Proposals are now being accepted by the Departmentof Conservation and Recreation (DCR) for the rehabilitation and reuse of the 1899 CharlesRiver Speedway Building. Having submitted a reply to the previously issued Request for Expressions of Interest earlier this year, HBI is closely following the recently issued Request for Proposals.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Massachusetts State Register of Historic Places, and designated a Historic Landmark, the building is being offered for redevelopment through the Historic Curatorship Program established to preserve important historic properties through a public-private partnership. This program allows DCR to partner with a selected curator who rehabilitates, manages, and maintains the property in return for a long-term lease.
Nestled in a busy intersection at Western Avenue and Soldiers Field Road in Brighton, the Speedway Headquarters Building has seen better days: the shingle siding is rotting, portions of the foundation are crumbling, and the windows are boarded up. However, it is a delightful, almost whimsical example, of Shingle and Colonial Revival Style. A restoration by DCR in 2008 of the Western Avenue façade provides a glimpse of what is possible for the future of this urban treasure. In addition, artist’s renderings of a restored building and proposed uses for the grounds as shown in the RFP provide a vision for what the entire complex could be.
The building is part of the once popular Charles River Speedway, a recreational long harness horse racing track established by the Metropolitan Parks Commission, an agency designated with the task of establishing park space in urban areas. The Speedway and surrounding parkland was well-loved by Boston residents, who used the space for casual strolls, bicycling, exercising horses, and even costumed chariot races. The track is long gone, but the Headquarters still stands as a unique living reminder of its once thriving past and the origins of America’s urban park movement.
Convenient to Downtown Boston as well as Harvard Square and Cambridge, the Speedway Building is located in the emerging Western Avenue business corridor of the Allston / Brighton neighborhood of Boston. Recent development in the area includes the Charlesview Redevelopment on the Brighton Mills site by The Community Builder’s and a few blocks away, is the proposed 700,000+ New Brighton Landing, a mixed-use development encompassing approximately 14 acres of land along the Massachusetts Turnpike. Located adjacent to New Balance World Headquarters Building, New Brighton Landing will offer uses that include office, retail, restaurant, hotel, and the possibility of a future commuter rail station.
The RFP imagines many possible uses for the Speedway Headquarters complex including a boutique inn, destination restaurant, and farmer’s market among others. This is an interesting opportunity to use historic preservation as a tool in the interests of neighborhood revitalization that balances preservation priorities with the repurposing of a building for functional and modern reuse.
Kevin Allen, Program Manager
Historic Curatorship Program
Department of Conservation and Recreation