The Speedway, the BPA, and the Importance of Preservation Partnerships

BPA 32nd Annual Preservation Awards logo
Image credit: Boston Preservation Alliance

The built environment stands on a foundation of built relationships. For preservationists, whose projects live or die depending on successful advocacy, this idea carries special weight. The oft-expensive process of restoring or adaptively reusing historic properties hinges on partnerships between individuals and organizations, businesses and governments. Time and again, AHF has witnessed how strong relationships beget stronger projects. The Speedway is a case in point. This once-deteriorating collection of buildings is well on its way to becoming a lively community space thanks to the early determination and continued support of the Boston Preservation Alliance.

Also known as the BPA, the Alliance has spent more than forty years fighting to protect Boston’s built heritage. Thanks to the BPA, numerous historic buildings still stand in whole or in part throughout the city, among them the Boston Stock Exchange, the Dorchester Pottery Works, the Chestnut Hill Waterworks, Fenway Park, and now, the Charles River Speedway. When AHF was appointed Historic Curator of the Speedway in 2014, we joined the ranks of many local organizations that had been striving for years under the BPA’s leadership to save the property. In fact, our appointment might never have happened if not for the relationships that the BPA cultivated to ensure that rehabilitation remained a viable option for the site.

The Speedway before restoration
The Speedway in 2013 before restoration.
The Speedway's nearly completed shingling along Soldiers Field Road
The Speedway’s shingling is nearly complete along Soldiers Field Road.

Building institutional partnerships is a painstaking process, but the Alliance’s Speedway-related activities over the last ten years show that the such efforts bear fruit. In 2011, the BPA teamed with the Brighton-Allston Historical Society, the Department of Conservation and Recreation, and Historic Boston, Inc. to host a public brainstorming session that generated a variety of ideas for the property’s future. That same year, the BPA submitted a letter to the Boston Landmarks Commission in support of the Speedway’s designation as a city Landmark. In 2018, the Alliance helped AHF obtain Historic Tax Credits for the Speedway by submitting another letter of support to the Massachusetts Historical Commission. The BPA’s reputation among these municipal and state institutions as a thoughtful and often successful preservation advocate meant that its letters held weight. The Speedway is now a City of Boston Landmark (a designation that offers greater protection than the National Register), and AHF has obtained Historic Tax Credits critical to moving the project forward. Throughout, the BPA has been among the Speedway’s staunchest supporters.

Today, October 15, the BPA hosts its 32nd annual Preservation Achievement Awards ceremony – yet another way that the Alliance promotes historic preservation in Boston. This year, the event is virtual, free (thought donations are appreciated), and hosted by award-winning journalist Katie Couric. There’s still time to register for this chance to learn about the inspiring preservation work occurring throughout the city and the Alliance’s role in making it happen.

Architectural Heritage Foundation is a 501(c)3 dedicated to stimulating economic development in disinvested communities through historic preservation. Follow AHF and its projects on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and LinkedIn.

From Architecture Boston – “Shifting Gears: The historic Speedway complex—hidden in plain sight along the Charles River—gets set for a reawakening”

If winter is cold and dark, at least snowdrops and the promise of spring give us hope and hint of new life. The cycles of change—to cities and the natural world—can remind us that places have souls to lose. Emotions may be mixed. There is a quiet richness to the reworking of existing buildings that has crept into the psyche of the design professions as they resurrect past aesthetics, juxtaposed against new imageries and an overturning of previous uses. Those cycles of change reel from catastrophic to delicately nuanced, and architects try to counter one and orchestrate the other.

Boston Landmarks Commission Approves Speedway Project

We are excited to announce that the Boston Landmarks Commission has approved the rehabilitation plans for the Speedway. Following a March 26 presentation by AHF, Bruner/Cott, and Klopfer Martin Design Group, BLC voted in favor of the project moving forward, pending final review of signage.

Let’s work together.