Construction Begins on $65 Million Development in Square

Breaking the ground
Governor Deval L. Patrick ‘78, center right, breaks the ground along with members of the redevelopment project at 114 Mt. Auburn St. last Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2014. The area is going to be developed into an office building leased primarily by the university.

Massachusetts Governor Deval L. Patrick ’78, Cambridge Mayor David P. Maher, and Harvard University Executive Vice President Katherine N. Lapp gathered together last Wednesday to break ground for Harvard Square’s newest development project at 114 Mt. Auburn St. and the renovation of the historic Conductor’s Building next door.

“It was a joyous occasion, everybody was happy that we had finally reached this point,” said developer Richard L. Friedman, president and CEO of Carpenter and Company, which is leading the $65 million development.

Carpenter and Company will be working together with Tishman Construction and architect firm Elkus Manfredi Architects to complete the redevelopment, which has been in the works for several years, according to Friedman.

“This has been something that’s been a long time coming,” Friedman said. “Under Governor Patrick’s administration we were able to buy it.”

David P. Manfredi, the lead architect, estimatedin an email that construction on the 76,000 square foot building at 114 Mt. Auburn St. would be complete by next spring. The building will be entirely leased by the University.

“They’re going to use it primarily for office [space]; that’s my understanding,” Friedman said.

A University spokesperson said last week that the space would likely house "primarily normal office uses" but that its specific use is still "in the planning process."

Friedman said he expects that the the historic Conductor’s Building next door, which was built in 1912 as an office for streetcar conductors, will be completed by next spring but will be occupied by a different tenant.

“I suspect it’ll be a restaurant and bar; that's who's expressed the most interest in it,” Friedman said.

According to Friedman, the licensing and approval process has been rigorous because the project is a public-private partnership involving the city and the MBTA, which originally owned all of the property. Although Friedman’s company now owns part of the land, the MBTA still retains access to the space that will allow them to operate transporation infrastructure on the site.

“The [MBTA] transformers that run the entire red line are still going to remain on the property. The busway is still going to remain active on the property,” Friedman said.

According to MBTA Deputy Press Secretary Kelly Smith, the MBTA will be working alongside Carpenter and Company during construction.

“The MBTA will provide, at the developer’s expense, construction oversight and inspection to ensure that the electrical transformer and busway operations are not negatively affected. We have also had to review and approve all plans,” Smith wrote in an email.

Denise A. Jillson, executive director of the Harvard Square Business Association, said that much of the Harvard Square community supports this restoration and looks forward to seeing the final product.

“Many people are excited about the reconstruction of the Conductors Building” Jillson said. “When the new building gets raised, it will be really transformational to that corner [of the Square.]”

According to Smith, the project has a dual purpose. While the MBTA was pushing to generate revenue from its real estate assets, Carpenter and Company also had plans to redesign the neighborhood. Friedman also owns the Charles Hotel, which is located directly across the street from the construction site.

“Rather than their guests looking at an electrical transformer and busway, the hotel owner wanted to develop a new project and more attractive view. So we put the entire property out for development proposals, and selected Carpenter’s very creative proposal,” Smith wrote.

—Staff writer Ivan B. K. Levingston can be reached at Ivan.Levingston@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @IvanLevingston.

—Staff writer Celeste M. Mendoza can be reached at Celeste.Mendoza@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @CelesteMMendoza.

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