Wednesday, November 26, 2014

HBI Teams up on Proposal to Redevelop Upham’s Corner Comfort Station


HBI and The American City Coalition (TACC) have teamed up on a proposal to the City of Boston Department of NeighborhoodDevelopment (DND) for a community-oriented redevelopment and reuse plan for the historic Comfort Station at 611 Columbia Road in Upham’s Corner -- adjacent to the Dorchester NorthBurying Ground, a Designated Boston Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

While preserving this important piece of historic architecture, HBI and TACC will partner with entrepreneur Noah Hicks, founder of Bowdoin Bike School in Dorchester, to undertake the repurposing of the Upham’s Corner Comfort Station as a full-service bicycle shop and café. Our proposal achieves three important objectives: it enhances the Upham’s Corner Main Street district by reactivating a long-abandoned building; it supports a new commercial venture for a local entrepreneur; and it expands employment opportunities, with an emphasis on skills training for neighborhood residents.

Specializing in refurbished and repurposed bikes suitable to a car-free lifestyle, the “Bike Kitchen” will provide two valuable and unique retail services in Upham’s Corner. Modeled after Mr. Hick’s successful endeavors in the Bowdoin-Geneva neighborhood, the “Bike Kitchen” will provide programmed opportunities for youth and adults to learn the skills needed to work as bicycle mechanics, and it will bring a coffee shop with sweet and savory options to the neighborhood where there currently are few offerings.

In addition and alongside coffee, baked goods, and sandwiches, the “Bike Kitchen” will sell bicycles and other cycling accessories to families, commuters, and recreational cyclists to encourage greater use of bicycles as transportation. The Upham’s Corner Comfort Station location is uniquely positioned for cycling enthusiasts and commuters. Columbia Road is already a key transportation and cycling artery that links Franklin Park and North Dorchester with South Boston’s waterfront and Downtown Boston. With easy access to other major thoroughfares and several modes of transit, including the Upham’s Corner commuter rail stop on the Fairmount Line, Columbia Road at Stoughton Street is the perfect place location for a social and commercial enterprise that services bicycles.

If our team is selected, this community-focused use, coupled with HBI’s role as a nonprofit developer of historic buildings, will successfully repurpose a significant landmark into a valuable and socially responsible, transit-oriented retail business. HBI, TACC, and Noah Hicks are together uniquely qualified to undertake this project.

While this proposal focuses on the redevelopment, reuse, and management of the Comfort Station building, the HBI-TACC team believes that reactivation of the building should bring wider benefits to the neighborhood and demonstrate the power of historic preservation in the revitalization of urban neighborhoods. Our proposal also proposes that rehabilitation of the Comfort Station include wide access to the historic burial grounds next door for residents and visitors by requiring the owner and operator of the Comfort Station to open and close the historic burying ground regularly for the Boston Parks Department and interpret the historic context of Upham’s Corner through exhibits and distribution of physical and digital materials on site and through each organization’s respective website.

The best outcomes of our proposal are the jobs it creates and the entrepreneurial opportunity embodied in the repositioned space. We expect that three (3) FTE jobs will be created and sustained here, and that fifteen (15) construction period jobs will execute the project. In addition, the value of the property will increase considerably, generating additional property tax revenue to the City of Boston.



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