Developer of Boston’s Fenway Neighborhood Embraces a Former Automotive Garage as Its Headquarters

Elkus Manfredi, office

In 1993, the real estate development company Samuels & Associates produced the 440,000-square-foot retail shopping center South Bay Center in Dorchester, Mass., the first development of its type in an urban location. This led Samuels & Associates, in 2004, to envision another urban retail development—this time with a mix of uses including residential and office space. The firm enlisted the help of Elkus Manfredi Architects to design a master plan for Fenway Triangle Trilogy, a 1-million-square-foot mixed-use development in the heart of Boston’s Fenway neighborhood.

Comfortable leather seating and raw industrial elements in the lobby seating area create a club-like feel, reflecting the entrepreneurial, eclectic personality of company Founder and Chairman Steve Samuels.

Primarily wetland before baseball’s legendary Fenway Park was constructed in 1911, the Fenway neighborhood had long suffered urban blight and neglect. Its wide streets were unfriendly to pedestrians, and the neighborhood was dominated by parking lots, gas stations, and derelict 1- and 2-story light industrial buildings. Working closely with Samuels & Associates to develop the plan for Fenway Triangle Trilogy and conducting numerous community meetings to earn the trust and approval of Fenway residents, Elkus Manfredi created the design roadmap for The Fenway’s revitalization, using tools such as wide sidewalks, street trees, and traffic-calming build-outs to create a “main street” setting with a welcoming pedestrian environment.

Elkus Manfredi continued to provide design and planning expertise to Samuels & Associates as the development company spear-headed the ongoing revitalization of The Fenway. In 2016, Samuels & Associates further embraced its connection to The Fenway when the company established its corporate headquarters in a 3-story former automotive garage and service building built in 1960.

At the second-floor elevator lobby, a collection of historic machining tools evokes the building’s industrial history.

In its new Fenway headquarters, Samuels & Associates establishes its presence in the heart of the neighborhood. With retail establishments on the ground floor and Samuels & Associates’ corporate offices on the two upper floors, the building’s redesign exemplifies urban adaptive reuse that seeks to save and find new uses for an existing building, rather than tearing it down, reflecting the same approach Samuels & Associates takes in many of its projects. The building at 136 Brookline Avenue was built to contain the heavy machinery and vehicles of an auto service and repair business, so its sound structure made it a good candidate for a new use.

Overall Project Challenges

  • Open spaces supported by concrete mushroom columns required separation and definition by function.
  • Meeting spaces needed to allow for separate private meetings to occur concurrently.
  • Confidentiality concerns dictated that guests exiting meetings not go back through the common waiting area at reception.
  • Event space was needed where projects could be celebrated and clients entertained.
  • The design should reflect the unique personality of company founder and chairman Steve Samuels, a third-generation real-estate developer, whose interests and activities outside the company include film production and music.
  • While capturing the entrepreneurial leadership of Steve Samuels, the design also needed to provide functional and comfortable workspace for the company’s approximately 50 corporate employees.
The style of the meeting rooms range from formal boardroom to this informal lounge to accommodate different needs.

Design Solutions

  • The existing footprint of the building’s second and third floors was divided into public and private workspaces, with new walls creating a reception area and conference center on the second floor and offices plus a communal kitchen on the third floor.
  • Red brick walls were painted white; ceilings retained their original raw concrete and were sandblasted to remove dirt and old paint. The original concrete floors were stained and polished.
  • The second floor features a central reception area surrounded by glass-fronted conference rooms.
  • Behind the reception desk, glass doors open to a rooftop deck that serves as an open-air entertainment and employee relaxation area.
  • Third-floor office space encompasses cubicles surrounded by glass-fronted offices. The third-floor communal kitchen/breakroom is anchored by a long wall of clerestory windows that introduce natural light and views.
  • At the second-floor entry opposite the elevator doors, a collection of historic machining tools evoke the building’s industrial history.
  • The hall leading to Steve Samuels’ office celebrates his music passion and film-production career with framed movie posters and a collection of antique microphones.
  • The stairway landings are decorated with hand drawings of company projects printed on metal, including a drawing of The Verb Hotel.
Collected by company Founder and Chairman Steve Samuels, the antique machining tools in the elevator lobby reflect his wide-ranging interests, as well as the three-generation history of the company.

Retrofit Team

Architecture and Interior Architecture:  Elkus Manfredi Architects

Lighting Designer: Lam Partners

MEP Engineer: WSP

General Contractor: Paradigm Construction, (978) 528-3191

Workstation Supplier: AIS

PHOTOS: Eric Laignel

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