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This blog is a place for dialogue on issues and actions relating to Boston's unique built environment and the preservation and continuing evolution of historic resources within it. My goal, as the Executive Director of the Boston Preservation Alliance, is to post timely, relevant and thought-provoking intelligence, ideas, and insights that will engage conversations, inform our actions, and broaden perspectives on preservation.

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Greg Galer, Executive Director, Boston Preservation Alliance

GREG GALER
Executive Director

AllianceViews Blog

The Sip & Spoke Bike Kitchen: Preservation & Economic Development in Upham’s Corner

February 9th, 2016  |  Posted by: Boston Preservation Alliance

Last week, we were honored to host a community forum at the Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building in Dudley Square that explored the central role of historic preservation in maintaining vibrant neighborhoods and the impact of gentrification on Boston’s communities. The topics discussed included preservation projects that directly contribute to the revitalization of the surrounding communities.

Residents often welcome the rehabilitation of historic structures that have been vacant or derelict for years, but may have concerns about the long-term impact of these projects. When a building’s future tenants are people and businesses with deep roots and longstanding connections to the neighborhood, however, such projects have the potential to bring about significant positive changes.

ComfortStation_Before

ComfortStation_Rendering

The Upham’s Corner Comfort Station in Dorchester is one such preservation project with the potential to be a powerful force for community revitalization. Built in 1912, the Mission-style historic building abutting the Dorchester North Burying Ground has been vacant for nearly 40 years. But not for long. Come spring 2017, it will be home to The Sip & Spoke Bike Kitchen, a full-service bicycle shop and café. This project is the result of a collaborative model between Historic Boston, Inc. (HBI), The American City Coalition (TACC) and Noah Hicks, a Dorchester native and founder of the Bowdoin Bike School, a nonprofit bicycle repair and teaching center.

The Comfort Station has long been on the City of Boston’s and the community’s agenda for thoughtful preservation and reuse. HBI also identified the building as an opportunity for preservation. More recently, as part of the city’s ongoing planning and investment along the Fairmount Corridor, residents of Upham’s Corner met to discuss their preferences for the reuse of the structure, which included a café and community space. When the Department of Neighborhood Development released an RFP for the building in July 2014, TACC and HBI collaborated on a proposal for a community hub, joining forces with Noah Hicks who was eager to create a business that responded to community preferences and need.

Noah_Hicks

Noah Hicks, a 28-year old bicycle mechanic, activist, and entrepreneur, will launch the Sip & Spoke Bike Kitchen in 2017.

There’s ample evidence to support the wisdom of choosing the Comfort Station to serve as Sip & Spoke’s new home – small historic structures are prime locations for locally-owned small businesses. A recent study from the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Preservation Green Lab found that older, mixed-use neighborhoods with a variety of architectural styles are more walkable, conducive to restaurants and nightlife, and viewed as desirable by younger residents. Particularly compelling is the study’s finding that neighborhoods with a smaller-scaled mix of old and new buildings host a significantly higher proportion of new businesses, as well as more women and minority-owned businesses, than areas with predominantly larger, newer buildings.

If you’re as inspired by this project as we are, you are in luck! TACC and Hicks are in the final week of an Indiegogo campaign to raise the money to fill a critical funding gap and demonstrate broad community support for the project. In addition to crowdfunding, they are seeking corporate donors.

At the Alliance, we believe that thoughtful preservation projects have the power to facilitate positive transformation in communities throughout Boston. Sip & Spoke is no exception. What has been an eyesore for decades will soon be home to a mission-driven business and community gathering place. Its presence will in turn help to reactivate a key portion of Upham’s Corner’s commercial business district. It’s a fantastic example of the potential for thoughtful adaptive reuse serving as a catalyst for community revitalization.


A postcard depicting a view of historic Upham's Corner. Image courtesy of the Dorchester Atheneum.

A postcard depicting a view of historic Upham’s Corner. Image courtesy of the Dorchester Atheneum.

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