Hood Park Sees Opportunity to Re-Imagine Campus with Town

May 17, 2018
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The Hood Park on the other side of Rutherford Avenue has been going through a very interesting transformation over the past several years – long before they began having meetings about the recently approved parking garage and the re-imagining process of the circa-2000 office park plan.

Few know many of the treasures already located on the campus.

For instance, last year the COSI coffee shop company located its headquarters to the park, where it operates a commissary kitchen and offices that act as the hub of their growing restaurant company.

There’s Cambridge College, which relocated its entire operation to the Park last year and is currently working on building out the Casino Training School on the property.

There are also the Green City Growers, a company that establishes and maintains garden plots at residential buildings, and office parks – including one at Fenway Park and Assembly Row.

“They operate gardens on the east side of the campus, and this is their third season,” said Chris Kaneb, manager of Hood Park and Catamount Development. “They say this is hands down the most robust engagement program they have.”

All of it is very exciting, and there is no shortage of other tenants wanting to look into locating at Hood, but all of it fits under the development plan permitted in 2000 – a plan that is patterned after a suburban office park and not a modern, vibrant working community that companies and residents now demand. With that in mind, Kaneb said they see an opportunity right now to do something different than the permitted project, and they’d like to engage with the community in the coming months to see what might work.

While they could go ahead with the existing plan already on file, Kaneb said there is an opportunity now to do something that could be better for everyone.

“Many of our existing tenants – most of whom are growing – appreciate the fact that this is a campus that is in transition and will morph into something much different. It’s becoming a neighborhood…The access we have is a big deal. The model for our 2000 project was University Park in Central Square, Cambridge. That’s not the model now. The dynamics of development are different now. Expectations are different. I think we can do a lot better.”

And that’s what they will be trying to do with the community in the coming months as engagement starts to begin again. The Park was approved for a Parking Garage in the back corner last month – a garage that will also contain a restaurant and laboratory space. Last year, they broke ground on the first residential building on the campus – a departure from the office-only concept of 2000.

Now, they have other ideas that could make the campus more vibrant – perhaps eliminating the parking garages that were to front Rutherford Avenue and adding new and different buildings.

One of the key players often talked about is the Indigo company, an agricultural research company that has really taken off since moving from Kendall Square to the campus a few years ago.

Indigo is believed to be a driver in the desire to build a corporate headquarters on the campus next to the recently-permitted garage – and could be a catalyst to attract other companies to something that is denser and less spread out.

He said it will not be about simply accommodating Indigo, but rather accommodating the community and the emerging neighborhood that exists at Hood.

“They are a company name thrown around in the public,” Kaneb said. “That’s all true, and they will be a partner in the process, but it doesn’t begin and end with a build to suit new building for that tenant. They will be a part of this neighborhood. They want to be in Charlestown and they want to have their employees live here and be part of the community and go to the local restaurants for a bite to eat…They were wary coming to Charlestown from Cambridge as a life sciences company and how that would work. Long story short, it has totally exceeded their expectations…They are excited to be on the ground floor of what will be a transformation.” Hood expects to re-start a community process in the coming months..