Historic Boston Incorporated (“HBI”) takes a unique approach to historic preservation. Rather than “freeze drying” buildings as historic curiosities, HBI returns buildings to active uses that generate economic development. When HBI began to outgrow its signature rehabilitation and original headquarters, the 1713 Old Corner Bookstore in Downtown Crossing along Boston’s Freedom Trail, HBI looked to the city’s oldest remaining firehouse in Dudley Square and envisioned a new headquarters.
The 1859 Eustis Street Firehouse had fallen deeply into disrepair, requiring its walls to be propped up by six massive exterior wooden buttresses installed as emergency repairs with HBI’s involvement in the 1990s. The title was not marketable due to the roof eaves overhanging the adjacent, city-owned Eliot Burying Ground. Rebuilding an addition that had burned down required an access pathway across the property of abutter Harrison Supply Company. Foundation work unexpectedly disinterred bones from unmarked graves at the edge of the cemetery.
However, HBI was confident that it could solve the many challenges of rehabilitation with the counsel of Goulston & Storrs. Matthew Kiefer began the firm’s relationship with HBI when he joined the firm in 1998, and today currently serves as President of HBI’s Board of Directors. Representation for the rehabilitation included Adam Hundley, Bill Dillon, Julia Livingston and Paul McDonough, Matthew’s predecessor as President of HBI’s Board.
The legal team negotiated a long-term lease of the Firehouse from the City of Boston, New Markets Tax Credit and Historic Tax Credit funding to supplement charitable contributions, and a license for the roof eaves over the cemetery that did not trigger state legislative action. The legal team also worked with the Boston Redevelopment Authority to take an easement for the access pathway. HBI completed the rehabilitation and moved into its new headquarters in September of 2011.
As a result of the move, HBI is now able to lease its former Old Corner Bookstore space to augment its operating funds. HBI transformed the City of Boston’s oldest firehouse, turning a public liability into a neighborhood asset. Most importantly, HBI communicated a message of investment in Dudley Square as part of the neighborhood’s ongoing economic development.
HBI works with local partners in Boston’s neighborhoods to identify and invest in historic buildings and cultural resources whose re-use will catalyze neighborhood renewal. HBI acquires and redevelops historic structures and provides technical expertise, planning services and financing for rehabilitation projects. Currently, HBI is conducting a one-time, $1 million capital fund campaign—the Trilogy Fund—to support three challenging rehabilitation projects in Chinatown, Roxbury and Hyde Park.