The end of a year, and especially of a decade, is a reflective and celebratory time. For AHF, this New Year’s Day is particularly meaningful, as it marks the end of ten years of exceptional growth that afforded us new challenges and opportunities. The 2010s began during a recession that stalled several of our historic preservation projects, yet concluded with a groundbreaking, site control agreement, launch of a fundraising campaign, and more. Our work took us from Brighton to North Brookfield, introducing us to communities passionate about their heritage and eager to use it to stimulate economic and cultural development. As we look back on the progress we made – with regard to both our projects and our efforts to grow as an organization – we are grateful to all who helped make the 2010s such an extraordinary time.
Here are a few milestones from the past decade:
In 2014 after a public process, the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) selected us to redevelop the historic Speedway buildings in Brighton under the purview of its Historic Curatorship Program. Initially, we focused on cooperating with state officials to pass legislation authorizing a site control agreement between the Commonwealth and AHF. When a fire destroyed one of the former stables in 2015, our work assumed greater urgency. Over the next four years, we worked closely with DCR and the local activists to identify a creative mix of uses for the complex that would meet community needs and reconnect the site with the Charles River Reservation. This past year alone, we partnered with the Student Conservation Association to ready the site for redevelopment, were awarded Community Preservation Act funding from the City of Boston, secured Historic and New Markets Tax Credits, identified Notch Brewery as the Speedway’s anchor tenant, broke ground, and began renovations. We’re excited to complete the redevelopment in 2020 and to welcome the public to these historic buildings once again.
We entered into an agreement with the City of Worcester in 2016 to conduct a feasibility study for the Worcester Memorial Auditorium (“the Aud”), not expecting the project to lead to a deep dive into the esports industry and digital economy. We spent 2016 and 2017 interviewing local cultural and educational institutions with the idea of rehabilitating the building as the “Museum of Worcester,” providing extra space for local museums’ collections. However, we soon determined that this idea would be economically infeasible. When Becker College suggested in 2018 that the Aud become an esports facility, we were intrigued. Extensive research into the world of esports led us to our current vision for the building: a cutting-edge educational and cultural center for interactive media, technology, and visual arts. In early 2019 we submitted a proposal to the City of Worcester, which local officials enthusiastically endorsed. We have now entered into a site control agreement with the City and are ready to begin the predevelopment phase of the project in 2020.
Since we began consulting for the Friends of the North Brookfield Town House in 2017, we have been privileged to witness the local community come together to develop a vision for their project and strategy to execute it. Over the past three years, the Friends have launched a visibility campaign for the building, painted the façade, and partnered with Long View Farm Studios to redevelop the Town House as a Creative Life Center providing music and arts programming to under-served rural residents. Berklee College of Music has offered its support for the project, the Friends are working on a fundraising strategy, and North Brookfield leaders are formulating a downtown development strategy in which the Town House project will play an integral part. We are thrilled with the progress the local community has made.
AHF in 2019
AHF reached a number of milestones over the past year. We refined our mission, developed a new website, and increased our social media presence by joining Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. We also presented a session at the 2019 Preservation Massachusetts Historic Preservation Conference on moving stuck preservation projects forward – our first conference presentation since 2008. Looking ahead to 2020, we eagerly anticipate additional opportunities to connect with the preservation community locally and nationwide.