National Development is Undertaking Major Renovation, Rebranding at Constitution Center

July 20, 2017
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The Constitution Center, three-building campus, in the Charlestown Navy Yard might have the best view of the waterfront, the Zakim/Bunker Hill Bridge and the Boston skyline, and now owners National Development are looking to bank on that view with a major renovation and re-orientation of the property.
Building trends and personal preferences often go full circle, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the renovation of the Center – now re-branded as Constitution Wharf. When the anchor building, building one, was constructed in the 1980s, it featured what everyone wanted – a suburban style building facing a large parking lot and with ribbon windows that were tinted to keep light out.
Now, National Development is set to spend between $12 and $20 million to reverse the throwback style of the 1980s and make the main entrance face the waterfront, bring in new windows that emphasize natural light, and create a modern office with amenities like a fitness center and outdoor televisions and sitting areas.
“It’s going to have a new look and a new feel,” said Tucker Kelton, director of Charles River Realty Investors, a subsidiary of National Development. “Part of what we want to really emphasize is the location. It’s not the Financial District, but it’s got a lot of really great characteristics. First is the (430 space) parking lot. The other is you are surrounded on three sides by water and the USS Constitution too…Our site has one of the best views of the City skyline and the Zakim Bridge. We want to promote that.”
Already, the effort has paid off, as the company Shoes.com – a subsidiary of Wal-Mart – has agreed to move from the Financial District and lease the entire second floor. They will lease 31,000 sq. ft. of the 135,000 sq. ft. building one.
“We are really excited to create a better design and environment for new and exciting tenants,” he said. “Proof of our concept has already been shown in the lease to Shoes.com…They are a very exciting tenant for us.”
Step one in the re-design is orienting the entrance to the other side of the building, where the view is not a large parking lot, but rather a beautiful waterfront with skyline views and a HarborWalk.
“The goal is to orient to the waterfront,” he said. “The building was developed to open to the parking lot. That was a trend back then…This would emphasize the waterfront with the main entrance on the other side and create a real nautical and pedestrian-friendly experience.”
Kelton said that – despite having a large parking lot – they are very excited about promoting the pedestrian walkway to the building from North Station. They believe the proximity to Charlestown and the growing North Station area provides them a great opportunity to tack on to the walk or bike to work segment.
“We believe the most exciting sub-market in the City right now is the North Station sub-market,” he said.
They emphasized they will have a shuttle from North Station, but that that one doesn’t even need cross the North Washington Street Bridge to get to their site. It is fully accessible by foot through the Paul Revere Park.
Inside the building, they will have a new two-story foyer with natural light and a fitness room with lockers. The new foyer will also include an incredible data-driven wood and LED light panel feature. The feature will be made of teak wood to emphasize the nautical theme, and then a series of LED lights will be inlaid into the wood. Those lights will change colors and texture based on the tides, winds and position of the sun. The lights will be hooked up online to an National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) buoy in the Harbor to get the information that will inform the lights on what to do.
“We thought about a lot of things, but I got really excited about this data driven design piece,” he said. “It brought a real connection to your environment.”
Another key point in the renovation are new amenities, which include couches, televisions a fire pit and other sitting areas outside facing the water and the skyline. It’s much like one might see in a new luxury apartment building, and Kelton said more and more tenants want to have residential-type amenities in their workplace.
“What we’re seeing now in office design is the lines are blurring between the amenities of office and residential,” he said. “Part of that is because of how people are working these days…It’s an extension of the 24-hour workforce. That’s driven by the tech firms, but you’ll find that law firms now want those amenities too…I can’t think of another office building in the City where you can sit on the waterfront with an outdoor television on couches and see these views.”
Kelton said the renovation didn’t come out of thin air.
Part of what happened is that National Development took full lease control of the property, which is on a long-term lease from MassPort. At the same time, Partners Healthcare – which had about 85,000 sq. ft. in the anchor building – moved out to its new Somerville headquarters. That left a big hole and a perfect time to renovate.
In building two, the Mass General Institutes of Health Professions (IHP) will continue to occupy one floor, and now plans to expand to a second floor there, making them a major anchor tenant.
Marketing the property is Newmark Knight Frank, and the builder is Cranshaw Construction.
Construction started this month on the renovations, and work is expected to wrap up this fall.