A first look at Pop Allston

Allston’s new community space has an open skatepark, a yoga studio, a vintage market, and much more.

The opening lobby of Pop Allston with an art installation by In House.

In the transient college neighborhood of Allston, a cohesive sense of community isn’t easy, but Pop Allston, a pop-up collaborative community space opening today, is trying to change that.

“We wanted to create a model that people could look at citywide for how to do this successfully, and then do the best to support the tenants that we have now,’’ says Alana Olsen, director of Allston Village Main Streets, who spearheaded the project.

Pop Allston is mere months in the making. At the beginning of 2015, Eden Properties, a young Cambridge-based development company, purchased a parcel of land on the corner of Linden Street and Brighton Avenue in Allston. Simultaneously, longtime tenant International Bicycle Center decided to close up shop, leaving a four-floor, 15,000 square-foot building vacant until Eden could figure out what to do with it.

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[Pop Allston is running a Kickstarter campaign to keep the skatepark free for all who want to attend.]

Olsen immediately took a liking to the space. After getting Eden’s blessing to make use of the building for a year, she worked with a number of local influencers to find a way to temporarily activate the space while Eden figured out a permanent plan for it.

The result is Pop Allston, which officially opens Saturday. The space will contain a two-floor skatepark designed by Orchard Skate Shop and Converse, a bicycle co-op called CommonWheels, installations from the Individuals Art Collective and In House, and two small businesses: a weekly vintage open market on Saturdays called Oliver Best Market and Yoga Hub Boston, a studio from trainer Allie Singer.

The second floor of Pop Allston features a street plaza style skate park.

It’s the first space of its kind in Boston, and it’s especially representative of its neighborhood. Like so many Allston residents, the project will only live in its home for one year.

“Spaces like this are really important to fostering a strong creative economy,’’ says Olsen. “As Boston grows and is going through a bit of a development boom right now, it becomes harder and harder for small businesses to open, and people become less inclined to experiment. Pop-up spaces provide an opportunity for these young businesses to be creative.’’

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Pop Allston will essentially give a year’s worth of time and space so small businesses and entrepreneurial spirits can make things happen in the neighborhood. For a fitness trainer like Singer, it could mean growing a client base that bolsters a move to a permanent spot. For Orchard, it could mean showing the city just how important — and how many people would enjoy — a skatepark.

The third floor of Pop Allston features a transition style skate park.

Armin Bachman, co-owner of Orchard, lights up when looking over the skatepark, which came together in a matter of months.

“This space is really symbolic to us as skateboarders, just to know that we can make things happen,’’ Bachman says. “If we keep pushing and do things the way we do naturally as skaters, good things will happen.’’

Largely funded by Converse, the skatepark is built from recycled and donated materials and spans two floors that are challenging for any skill level. The lower floor is dedicated to street plaza-style skating, with various interchangeable pieces that Bachman calls “granite legos.’’ The top floor is set up with bigger ramps and bowls, making for more of transition-style space. Orchard will offer group instruction every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., along with open classes on the first Saturday of every month.

Olsen is excited by having a temporary home, and is encouraged by how much easier the process has become over the past few years.

More ramps occupy the third floor of Pop Allston.

“One of the things I really respect about the Walsh administration is how hard they’re working to streamline the permitting process,’’ says Olsen. “The inspectional services division has really done a 180 and I’ve been lucky enough to work with the fantastic people there who are really clear in talking us through the it.’’

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The spirit of a pop-up space, she hopes, is to pay it forward in another vacant space somewhere else in the city.

Installations from Individuals Art Collective are being set up in the basement.

For now, however, Olsen, along with all the people behind Pop Allston, will celebrate. On top of a free kickoff event that featured several bands, she plans to host fashion shows and other open events every month. From there, the community can only build itself.

“Pop Allston is definitely a testament to some really positive changes that are being made,’’ she says. “There is hope, and it’s getting better.’’

Pop Allston is open now. Check the space’s website for events and skatepark, Oliver Best, Yoga Hub Boston, and CommonWheels hours. If you would like to donate to Pop Allston, visit their Kickstarter page.

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June 18, 2019 | 8:55 AM