Allan Greenbaum and his family stood in their former workspace earlier this month – yet the old printing floor was now a hip foyer with art on the walls and an electronic jazz band playing at the far end of the old industrial space.
It was a happy moment for the former owner of the Graphic Arts building – as he noted the amazing changes to the area – but also bittersweet as he gave the final good-bye to a place that had served an industrial purpose for decades.
“I’m just glad I’m part of the transformation of this part of Charlestown,” he said at the well-attended Grand Opening. “It’s amazing what is happening here and I love what they did. I would have never thought this could happen. I thought it would always be an industrial area, but I am really pleased about how it has gentrified.”
The Grand Opening of the old building, which has been married to a brand new building that was the largest pre-fabricated construction project ever in Boston, took place on Oct. 3. Despite being kind of a pioneer in the residential wave of Sullivan Square, so far, the ownership said they have found that people really want to live there.
“We’re over 75 percent leased and probably closer to 80 percent now,” said Paul Goodwin of Berkeley Investments. “Things are going really well and there’s been great reaction to the neighborhood. We love Charlestown…We want to be integrated with the neighborhood and the community, but this area was on the edge of what people considered Charlestown. It doesn’t feel like that now, which is nice.”
Greenbaum shared that the building was a glass milk bottle factory for many years, supplying bottles to H.P. Hood and other manufacturers of milk. The building where the new apartments have been built was called Atlantic Excelsiors, and they provided the straw that was used to cushion the glass milk bottles during shipment.
His business was originally on Chardon Street downtown, but was taken by the Boston Redevelopment Authority under eminent domain in Urban Renewal. They were relocated to Sullivan Square in 1958.
“When we first started, we tended to have a lot of employees from Charlestown and the North End,” Greenbaum said. “Then we started to get a lot of Portuguese employees from Somerville. When I closed the plant and sold, I got all of my employees jobs. No one lost a job and that was very important to us. I had people who worked for me for 25 or 30 years and it was a family business.”
He said he began to see that things were changing in 2013, and then when the casino came, he knew it was time to leave.
“I could see after the casino approval that there was a transformation,” he said. “Once they were going to re-do Spice and D Streets, we had to leave because we couldn’t load up anymore. We couldn’t bring the big truck to the back like we had always done.”
Sylvia Greenbaum, Alan’s wife, said she loved how Berkeley changed the space, and that it held many good memories.
“We love it,” she said. “There are a lot of memories here. What they did has changed it a lot, but there is still so much of the past here. Even the design they have kept the old doors. They did a great job.”
The rehabilitation of The Graphic building has 46 loft-style apartments, while the new building next door contains 125 modern apartment units. A commercial retail space of about 5,000 sq. ft. is in the process of being leased.