AHF: Charles River Speedway
AHF: Charles River Speedway
In 2017 Graffito (GSP) began lease work with Architectural Heritage Foundation (AHF)on a broad Advisory Services scope of work for a long-planned redevelopment of the historic Charles River Speedway propertyat 525 Western Avenue in the Brighton neighborhood of Boston.
Over the course of five years, after extensive planning, meticulous historic rehabilitation, and deep community outreach, the Speedway opened to the public in 2021. Today it is home to eight diverse and innovative retail entrepreneurs and serves as a new neighborhood gathering space and regional destination.
The history of the formerly state-owned Speedway property is long and storied. The buildings were originally built to house administrative functions of the new Charles River Reservation parklands in 1899. The property included offices, housing, storage, horse stables, a cow barn, and an industrial garage space. Over the years the state used the property for a slew of other uses: it was a former Metropolitan District Commission (MDC) police station, a state police barracks, and eventually storage and vehicle parking for the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). Mostly, though, it sat underutilized and neglected for years.
When Graffito began work on the Speedway, AHF had a vision for what the Speedway could become: a vibrant multi-vendor market and gathering space. AHF tapped Graffito’s experience and expertise to refine that vision into an actionable retail development and leasing plan, articulate said plan to public agencies, then execute on that plan.
Client : Architectural Heritage Foundation
Neighborhood : Allston-Brighton
Address : 525 Western Ave, Brighton, MA 02135
Building Type(s) : Retail, Office, Maker
Total Project Square Footage : 22,000 SF
Desired Uses : Food + Beverage, Small Shops, Brewery, Makers
Status : Leased
SCOPE OF WORK
Graffito’s original scope focused on general strategic planning, project vision refinement, pre-development retail space planning, retail merchandising, and strategizing the operating model of a private events space (“Garage B”) for the redevelopment. It also involved presenting the initial retail planning recommendations to the state’s Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM), which was ultimately responsible for approving AHF’s plans for the state-owned property. Graffito adapted AHF’s overall development goals and requirements into key retail planning themes that would serve as guiding principles in the work and set of benchmarks to ensure the leasing outcomes aligned with AHF’s project goals.
Those retail planning themes are:
Establish a Gateway + Anchor
The Speedway will serve as a gateway to North Allston, the Western Ave corridor, and the Charles River parkway system. Its retail program will help anchor Western Ave’s position as a thriving commercial corridor, demonstrating the vibrancy of the neighborhood and strength of itscreative community
Host a Dynamic Mix of Uses
The Speedway will be home to a curated collection of diverse uses and users including local makers + artisans, retailers, food purveyors, artists, and social enterprises,as well as creative public programsand private events.
Ensure Economic Viability
The Speedway will achieve economic viability through percentage rent deals, flexible license agreements, and creative use of the open space for private events in order to supportthe preservation and redevelopment of this historically significant property.
- Identify the key anchor uses and associated spaces early to facilitate design, operator recruitment, lease negotiations, and permitting as quickly as possible. Determining key anchor uses (the brewery/taproom and future cocktail bar) and specific locations within the project was a major milestone for both space planning and financial modeling. This was time intensive and involved difficult retail space design work, lease discussions, and economic planning.
- Build a leasing plan for the seven micro vendor spaces that would be carved out of the historic horse stalls in the stable building surrounding the courtyard. It represented one of the most challenging aspects of the Charles River Speedway redevelopment and focused on the smallest individual retail spaces Graffito has ever worked on.
- Develop a new set of strategies for retail marketing and leasing that would substantially lower the barriers to entry, demystifying the leasing process for emerging and first-time operators, women, people of color, and other entrepreneurs who have historically been excluded from commercial/retail real estate development projects in Boston.
- Over 25 individual operators/entrepreneurs submitted applications to the call for creative operators
- Greater range of diversity in demographics of the small businesses that signed leases or license agreements. Of the eight original retail leases or license agreements signed by AHF in 2021 through Graffito’s services:
- Five tenants have were women
- Five tenants have were WMBE+
- 2 Black operators
- 2 Asian operators
- 1 Latina operator
- Successfully evolved the existing Speedway brand via a full wayfinding signage package designed by GID