Charles River Speedway
- D.F. Pray
Built between 1899 and 1940, the Charles River Speedway is considered one of DCR’s “origin properties.” Arranged around an interior courtyard, the buildings once served as police headquarters, Superintendent’s residence, horse stables, and maintenance garages for the Charles River Reservation, formerly under the authority of the Metropolitan District Commission. The complex was also a companion facility for the Speedway trotting park, a horse and bicycle racecourse that curved for a mile along present-day Soldiers Field Road.
Long underutilized, and then vacant for over a decade, the buildings fell into disrepair. DCR was in a bind. The agency could not continue to maintain the Speedway, but also could not knock it down. The buildings needed to be adapted for modern use, but not to such an extent that they lost their historic character. The property would have to be financially self-sustaining, but getting it to that point would take more time and money than most developers were willing to spend. The Speedway required a creative, market-based solution incorporating the wishes of both DCR and the local community, and facilitated by a mission-driven partner willing to accept a higher level of financial risk.
In 2013, DCR selected AHF to preserve and redevelop the Speedway through the agency’s Historic Curatorship Program. AHF systematically built relationships with public officials and community members, and launched a visibility campaign for the project. This outreach resulted in legislation authorizing a site control agreement between AHF and DCR, as well as a comprehensive program for the property including a mix of commercial, cultural, and nonprofit uses. AHF also raised a total of $5 million in Historic Tax Credits, New Market Tax Credits, and Community Preservation Act funding, tilting what began as a financially precarious project into feasibility.
AHF and the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation partnered to revitalize the Charles River Speedway in Brighton for commercial, cultural, and community uses. Now complete, the Speedway is home to a mix of shops, bars and restaurants, including Notch Brewing’s taproom and courtyard biergarten. The site also features offices and a large event facility, Garage B.