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Historic downtown Hayden Building celebrates new life as upscale residences

Posted by Jeremy C. Fox  March 1, 2013 11:24 AM

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Menino at Hayden Building opening.jpg

Jeremy C. Fox for Boston.com

Mayor Thomas M. Menino made a joke at the opening celebration for the H.H. Richardson-designed Hayden Building in Chinatown, provoking laughter from eveloper Ronald M. Druker, Historic Boston Incorporated President Matthew J. Kiefer, and Executive Director Kathy Kottaridis.

Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino joined dozens of other city officials, preservation enthusiasts, and Chinatown residents on Thursday to celebrate the re-opening of the historic 1875 Hayden Building.

Designed by famed architect Henry Hobson Richardson, who also designed Trinity Church in Copley Square and Harvard University’s Sever Hall, the stately building at the corner of Washington and LaGrange streets is the only remaining commercial building in Boston built from a Richardson design.

Historic Boston Incorporated bought the building in 1993, with support from Menino. They stabilized the building’s frame and were able to rent out the ground floor to Liberty Bank, but it took many years to plan and fund the renovation of the upper floors, badly damaged by a fire. It began the process about two years ago.

“Together we are showing once again that historic preservation does not inhibit economic development, it ignites it,” Menino said at the ceremony, provoking applause from the crowd.

“When you think about all the things that make Boston special and unique, our rich history and our strong neighborhoods really stand out. I’m proud to be here to support Historic Boston because they help preserve the historical character and revitalize the neighborhoods of Boston,” Menino continued.

Hayden Bldg ext Feb 2013.jpg
Jeremy C. Fox for Boston.com
Exterior of the Hayden Building.
After 20 years in which its upper four floors were empty and uninhabitable, those floors have been converted into four 930-square-foot apartments with a clean, contemporary design that nonetheless pays homage to Richardson’s 19th-century aesthetic.

At the ceremony, Menino spoke of Boston’s unique standing as a nearly 400-year-old American city where sleek, new structures stand alongside historic gems from many past eras. Preserving those buildings, he said, is preserving what makes Boston a special place.

“I look forward to more of these projects, so we can bring the economic revitalization tools of historic preservation to more of Boston’s neighborhoods [and] commercial districts, and keep that special mix of the old and new that makes our city best,” Menino said.

Matthew Kiefer, president of Historic Boston’s board of directors, spoke of the long journey from buying the crumbling building two decades ago to transforming it into high-end apartments, and of the many people who had supported the process along the way.

“Sometimes the difference between foolhardiness and farsightedness is patience,” Kiefer said. “And we had patience. We had to have patience.”

Kiefer also praised Menino for his work in changing the area around the Hayden Building, once the ragged edge of the Combat Zone adult entertainment district and now the location of luxury apartments and a variety of Asian restaurants and shops.

A non-profit historic preservation advocate and developer, Historic Boston was founded to save the Old Corner Bookstore at the corner of Washington and School streets downtown and has since helped preserve historic properties in neighborhoods all over the city.

At Thursday’s ceremony, Kathy Kottaridis, the organization’s executive director, announced that it is halfway to its goal of raising $1 million for its Trilogy Fund, which supports the restoration of the Hayden Building and two other properties, the Alvah Kittredge House, built in 1836 in Roxbury, and the Vertullo Building, built in Hyde Park in 1865.

“Historic Boston’s generous donors love Boston and recognize the value of historic buildings to Boston’s unique sense of place and as anchor to this dynamic and growing city,” Kottaridis said.

Historic Boston estimates the full cost for the design and renovation of the Hayden Building at $5.6 million, partly funded by the sale of the non-historic building next door that houses the Penang Malaysian restaurant.

Other financing came from the Massachusetts Historical Commission, Eastern Bank, the Trilogy Fund, and the state.

Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @jeremycfox.
Follow Downtown on Twitter: @YTDowntown.

Lion dance at Hayden Bldg.jpg

Jeremy C. Fox for Boston.com

A lion dance troupe performed at the opening celebration to bring good luck to the Hayden Building and its future tenants.

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