Friday, December 21, 2012

The Atlantic City Boardwalk Decision: What Does It Mean for the Federal Historic Tax Credit?

A recent court decision on investor risk for the Atlantic City Boardwalk Hall has called the investment structures of the Federal Historic Tax Credits.  Matt Welch describes the problem and potential implications for preservation projects and the credits in part three of our series on State and Federal Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits.

After a corporation invested in the rehabilitation of the historic Atlantic City Boardwalk Hall in New Jersey in 2000, the IRS disallowed the historic tax credit that the developer passed through to the corporate investor.  The IRS’s primary argument was that the investor lacked a significant assumption of risk (or reward) in the project, which, the IRS argued, meant that the corporate investor was not a genuine partner in the project for tax purposes.  Ultimately, a tax court ruled in favor of the investor; on appeal earlier this year, however, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the district tax court’s decision, ruling in favor of the IRS.  Indeed, the Court of Appeals agreed that the investor lacked any meaningful stake in the project: the payment to the investor was guaranteed, the investor did not contribute any capital until the developer actually secured the tax credits, and the investor reaped no benefits from any return on the project aside from its guaranteed distribution.  The Court’s decision seems to underscore the notion that the IRS expects a corporate investor to join a developer in a rehabilitation project as a legitimate partner, albeit one that may incidentally receive a disproportionate share of the tax benefits resulting from the project, rather than joining the project as a nominal partner that is indirectly purchasing tax credits.  In other words, Boardwalk suggests that the partnership between the developer and investor should demonstrate a business purpose (i.e. profit motive) for the investor.

But How Can a Non Profit Developer Use Tax Credits?

Non-profit developers like HBI use historic tax credits regularly for rehabilitation projects, which seems unlikely since we don’t pay taxes.  HBI Legal fellow Matt Welch answers Tax Credit Question #2 in this blog post

Because non-profit developers like HBI have no federal income tax liability to which they can apply the credit, they collaborate with private-sector investors who can utilize the credit.  In this type of situation, the developer/owner of the property typically forms an operating agreement with the investor, which, for tax purposes, often requires a complex multi-tier structure comprised of multiple entities.  The agreement terms differ from deal to deal based on the size of the project, the risk involved, and other factors.  Nevertheless, the basic transaction entails the investor making a capital contribution to the project and the developer/owner passing the tax credit through the ownership structure to the investor.  The significance of this development strategy should not be understated: it can be a crucial piece of financing for a non-profit developer that allows them to obtain capital for historic rehabilitation projects that the private sector otherwise would not undertake—exactly what Congress intended when it created the tax credit.  

Do You Really Know How Historic Tax Credits Work?

HBI is fortunate to have Matthew Welch, a recent graduate of the Boston University School of law, working here since September as a university-sponsored legal intern.  Among several projects he’s working on, Matt has been helping HBI formulate policies and procedures for utilization of the State and Federal Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits, incredibly important incentives for preservation that are also very complex.  Matt posts answers here to HBI’s three most frequently asked questions about historic tax credits. 

To encourage private sector investment in the rehabilitation and preservation of historic buildings, the federal government began offering tax credits in 1976.  Since its inception, the federal historic tax credit program has encouraged the rehabilitation of more than 38,000 historic properties across the country representing $92 billion in private investment. This approach to community revitalization has been so successful that nearly half the states now offer similar programs. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

HBI and Roslindale Main Street Select Development Partner for the Transformation of Historic Roslindale MBTA substation

Photo courtesy of the Boston Globe 

HBI and its partner, Roslindale Village Main Street (RVMS) have secured a purchase and sale agreement for the Higgins Funeral Home and related parcels of land, allowing for a larger mixed-use residential and commercial development project that includes redevelopment of the 1911Roslindale MBTA Substation building.  Working through various development options, our partnership interviewed and selected Rhode Island-based real estate development firm, Peregrine Group LLC, as a partner in the redevelopment of the combined site. 

The development concept will focus on a family oriented farm-to-table restaurant and specialty food market for the soaring two-story interior substation space. The adjacent Higgins property will be developed into market rate apartments. The program represents two years of intensive project planning and analysis by Roslindale Main Street and Historic Boston, but it results in an exciting project that brings new economic activity to Roslindale Village and re-activates a valuable historic resource.   The partnership of HBI and RVMS has been tentatively designated for development of the substation by the Boston Redevelopment Authority, owner of the historic structure.

While planning is in the very early stages, HBI and RVMS plan to update the Roslindale neighborhood at community meetings in January.

Read the Boston Globe article on the substation's redevelopment here.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Blower Doors and Compartmentalization in Historic Buildings

HBI set out to achieve a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver rating for its rehabilitation of H.H. Richardson’s Hayden Building.  We enlisted Conservation Services Group to guide us through this process.  Conservation Services Group’s Consulting and Construction Services group works with owners, architects, and builders to achieve high performance buildings: healthy, durable, energy efficient, and affordable. A cornerstone of CSG’s work is in-field verification to support the successful implementation of smart designs. We asked Gabe Baldwin of CSG to write about the challenges of making the Hayden Building air tight.

The Hayden Building project is on track to meet Gold rating under LEED for Homes Midrise, a higher rating than initially planned. This process requires a series of third party inspections by the Green Rater (CSG) to verify that the claimed measures are integrated into the building. Measures include fresh air ventilation systems with MERV 10 filters and heat recovery, low flow water saving fixtures, reclaimed and sustainably sourced building materials, and an estimated 49.4% energy savings. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Hip Holiday Happenings Down Dudley

Photo courtesy of
Check out the calendar of events here.

Friday, November 30, 2012

B.U. Preservation Masters Thesis Jump-Starts Everett Square Theatre Feasibility Study

HBI has been benefitted in recent years from a strong relationship with students in Boston University’s graduate program in historic preservation. HBI has provided internship opportunities for several students with the intent of giving the students a taste of “real world” preservation that is focused on real estate development. In return, students have provided much useful support to HBI and its projects.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Golden Building Shop Featured in Boston Globe

A Sweet New Business in Dorchester's Fields Corner
Yvonne Abraham 
The Boston Globe 
November 22, 2012

There is blind optimism, and then there is insanity.

Beverly Hilaire cops to the latter, but with a qualification. “I call it calculated insanity,” she says. “I do know I’m going against the odds in every direction. But it’s what I want to do.”

What she wants to do is make a good living operating an old-fashioned candy store in Dorchester. This past April, in the midst of this dismal economy, she opened A Sweet Place in Fields Corner.

Ellen Lipsey 2012 Shattuck Award Winner

Among the 10 recipients of the 2012 Henry L. Shattuck Public Service Awards was Ellen Lipsey, director of the City of Boston’s Landmarks Commission.  Lipsey, who has been the BLC’s director since 1993, is the first member of the City’s preservation staff to receive the award, presented to high performing employees of the City of Boston for distinguished service.
More than 400 people attended a gala dinner at the World Trade Center Boston on October 23rd.   Since 1985, 207 City of Boston employees have been awarded the Shattuck prize, a program of the non-profit Boston Municipal Research Bureau. Named for Henry L. Shattuck, attorney, Boston City Councilor and Massachusetts State Representative, this award reflects Mr. Shattuck’s view that “one person of conviction can make a difference.”

Historic Boston Inc. is delighted to celebrate what we already knew – that Ellen is a person of great conviction for Boston and preservation.  Congratulations!  

Regenerating Neighborhoods with Cultural Heritage: TEDxDesMoines City 2.0

Jeffrey Morgan, HBI's new Director of Real Estate Development was an invited speaker at TEDxDesMoines, part of TED's "City 2.0". Jeff was one of several experts from many different areas of practice to present their perspectives on the future of Urbanism in October. We are pleased to present a summary of his presentation, "Capitalizing on Cultural Heritage to Regenerate Neighborhoods", and a link to the live presentation on YouTube. 

The regeneration of inner city historic business centers involves more than simply fixing up old buildings. It requires consideration of both the cultural and capital resources needed to successfully regenerate a particular building or commercial center.  

Guest Blogger and Roxbury Latin student, Devin Quinlin, tells about Service Day at the Eliot Burying Grounds

Fourteen year old Devin Quinlin is an eighth grader at Roxbury Latin. Devin is a scholar athelete, who plays three sports for RL, and is particularly interested in English and French. He recently took part in the annual service day at the Eliot Burying Grounds, next door to HBI’s headquarters at the Eustis Street Fire House. We are are pleased that he agreed to share his experience with us as a guest blogger.

On Monday, October 22, a group of thirteen Roxbury Latin 8th graders, along with two parents and two teachers, went to the Eliot Burying Ground as part of RL’s service day. John Eliot, for whom the cemetery is named, is the founder of our school and as part of our work we tended to his tomb.

We worked for about two hours, raking and bagging all the leaves in the site and picking up small pieces of trash, mainly wrappers, bottles, and cans. We then dug about eight to ten wide holes around the inside of the fence, and planted about 20 daffodil bulbs in each hole.  The flowers should bloom nicely next spring.

At RL, we learn a lot about the importance of history and specifically Boston’s role in American history. John Eliot himself was an important historical figure.  He was known as “The Apostle to the Indians” and translated the Bible into Algonquin. His tomb is sacred ground to Boston and to The Roxbury Latin School.  We were very happy to be there and we hope our modest efforts help preserve this important piece of Boston’s history. 

See more images of the trip here

Friday, November 16, 2012

Eustis Street Harvest Fest, A Big Success

Last Saturday, November 10th brought crowds to the Eustis Street Fire House, for the first annual Eustis Street Harvest Fest, an event presented by the Common Thread Coalition, and hosted by Historic Boston Inc. Common Thread is a coalition made up of Dudley Square based organizations, which is devoted to bringing people back into Dudley by coordinating cultural activities. All of their events have been exceptionally successful, and this was no different. A beautiful fall day set the scene for crafts, snacks and games on Eustis Street and in the Eliot Burying Grounds. In the burying grounds, a historical scavenger hunt took place, and historians young and old learned about Roxbury's former residents. Those with the keenest eyes were rewarded with some great prizes, courtesy of Haley House Bakery and Cafe, The Boston Police Department, B2 and Discover Roxbury. Out in front of the Fire House, on Eustis Street, children and adults gathered to take part in pumpkin painting, lantern making, and dancing, as well as eating some delicious caramel apples, hot cider, and fresh popcorn. All in all, the day was a great success, and we look forward to celebrating fall on Eustis Street for years to come. However, we would not have been able to do it had it not been for all the work put in by all the Common Thread members. Also, we would like to give special thanks to the Design Studio for Social Intervention for letting us use their Public Kitchen, and Gallery Basquiat for supplying the art supplies, as well as to our wonderful group of volunteers from Boston University.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Common Thread Presents Eustis Street Harvest Fest-Tomorrow - Saturday, November 10th

Common Thread's next big event is here! Eustis Street Harvest Fest is going to be held TOMORROW-SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 10TH from 2-6. Come celebrate fall with your whole family on Eustis Street, at the corner of Washington and Eustis. There will be caramel apple making, popcorn popping, lantern making, pumpkin painting, and much more. The Eliot Burying Ground will also be open for exploring. The event is free, but any donations to common thread would be much appreciated. We hope to see you there!

Learn more here!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Digital Documentation at Dale Street

Screen shot of laser scans of 72 Dale Street (courtesy of Harry R. Feldman Inc.)

This week we are happy to have a talented group of guest bloggers tell us about the archaeological work being done at the Malcolm X House. U Mass Archaeological Services has been working on the house since last spring. However, this is not the dusty archaeological work that we see in movies. The work being done at the Malcolm X House is state of the art, and is going to lead to a better understanding of the house and it's history, without physically disrupting it at all.

Boston is the only American city that can claim a house where Malcolm X actually lived. Other than a small bronze plaque in its front yard, there is little to distinguish the house at 72 Dale Street from its neighbors.  During his repeated and extended stays between the 1940s and 1960s at the home owned by his half-sister Ella Little-Collins, Malcolm X moved into and out of a life of petty crime; over time he converted to Islam and assumed a leadership role in the Nation of Islam. Since May 2012, U Mass Archaeological Services has worked with the house owner and with Historic Boston, Inc., to explore how portions of the house and property may be rapidly and accurately documented to preserve existing  architectural information before a planned rehabilitation occurs. Our group is also interested in exploring how the documentation may be used as a public interpretive tool.

RL Students Celebrate their Founder

Every year, students from the Roxbury Latin School visit the Eliot Burying Ground, and pay tribute to their school’s founder, John Eliot. Eliot arrived in Roxbury in 1631 after having crossed the Atlantic aboard The Lyon, the same boat that carried the wife and children of Governor Winthrop. Eliot was the first minister of Roxbury, the founder of the First Church of Roxbury, commonly known as the Eliot Church, and the first person to translate the Bible into the Algonquin language, among many other noteworthy accomplishments. In 1645 Eliot founded the Roxbury Latin School, an all boys, independent school, now located in West Roxbury.

In the fall, fifth graders at Roxbury Latin, visit the Eliot Burial Ground as part of their service learning day, and plant bulbs in tribute to Eliot, who is buried in the Parish Tomb. We witnessed this tradition this past week, when this year’s class stopped by. However, we are reminded of this custom once more in the spring, when the Burial Ground comes alive with hundreds and hundreds of daffodils.  

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A New View Down Washington Street

For nearly 10 years now, the blighted and boarded-up Ferdinand Building (1895) and the hole in the ground behind it were Dudley Square’s equivalent to downtown Boston’s Filenes site. Many plans have repeatedly raised and dashed this community’s hope that a long-vacant building in the very heart of Dudley Square would have a new use, new jobs and a new profile.  Well, let there be no doubt:  change is here. 

The cranes have arrived, the site cordoned off, and construction is well underway on the mixed use office/retail structure that will be home to the Boston School Department and several first-floor retail spaces. For preservationists, there is great delight and some chagrin (more the former than the latter, for sure). The industry’s debate over façadectomies -- where the historic facades of buildings are preserved but all other floor and structures removed for new construction – comes into play here.  The city’s project is subsuming the entire portion of this block north of Dudley Station, a footprint that takes in the Landmark Ferdinand building at the Corner of Warren and Washington Streets, and two 19th century historic buildings on Washington Street. Today, these three buildings have been demolished except for their facades which will be incorporated into the new building.  This may not be ideal, but the forthcoming complex will be the most substantial investment in Dudley Square in the last 40 years – visually and economically.  The new building, designed by Sasaki and Associates with Mecanoo Architects of the Netherlands, mixes contemporary design with historic details.  In size, this project will bring new density and a new profile to Warren Street and Dudley Station. And it will bring 500 plus people each day to Dudley Square who will use retail storefronts, and new restaurants and will be a real catalyst for broader district activity. The City is to be commended for real leadership and risk on this project – in conception and execution. 

But these days, the construction has created an awesome sight down Washington Street: the historic Ferdinand building –stark against the sky with no windows, doors etc.  appears like a classical ruin against the sky. Combined with the construction activities, this is good energy for Dudley Square and positive things to come. 

The project will be completed in early 2015.  HBI’s offices look out toward Ferdinand, so we will occasionally update readers on activity there. You can see project renderings here. And to follow construction, bookmark this live web cam

The Alvah Kittredge House in the Boston Herald

On Friday, October 19, 2012, Ira Kantor of the Boston Herald reported on the BRA approval of funding for the Alvah Kittredge house in Roxbury. Read the article here; The BRA Grants $200G for Historic Roxbury Home Conversion

Friday, October 19, 2012

HBI Welcomes Green Paws Pet Supplies to the Vertullo Building in Hyde Park

HBI is happy to announce the arrival of a new tenant in the Vertullo Building on Fairmount Avenue in Hyde Park. In mid-November, Green Paws—an independent pet supply store that will sell pet food and accessories that are healthy for pets and the environment—will open at 80 Fairmount Avenue, in the location of a former flower shop. Owner Amber Amado, a Milton resident, is excited to open this new business in Hyde Park. She plans to be up and running by mid-November, and is planning a grand opening for the day after Thanksgiving on “Black Friday,” to take advantage of the holiday shopping season. Says Amber, “If you’re a fashionista like me, and so are your furry family members, we’ll be bringing a little downtown uptown at Green Paws. All paws welcome!”

Stay tuned for more news about the big opening.

Friday, October 12, 2012

A Festive Roxtober in in Dudley Square

Mr. E. Barry Gaither and  Ms. Dayenne Walters Smith reading
poetry in the Eliot Burial Ground for Roxtoberfest.

Last week was a big week in Dudley Square. Here is a quick recap of some of the festive events.

 Last week, October 2-8, Roxbury celebrated Roxtoberfest! Roxtoberfest is a restaurant and cultural week organized by Discover Roxbury. HBI worked with the National Museum of African American Art to sponsor a tour through the historic Eliot Burial Ground. This was only one of many events that took place last week, as part of Roxtoberfest. However, we were so pleased with how it went, we hope to make it an annual production.

Last Friday, October 5, a small group gathered in the Eliot Burial Ground to get to know the space, and to experience a series of poetic readings by E. Barry Gaither and Dayenne Walters Smith. The readings were also accompanied by musical performances by Judge Milton Wright Jr., accomplished local musician and his son and grand son. The readings were chosen by Mr. Gaither and Ms. Smith, and dealt with changing perspectives on death. It was a truly beautiful event held on a beautiful fall day. We are looking forward to many more events like this in the Eliot Burial Ground. The Burial Ground is the home of many of Roxbury's early settlers, as well as some famous historical figures, and it is an important piece of the Roxbury landscape. 

Fixing broken bones: a structural engineer’s approach to preserving historic structures

Historic Boston is working with structural engineers John Wathne and Stephanie Davis of Structures North Consulting Engineers on the rehabilitation of the Alvah Kittredge House in Roxbury.  Specialists in historic structures, we asked Structures North to write about their approach to identifying the structural repairs necessary in an existing building that has suffered from years of neglect and weather exposure. Here’s what Stephanie had to say:

Thursday, October 11, 2012

New to the Old Corner Bookstore!

HBI is pleased to welcome Fro.Zen.Yo to the Old Corner Bookstore, replacing long-time tenant, The Body Shop. Fro.Zen.Yo is a self serve frozen yogurt store with a plethora of options. There are healthy options like Non Fat Frozen Yogurt, No Sugar Added Frozen Yogurt or Non Dairy Sorbet. However, they also have a lot of great flavor options from traditional to Maple Bacon Doughnut. Currently, Fro.Zen.Yo is only in the Washington DC area. However, you can learn more about them on their website, and look forward to eating delicious frozen yogurt in the Old Corner by next summer! The added benefit to HBI and historic preservation in Boston is the net revenue from Fro.Zen.Yo (and all the tenants at the Old Corner Bookstore building) help to support HBI operations and projects all over the city. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

HBI’s Projects in Fields Corner Contribute to District’s Blossoming, Reports The Boston Herald

Evelyn Darling, executive director for Fields Corner Main Street,
in front of the Golden Building. Photo courtesy of
The Boston Herald and photographer Dominick Reuter

On Sunday, October 7, The Boston Herald featured a lengthy story about the revitalization of Dorchester’s Fields Corner, one of Historic Boston’s Historic Neighborhood Centers program districts.  Two HBI-led projects—at the Golden Building and the Lenox Building—were singled out for their positive impact on the neighborhood not only aesthetically, but in their providing improved commercial spaces for two popular new businesses.

This is great evidence to support the idea that historic preservation can play a pivotal role in good real estate development projects that improve the economic health of neighborhoods as well as the way they look. The story rightly lauds the continuous hard work of HBI’s partners on the ground—Fields Corner Main Street, Inc. and Viet-AID—noting the many effective ways those organizations have helped drive the positive changes described in the piece. So—here’s to more good things to come for Fields Corner!

Read the article here.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Boston Preservation Achievement Awards

The annual Boston Preservation Alliance, Preservation Achievement Awards were held this past Wednesday at the beautifully restored Paramount Center in downtown Boston. This year HBI was proud to be among the winners. HBI projects were recognized in two categories. The Eustis Street Fire House won in the category of Rehabilitation/Restoration Preserving Boston's Architectural or Cultural Heritage, and the Everett Square Theatre Sign won for Lighting Design in Harmony with Boston's Built Environment. For a complete list of the nights winners, click here. We are so thankful to everyone who helped in the completion of these two projects, and so appreciative of this honor!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Two Views from the Scaffolds of the Hayden Building

Chris Johns on the scaffold 
Pam Bailey with HBI Board President Matthew Kiefer 

HBI is in the midst of rehabilitating the H.H. Richardson’s landmark Hayden Building into four residential apartments and one ground floor retail space.   Our architect is CUBE design + research and our contractor is Marc Truant & Associates.   HBI asked team members Chris Johns of CUBE and Pam Bailey of Truant to talk about some of the challenges of converting an existing, historic building into a contemporary use.  Here’s what they had to say.

Monday, October 1, 2012

HBI Board Member, Alex Krieger appointed by President Obama to Commission of Fine Arts

Alex Krieger, a member of Historic Boston's Board of Directors was nominated to the Commission of Fine Arts, by President Barack Obama. Among many accomplishments, Mr. Krieger is a long time professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, as well as being a founding principal of the architecture and urban design firm Chan Krieger Sieniewicz, which is now part of Chan Krieger NBBJ. 

For more about Mr. Krieger and the Commission of Fine Arts, click here

For the Official White House press release, click here.

Friday, September 21, 2012

All Saints, Ashmont, Historic Structure Report to Guide Building’s Restoration

HBI was pleased to play an important role over the last two years in the completion of a comprehensive historic structure report for the Parish of All Saints, Ashmont—an architecturally significant church in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood.

Drumming "Down Dudley" TOMORROW-September 22, 2012

If you enjoyed Summerfeast, you are going to love Common Thread's next event, tomorrow, Saturday, September 22, 2012 from 3-6

Drumming "Down Dudley"

Join  in for drumming, arts, activities, refreshments, entertainment and more at the Dudley Library Plaza!

To learn more click here.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Grants to Malcolm X House Support Restoration Planning and Projects

Historic Boston Inc. is pleased to announce that it has received three grants for restoration planning and projects at the Malcolm X-Ella Little Collins House in Roxbury.  Two grants, totaling $79,000, are contributions from the 1772 Foundation of Connecticut and a third grant of $8,250 is from the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Johanna Favrot Fund forHistoric Preservation.  The contributions are helping to complete comprehensive planning and undertake initial preservation projects at the severely distressed historic building.

Named by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of the nation’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in June, the Malcolm X House at 72 Dale Street is the only remaining residential building associated with the youth of Malcolm Little, the young man who became the 20th century human rights leader Malcolm X.  

Before converting to Islam and changing his name to Malcolm X, young Malcolm Little spent about ten years in Boston.  During much of that time, he lived in this house belonging to his sister, Ella and her husband Kenneth Collins.  Ella Collins was a Roxbury businesswoman and civil rights activist, who mentored the young Malcolm, financed his life-changing trip to Mecca, and picked up his civil right mantle when was slain in 1965.

You say Vertullo, I say Bonney-Keith Block, Let’s Fix the Whole Thing Up…Part II

Earlier this week we began a two-part blog post series focusing on the many interesting and unexpected things we discovered about the Vertullo Building in planning for its rehabilitation. Assembling this knowledge—both historic and physical—into a coherent story  not only sheds light on community history and guides a historically sensitive rehab, but can become a powerful tool to build a case for critical tax credit support. This second and final post describes some of the physical evidence that we glimpsed in historic images of the building and that we uncovered on the building itself, which we are using to guide the restoration of the building’s architectural character.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

You say Vertullo, I say Bonney-Keith Block, Let’s Fix the Whole Thing Up…

On August 31, 2012, Historic Boston submitted an application to the Massachusetts Historical Commission for an allocation of Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits to help subsidize the comprehensive rehab of the building at 74-84 Fairmount Avenue in Hyde Park. This was the culmination of almost a year’s worth of research and planning, following HBI’s purchase of the building in late September of 2011. Along the way, we uncovered many interesting and unexpected things about the building. More importantly, we learned how assembling this knowledge—both historic and physical—into a coherent story  not only sheds light on community history and guides a historically sensitive rehab, but can become a powerful tool to build a case for critical tax credit support. This is the first in a series of two posts that describes some of what we uncovered, and how this relates to planning for and funding the rehabilitation of this important building.

Friday, August 31, 2012

What's written in stone

An example of a cherub design. This stone from the
Eliot Burial Ground  dates to 1712

HBI’s Office Manager Gillian Lang follows a fascination with the next door Eliot Burying Ground and discovers more about early Roxbury society through the imagery carved on centuries-old slate gravemarkers there.   

August first marks the one year anniversary of HBI’s move to the Eustis Street Fire House. In that time, we have gotten to know our neighbors in Dudley Square, and have frequented all the nearby businesses. We have had veritable tons of Haley House’s delicious ginger slaw, and way too many coconut cookies from Tropical Foods. However, we know comparatively little about our closest next door neighbors, the long time inhabitants of the Eliot Burial Ground. Although, the hundreds of ancient Roxbury residents buried there do not say a lot, their burial stones do. As a result we have had the opportunity, more recently, to learn a little more about who it was that lived in the area that is now Dudley Square.

In 1630 the early settlers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony created seven small villages, among them being Boston and Roxbury. That same year, the Eliot Burial Ground, then referred to as the First Burying Place, was established, making it the oldest burial ground in Roxbury, and one of the three oldest in Boston. It was in active use for over two hundred years, the last interments taking place in the mid 1800s.  Since then the Burial Grounds have served as a valuable tool for understanding the lives of Roxbury’s early inhabitants.

A Tale of Two Churches

Historic Boston Inc. is conducting physical assessments of Boston’s two oldest frame church buildings: the 1804 First Church Roxbury in Roxbury’s Highland Park and the 1806 Second Congregational Church in Dorchester’s Codman Square. 

While these two sites have deep historical connections to their neighborhoods and share the quintessentially New England meetinghouse style, today they also exemplify a growing problem for older religious buildings:  no one meets there anymore.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Kittredge House Asbestos Abatement

Image of raw asbestos, courtesy of Envirotest Labs 

For all the romance of historic building preservation, one always has to face the reality that, in old buildings, there’s always the potential for finding hazardous materials which will need to be removed by a qualified contractor.  We recently hired Envirotest Laboratories, Inc. to test suspect materials at the Alvah Kittredge House for asbestos and to assist us through the abatement process.  For those unfamiliar with this process, here is a primer.

The first step entailed collecting samples of any materials that might contain 1% or more of asbestos, which were many, as the house contains a jumble of finishes that had been installed in its over 150 years of use.  Typical materials to test include floor and ceiling tiles, pipe and furnace insulation, window putty and flooring mastic, but even plaster from the late 1800s sometimes contained asbestos. 

Regulations controlling asbestos were enacted in 1985, but at that time laws allowed up to 5% of the substance to be added to materials, so manufacturers continued to use it as an inexpensive bonding and strengthening material.  In 1992 regulations were modified to lower the permissible amount to less than 1%, and manufacturers finally stopped using it as an additive.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Bank Block in Hyde Park's Logan Square

This summer, HBI was lucky enough to enlist the assistance of Haley Wilcox, a Boston University Preservation grad student, to intern with us. Among other helpful tasks, Haley spent part of the summer compiling a commercial case book of Cleary and Logan Squares in Boston's Hyde Park neighborhood. She agreed to share some of what she learned about historic neighborhood centers here in her guest blog post. Enjoy!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Hayden Building on LOEBlog

The Hayden Building is once more, making its presence known in the blogosphere. On July 31, Barbara Epstein, of the LoeBlog, (the blog that chronicles the work being done by past and present Loeb Fellows) just posted on it and the preservation of the building. The Loeb Fellowship is a prestigious program run  through Harvard's Graduate School of Design. Fellows are accomplished professionals in fields dealing with the built or natural environment. HBI is lucky enough to have two Loeb Fellows assisting with the Hayden Building project. Matthew Kiefer, the President of the Board of Directors for HBI, and Ronald Druker, co-chair of the Trilogy Fund, with Mayor Menino, both graduated the program.

Check out the Article here.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Touring the Old and the New in Roslindale Village

RoslindaleVillage Main Streets hosted HBI Board and Staff for a behind the scenes tour of the 1911 RoslindaleSubstation and an evening stroll around the village on July 26th.  Both organizations were designated by the Boston Redevelopment Authority to identify a feasible re-use of the historic substation and are moving forward with plans to convert the building into a function hall and year-round farmers market on the upper floor and a restaurant/lounge on the lower floor.

It’s easy to underestimate an empty historic building from the exterior, so our group was struck by the soaring 3-story interior.  Once a space that held large transformers for electrical services to the streetcar network of Boston, the building has been closed and boarded up since 1971. The HBI-Roslindale Village Main Street team believes any development of this building should have publicly accessible uses so that this stunning interior can be experienced by many more people in a burgeoning Roslindale Village.

If there was any question about a viable market that can support new cultural or business uses in the Roslindale substation, they were put to rest by the palpable vibrancy of Roslindale Village.  High quality shops and restaurants have made this neighborhood a destination for shopping and dining.  That was obvious as we visited many locally owned shops for gourmet cheese, wine, and handmade gifts.  But, as we learned, Roslindale is a lot more.  The district supports a good size grocery store, the region’s largest independent pharmacy and a busy paint and hardware store.  A brand new 3-story office and retail building has recently been built.  Roslindale Village also has a busy commuter rail stop, a constant flow of buses, and plenty of parking around the square for visitors and commuters. 

After touring the Substation and the business district, we retreated to Napper Tandy’s for good food, drink, and conversations about the historic Roslindale we want to restore, and the contemporary Roslindale that’s perfectly ready to experience it.

State Tax Credit Allocations for Two HBI Projects

Historic Boston Inc. is pleased to announce allocations of Massachusetts Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits for two HBI projects, each for $300,000.   The 1836 Alvah Kittredge House in Roxbury received its second allocation of credits, bringing that project’s total to $600,000 of the $814,000 for which it is eligible.  The 1875 Hayden Building in Chinatown received its third historic tax credit allocation, raising its total allocation to date to $900,000 of the $1.2 million for which it is eligible. 

The Massachusetts Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit is a very valuable tool for historic preservation, particularly for at-risk properties where project expenses are high.  HBI is grateful to Secretary of State William Galvin and the Massachusetts Historical Commission for their confidence in HBI and their support for these two projects.

Save the Date-Common Thread's SummerFeast 2012- August 18th

SummerFeast 2012, a gospel jamboree and jerk chicken cook-off, is almost upon us, and it is going to be a summer celebration to remember!
Join in the Festivities August 18th, 2012 from 3:00pm to 7:00pm at HBI's neighbor in Dudley Square, Haley House Cafe-12 Dade Street, Roxbury, MA. Tickets are $5.00 and can be purchased at:
A Nubian Notion (146 Dudley Street, Roxbury, MA)
Haley House Bakery Cafe (12 Dade Street, Roxbury)
Vaughan Fish & Chips (1 Erie Street, Dorchester)
Online at

See you there!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Kittredge House Update

It's been awhile since we reported on the status of HBI’s  progress toward rehabilitating the 1836 Alvah Kittredge House, so an update is in order.  From the outside of the building it might appear that nothing is happening, but solid progress in the quiet phase of predevelopment is being made. 

Over the last several months, HBI has worked closely with Amory Architects to design five new apartments that combine the elegance of the original Greek Revival design with modern amenities.  We are very excited by the plans and are eager to begin construction.  However, cost estimates for the work are sobering.  What began as a project that had a manageable financing gap, has turned into a considerably more expensive project that will require a lot of fundraising by Historic Boston to preserve.

The house’s deteriorated state from years of weather exposure and neglect is considerably more significant than originally understood.  The monumental columns that still exist will all need significant restoration work, and two columns are missing entirely so will need to be recreated to match the originals.  This work alone is expected to cost well over $100,000.  There are no mechanical, electrical or plumbing systems in the building, and the floors and plaster are damaged beyond repair, so will require replacement.  Lead paint covers the surfaces of the historic woodwork, so will need to be removed.  And this week we have begun to abate the building of asbestos materials.

Celebrating Independence Day on the USS Constitution

Photo source:  U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class David P. Coleman,  released via

Blog post by HBI's new Director of Real Estate Development, Jeffrey Morgan 

What did you do for the Fourth of July this year? I was one of 499 guests aboard the USS Constitution, America’s Ship of State, for its annual turnaround cruise as part of Boston Navy Week. The eight-day event commemorated the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 by hosting service members from the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard along with ships from around the world. How did I get aboard? I was one of 150 civilian winners of the US Navy annual lottery drawing.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Mayor Menino Hosts Kittredge Park Opening

Mayor Thomas M. Menino joined the residents of Highland Park in unveiling the new Alvah Kittredge Park on Saturday, July 28th. The newly renovated park, located opposite HBI’s project at the historic Alvah Kittredge House at 10 Linwood Street, includes new walkways, granite walls, and other features such as historic lighting, tables, benches, new shade and flowering trees, a grass lawn, and a rain garden with native plants.  The parks is also the front yard of the Alvah Kittredge Park Rowhouses, an HBI project completed in 2001.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Keep up with the Hayden Building

Historic Boston’s completion of H.H. Richardson’s Hayden Building is moving along nicely, with construction completion scheduled for early 2013.  Each of the upper four floors will contain one very special apartment (available to reserve), with commercial retail space on the ground floor. HBI decided the best way to show and tell the story of the Hayden Building – current news, its varied history, and the latest renderings of its future look - was to launch a dedicated web site.  We enlisted our talented architects at CUBE Designand Research, who brought the Hayden Building into the 21st century with their modern redesign, to also design the website. Check it out at

Friday, July 13, 2012

Keep up with Stacey Cordeiro and 65 Pleasant Street on her new blog

Stacey Cordeiro, the new owner of the Anna Clapp Harris Smith House at 65 Pleasant Street, has started a blog! This first time home buyer is undertaking the project of a lifetime, working to transform her new-old house into a home. Stacey is currently the business manager for  Living Structures, Inc. small residential remodeling contractor, which focuses on energy efficiency and sustainable building. She is also a trained carpenter, and energy consultant, who is passionate about taking on this project, and doing the renovation herself. The work at 65 Pleasant Street is now in full swing, and due to popular interest, she is now documenting it on her new blog. The blog, went up recently, but it is already packed with great images and updates. Congratulations Stacey! We look forward to seeing the great work that you are doing!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Historic Blackstone Block Connects Contemporary Boston

Blackstone Block circa 1722*
Historic Boston board member, Emily Axelrod, a planner by training and former director of the Rudy Bruner Foundation, has been inquiring about Boston’s Blackstone Block, a hidden gem in downtown Boston between Government Center and the North End. She contributes some thoughts here on the role historic places like these can play in the ever-changing city.

We often think of historic preservation in terms of Boston’s treasure trove of historic buildings located throughout Boston’s neighborhoods. But important historic places can take the form of landscapes and infrastructure, which though often overlooked, can play a key role in the city’s future and sense of place.   

The Blackstone Block, one of Boston’s most treasured historic resources, sits at the nexus of both historic and new development activity. A stone’s throw from City Hall, Blackstone faces Union Street and the Holocaust Memorial, houses the Union Oyster House, a well-loved dining destination. On the east it is adjacent to Faneuil Hall and Quincy Marketplace, and on the North it abuts the Parcel 7 garage where the Boston Public Market is about to open on the ground floor. On the East is the historic Haymarket, and the Rose Kennedy Greenway, and between Blackstone and the Greenway is Parcel 9, soon to be designated as a major development site. The Blackstone Block is a Boston Landmark, protected for its intact historic street pattern, not the buildings within it.

A Different Way to See the Freedom Trail

On July 4th, thousands of visitors to Boston explore downtown Boston’s historic places including the Freedom Trail.  This 2.5 mile long, 16-historic site experience is loaded with wonderful stories of revolutionary spirit, sacrifice, and ingenuity that are fun and interesting. 

It’s also a pretty long walk and a lot of time, so we’re sharing the video of a pretty wonderful pop-up book, developed by Denise Price.  The Freedom Trail pop up book may not be one you can find in bookstores, but you can see the full run-through here:

HBI’s Old Corner Bookstore, also a site on the trail, is at 44 seconds.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

HBI Launches $1 Million Trilogy Fund

Click here for more images of the Hayden Groundbreaking event.
All images courtesy of Craig Bailey and Perspective Photo
At the festive June 4th groundbreaking for the Hayden Building, HBI announced the TrilogyFund, a $1 million fundraising campaign for three important HBI preservation projects.  The campaign, to be co-chaired by Mayor Thomas M. Menino and developer Ronald M. Druker, supports completion of HBI projects at the 1875 Hayden Building in Chinatown, the 1836 Alvah Kittredge House in Roxbury, and the 1867 Vertullo Building in Hyde Park.

Over the next nine months, HBI’s campaign team will be reaching out to friends and foundations to identify resources that will help to round out campaign goal. The three projects are expected to cost $10.2 million and, while each project benefits from conventional sources, tax credits and various subsidies, the condition of these historic buildings and the nature of the markets in which they sit require additional funds to complete the projects.  A successful campaign steps up the pace at which the three preservation projects begin construction.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Eustis Street Fire House Wins 2012 Massachusetts Historical Commission Preservation Award

This year Historic Boston Inc.’s Eustis Street Fire House was honored to receive one of the Massachusetts Historical Commission’s coveted Preservation Awards. Each Year the MHC chooses projects across the state which have “revitalized neighborhoods, added to the revenues of cities and towns, and preserved community character”. This year’s awards ceremony, marked the 34th anniversary of the celebration, and HBI was excited to be a part of it.