Wednesday, March 30, 2011

HBI Tapped to Rehabilitate Ailing Kittredge Mansion

Neighborhood advocates and ciytwide preservationists proclaim that "This Place Matters!" in 2009
The long-vacant Alvah Kittredge House in Roxbury faces better prospects after the Boston Redevelopment Authority voted to take the property by eminent domain at its March meeting, determining that the requirements of a preservation easement on the 175-year-old property were not being met. The BRA has signed the house over to Historic Boston for immediate structural stabilization and redevelopment of the historic house for new uses.

1880s image of the Kittredge Estate in its original orientation, facing Highland Street
Vacant since neighborhood group Roxbury Action Program closed it in 1991, the 1836 Kittredge House is an unusual example of Greek Revival period architecture in Boston with monolithic two-story columns and an octagonal cupola. The house once stood alone on a vast rural estate in this neighborhood, but was later moved and surrounded by multifamily homes as Roxbury urbanized in the early 20th century. The house has experienced serious water damage and two of its six columns are missing. Historic Boston set up staging to support an unstable portico several years ago in conjunction with Roxbury Action Program.

Historic Boston will secure the building and assess feasible redevelopment options for the building’s rehabilitation and re-use. At a round of community meetings in the Highland Park neighborhood, HBI has discovered considerable concern for the building’s current condition and relief at the prospect of seeing the house saved and brought back into the life of the community.

In 2002, HBI completed the rehabilitation of the 1875 Alvah Kittredge Park Row Houses opposite the Kittredge House. Kittredge Park, which lies between the row houses and the Alvah Kittredge House has been the subject of considerable neighborhood mobilization and fundraising and will soon undergo redesign as a passive neighborhood park.

Over the coming weeks, we will update you regularly about progress at the Kittredge House, and tell you more about the history of this important building and generations of its occupants.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Your Ideas Wanted: The Eustis Street Fire House Time Capsule Project

In the coming weeks, masons will seal up walls at the Fire House, which is prompting us put together a time capsule to be inserted in one of the walls, which we hope one day will discovered by future occupants. But what do we put in it to tell our descendants (so to speak) about life in 2011?

Here are some of the things we have brainstormed so far:
  • Newspapers. Perhaps it would be interesting to include both a Globe and a Herald from the same day, as they would likely present the same stories in very different ways.
  • Photographs could be of interest, but what subject? Dudley Square in 2011?
  • Shots of people might be good - but who, and what are they doing in the photo?
  • How about a menu, which will tell about both food trends and cost of living in 2011.
  • Technology is certainly a big part of our everyday lives, but if we leave behind a CD, will those who open the capsule decades from now have the means to play it?
  • Examples of pottery shards and pipe stems similar to things found at the Fire House
Having uncovered several treasures ourselves at the Fire House, we know that we’re often more intrigued by unintentionally discarded items that we find, such as a fragment of a lice comb we found in the fire house excavate. This was probably a common household object centuries ago that no one would've thought much about, but we needed an archaeologist to tell us what it was. What are our lice combs of 2011? Things we use daily that may not really be typical belongings 50 or 100 years from now that we don't really even notice around us? It's fun to speculate about which things will stay with us, and which things will become obsolete.

We invite your suggestions for what should go in the Eustis Street Fire House time capsule. Keep in mind it can't be too big, as it will need to fit in a box roughly the size of a large shoe box. What do you think tells the story of life in Boston in 2011? What might you find intriguing if you encountered a time capsule? Also – where to hide our time capsule? Perhaps in the cornerstone of the building? Somewhere in the basement? If there is anyone out there that has put together a time capsule before, we’d love to hear from you to learn more about the process.

As you can see- we need your help! Please let us know your ideas in the comment section below.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Talking Tax Credits: MHIC’s Kathy McGilvray Explains New Markets Tax Credits

The Eustis Street Fire House on the day of the Groundbreaking
When you ask an expert to explain New Markets Tax Credits, expect that you might leave more confused than you were before you asked. New Markets Tax Credits (NMTC) are notoriously complicated and just examining this chart below, which depicts the movement of the funds from one entity to another, may bring on a headache.

So we asked Kathy McGilvray, an investment officer at the Massachusetts Housing Investment Corporation (MHIC), to try and give us a simple explanation of the New Market Tax Credits in the context of the Eustis Street Fire House. We hope that Kathy's thoughtful and clear answers might help others understand how these tax credits are vital in moving along a complicated rehabilitation project, and how they might work hand-in-hand with historic tax credits.
What is the New Markets Tax Credit Program and how does it work?

The New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) Program was authorized by Congress in December 2000. It permits taxpayers to receive a credit against Federal income taxes for making qualified equity investments (QEIs) in designated Community Development Entities (CDEs). The qualified equity investment must in turn be used by the CDE to provide investments in low-income communities. The credit provided to the investor totals 39 percent of the cost of the investment and is claimed over a seven-year credit allowance period.

The team working on the new additon at the Eustis Street Fire House
What attracted MHIC to HBI and the Eustis Street Fire House project?

MHIC specializes in financing projects that cannot be financed by traditional sources – the Eustis Street Fire House project certainly fits that description. Efforts to rehabilitate the building had been stalled for decades. The project’s location at the gateway to Dudley Square – where MHIC has invested substantial capital in both community development and affordable housing projects over its 20 year history – also fits perfectly with MHIC’s mission. The Fire House’s preservation will contribute to the continued economic development and revitalization occurring in the Square and will lead to preservation of the Eustis Street Architectural Conservation District. Finally, the relocation of HBI’s headquarters from downtown to Dudley Square not only brings jobs from downtown to Dudley, but also supports HBI's “Historic Neighborhood Centers” mission to apply the tools of preservation and real estate development to multiple sites in neighborhood business districts to demonstrate the role preservation-based development can play in economic development and neighborhood identity.

A mason working at the Eustis Street Fire House

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

HBI Selects CUBE Design + Research to Design Residential Fit-out at the Hayden Building

photo courtesy of Jeremy C. Fox, Boston Globe
HBI is pleased to announce the selection of CUBE Design + Research as the architectural team that will be responsible for designing the upper story residential units at the 1875 Hayden Building. Last week CUBE’s principals Jason Hart, Chris Johns and Aaron Malnarick presented a compelling proposal to HBI staff and board members on how they would handle the design of the units while dealing with challenging structural bracing and circulation patterns unique to the long and narrow building footprint.

The principals have worked with each other in different firms over the past 10 years and formed CUBE four years ago. In addition to designing luxury residential projects for private clients, CUBE has offered their insight on how historic Mid-Century Modern architecture may be preserved while also incorporating new uses and supporting new construction. The CUBE team first suggested that the Paul Rudolph-designed Blue Cross, Blue Shield Building in downtown Boston might be preserved in harmony with a new and larger Renzo Piano-designed building that was proposed for the site. Due to this even-handed, practical advocacy work, CUBE was invited to share conceptual designs on the Gettysburg Cyclorama, designed in 1962 by Richard Nuetra. The firm proposed a spectrum of thoughtful -- and provocative –alternatives that illustrate potential approaches to the preservation of 20th century modernist building.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Golden Building: Transforming before our Eyes

Installation of the first new storefront glass.
Construction began on the Golden Building in Fields Corner on December 29. In spite of the worst winter weather in recent memory (see our recent blog post about construction during winter conditions), contractor Kevin Piccinin and his crew K&B Contracting have made great progress, as the series of photos below demonstrates.

Since the building has remained fully occupied during construction, HBI Senior Program Manager Jeffrey Gonyeau and building owner Stephen Golden have worked closely together to keep the retail and office tenants of the building as comfortable as possible as the old, unsightly storefronts and windows were pulled out and replaced with high-quality and energy efficient new units. While there have been some chilly moments, we think everyone agrees that the complete exterior transformation of the building has been worth a bit of temporary discomfort.

The bulk of construction should wrap up in the next three to four weeks; exterior painting and the installation of new tenant signage will happen as soon as the weather warms up sometime in mid-April (hopefully!). Stay tuned here for more project updates.

Jeff has recorded the project’s progress carefully over the course of the past several weeks. Here, we share some of those photographs in order of which they were taken.
December 30, 2010:  Golden Building on the second day of construction.

January 2, 2011:  Old storefronts are disappearing.

January 3, 2011:  "Fields Corner Spa" sign revealed under layers of old signs.

January 4, 2011:  Original, fire-damaged transom window revealed above far right storefront.

January 6, 2011:  Storefront work progresses.

January 12, 2011:  Storefronts buttoned up on a snowy morning.

January 17, 2011:  Siding removal begins on the second floor.

January 18, 2011:  Second floor siding is half gone!

January 19, 2011:  Note the thick layer of gray stucco visible under the brown metal siding. 

February 1, 2011: Second floor siding totally removed and storefront glass partially installed.

February 3, 2011:  More storefront glass in place.

February 6, 2011: Final section of storefront glass in place.

February 10, 2011:  Installation of new second floor windows begins.

February 11, 2011:  More new second floor windows in place.

February 14, 2011:  All second floor windows in place.

February 18, 2011:  Second floor windows trimmed out.

February 24, 2011:  New sign board half in place.

March 1, 2011:  New sign board fully in place.