving an existing building versus demolishing that structure in favor of building a new, highly efficient green building of the same size. Too often, energy efficiency is examined in the static context of energy consumption per year and the associated carbon impacts. Certainly a highly efficient, newly constructed building requires far less energy to operate than the 204 year old house at 65 Pleasant Street. However, energy consumption does not account for the myriad carbon impacts of sourcing, processing and assembling the raw materials necessary to create a new green building. This model allows users to examine buildings over time with a comprehensive view of not simply operations, but also construction and maintenance.

The webinar (linked in three sections below) explains more about the specific mechanics and potential adjustments that can be made to the model and whether it is truly greened to build new or preserve the old. The question remains, how can this tool be best applied to project planning and public policy? We’d enjoy your feedback, left in comments or directly via email (

MIT/HBI Carbon Calculator Webinar, Part 1
MIT/HBI Carbon Calculator Webinar, Part 2
MIT/HBI Carbon Calculator Webinar, Part 3

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Boston Preservation Alliance Convenes Religious Properties Workshop

Join the Boston Preservation Alliance for a workshop on the preservation of Religious Properties for Boston congregations with historic buildings on Saturday, November 13, 2010 at Roxbury Presbyterian Church from 8:30 to 3:30 p.m. Designed to help congregations and their leadership with stewardship of their historic religious buildings, this workshop provides guidance on assessments, prioritization of repairs and restoration, building management and fundraising. For registration, details and directions, click here.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Browne Fund Supports HBI Projects in Roxbury, Dorchester and Hyde Park

Historic Boston is pleased to report that the Edward Ingersoll Browne Fund for the City of Boston announced $110,000 in grants this week for HBI preservation projects in Dudley Square, Fields Corner/Dorchester, and Hyde Park.

The Browne Fund designated $75,000 to the Eustis Street Fire House for the preservation of exterior decorative elements of the building including the richly carved brackets and eaves of the building, the sandstone window surrounds and restoration of the firehouse door. It also includes re-creation of the 19th century “Torrent Six” sign that identified the early volunteer fire brigade that occupied the firehouse.

Monday, October 4, 2010

BRA Designates HBI and Roslindale Main Street for the Roslindale Substation

Last week, the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) granted Historic Boston Incorporated and Roslindale Main Street interim designation for redevelopment of the Roslindale Substation, a 1911 industrial building located in the center of Roslindale Square. The Substation, vacant since the 1980s, is currently owned by the BRA. The two non-profit organizations, who worked together in 2002 to create a feasibility study for the building, will come together again to determine a viable use for the complex building.

In 2008, the BRA sought proposals from private developers, which resulted in several strong submissions with creative re-use ideas for the substation. The troubled economy, however, changed the credit markets and the viability of these proposals. The BRA withdrew the last round of RFP submissions because none were financially feasible.

As non-profit development organizations, Historic Boston and Roslindale Main Street have access to resources unavailable to private developers and don’t require the same fee structure that many for-profit developers need in order to complete small but complicated projects like the Roslindale Substation. Both organizations are committed to putting together a great project that will preserve the historic Substation building and provide uses that will serve the vibrant Roslindale community.

Overlooking Adams Park in Roslindale Square, the Roslindale Substation was built as an electrical power conversion and transmission station, constructed as part of the Boston Elevated Railway's rapid transit system in 1911. Designed in the Neo-Classical Revival style by the Stone and Webster Engineering Corporation and architect Robert S. Peabody, the Substation converted alternating electric current (AC) transmitted from a new South Boston Power Station via underground cables into direct current (DC) for use by local trolley cars. With advanced technology for the day, this system generated and distributed additional power at lower costs. The construction of the substation in 1911 also marks a time when Roslindale was expanding and becoming a very popular suburban residential and commercial neighborhood. The electric trolley car system helped to spur on that development and settlement.

For more information about Historic Boston’s lasting interest in the Roslindale Substation, please read more here.