Boston’s Neighborhood Commercial Districts

Geography, Policy, Impact: HBI’s 2016 Strategy

Since 2008 HBI has pursued transformative preservation projects in Boston’s neighborhood commercial districts with a goal of helping to preserve iconic mixed used buildings while supporting community economic development priorities. Between 2007 and 2013, Fields Corner in Dorchester and Cleary and Logan Squares in Hyde Park were focus areas for HBI’s work, which generated more than $3.4 million of real estate development activity and other investments.

In 2015, Historic Boston’s Board of Directors and Staff updated the organization’s strategic plan with two chief objectives: 1) to identify historic properties in Boston’s neighborhoods for redevelopment; and 2) to determine the impact goals HBI preservation projects and activities would have on the city. From this three themes emerged:

 

  1. Neighborhood business districts: HBI will aim to identify projects in places where some of Boston’s finest historic commercial buildings are located and that represent an opportunity to collaborate with local communities on revitalization measures.
  2. Places of public policy priority: HBI is also interested in bringing its real estate development and preservation skills to bear on public policy priorities planning areas or uses for historic buildings that are being advanced by the City and civic leaders.
  3. Scale up: HBI will prospect for larger historic preservation projects in order to build on the development strength it has gained over the last several years and to aim for higher impact. By extension, neighborhood commercial districts also present an opportunity for sustained focus on multiple properties in one area with the expectation of higher economic and visual impact.

The three neighborhoods that emerged as most in line with the new strategy are:

 

Upham’s Corner in Dorchester, one of the City’s most in-tact late 19th century neighborhood business districts, where rehabilitation of underutilized historic buildings can build on the groundbreaking plans for development along the Fairmount/Indigo Line Corridor and expand economic opportunity through new spaces for small business, artist studios, and housing.

 

Central and Maverick Squares in East Boston, where preservation-based redevelopment can help retain local character and help the traditional business districts and cultural heart of the neighborhood meet the explosion of new development along the neighborhood’s waterfront.

 

The western edge of Allston Village at Cambridge Street, where there has been considerable focus on new transportation investments in both commuter rail and Massachusetts Turnpike improvements. The cluster of historic buildings near the Richardsonian railroad depot (now Pizzeria Regina) presents an opportunity for preservation rehabilitation to define a new plan for several blocks of low-scale auto repair facilities.