Boston's Back Bay Hotel: A Case Study in the Value of Adaptive Reuse
By Bob Verrier Managing Partner, The Architectural Team, Inc. | October 30, 2016
Back in 2001, Saunders Hotel Group, LLC (SHG) and Irish hotel group Jurys Doyle commissioned The Architectural Team, Inc. (TAT) to design a luxury hotel project in Boston - but it wasn't to be a tall, glassy tower. Rather, our task was to renovate, restore, and update a classic structure that had been a part of the city's fabric for nearly a century: the former Boston Police Department headquarters. Located in the historic and trendy Back Bay neighborhood, this beautiful seven-story Italian Renaissance Revival building rendered in limestone dates back to 1925.
SHG, owners of the historic Lenox Hotel in Back Bay knew to engage an architectural firm that places a strong emphasis on historic preservation and adaptive reuse, and nothing could have been more exciting for us. The resulting Back Bay Hotel offers a compelling case study on the value of restoring and converting such historic structures.
Located at the corner of Berkeley and Stuart Streets in the heart of Boston's Back Bay, the building speaks to the rich history of the city, and of the Back Bay in particular. Once a literal bay, the area was formed into buildable land as part of a massive municipal fill project in the 1850s, and is home to a number of notable 19th-Century buildings, like McKim, Meade, and White's Beaux Arts Boston Public Library and H.H. Richardson's Trinity Church. Now regarded as having some of the country's best 19th-Century streetscapes, full of quintessentially Boston brownstone row houses, the Back Bay is a popular shopping, cultural, and commercial destination.
As someone with a long history in Boston, I feel a personal connection to the Back Bay, and I've always felt an affinity for old buildings - they're often so beautiful, and they become an integral part of their neighborhood, which in turn helps make cities so interesting and gives them character. It was important for us to help ensure that the Back Bay kept its vitality.
SHG and partner Jurys Doyle Hotel Group understood what The Architectural Team has believed for decades - that historic buildings are too important to our identity and national diversity to be considered disposable. For one, this structure is among the last Italian Renaissance Revival buildings erected in Boston. From the perspective of differentiation, preservation presented the developers with an opportunity to create a one-of-a-kind property in a part of Boston that already had a number of luxurious hospitality offerings. The Back Bay is synonymous with classic architecture; keeping this building in place allowed SHG and Jurys Doyle to capitalize on the atmosphere of the neighborhood and differentiate its offering from newer competitors that can't claim this level of architectural heritage or detail.
The Hotel Business Review articles are free to read on a weekly basis, but you must purchase a subscription to access
our library archives. We have more than 5000 best practice articles on hotel management and operations, so our
knowledge bank is an excellent investment! Subscribe today and access the articles in our archives.