Chelmsford Center Revitalization
Some twenty plus years ago, The Edge Group Inc. (now Bell Tower Commercial Real Estate Group) was hired by the town of Chelmsford as part of an overall planning initiative to reinvigorate the town center, akin to the transformation that took place in the City of Newburyport. The late architect Jon Woodman developed and presented a hand sketch in 1999, including plans to uncover a brook that ran through the town center. Fred Faust, Principal of The Edge Group, had been actively involved in urban planning, development and revitalization throughout his career including in Lowell, MA. Faust was involved in contributing to the vision for Chelmsford Center and fully supported Woodman’s vision and the merits of bringing together public and private interests for a vibrant town center. Town officials and business leaders embraced the plan.
Phase 1 of the Center’s Revitalization – 6 Boston Road and 34 Central Square
In July of 2001, the daughters of a local doctor and pharmacist engaged The Edge Group for property management and project management services for two buildings owned by their father. The priority was to get both properties in shape, including addressing significant environmental issues. The objective was to attract tenants as the properties were tired and only at 50% occupancy. Faust led the management of the renovations of both properties and attracted new tenants to increase the professional occupancy rate at 6 Boston Road.
With renovations completed, The Edge Group marketed and brokered the sale of 34 Central Square to Ali Zosherafatain. The entrepreneur had a vision for the property and took on the environmental matters and secured their own financing to purchase the three condominiums that comprised 34 Central Square.
The high-quality renovations of both properties were widely embraced by the community. They represented the first pieces of the puzzle in transforming Chelmsford Center into the vibrant urban center that Woodman envisioned, and the town and private sector leaders had embraced.
In 2006, 34 Central Square became home to Fishbones, a thriving seafood restaurant.
Next Phase: The Odd Fellows Building in Central Square
Back in 1893, the Odd Fellows Building Association purchased a home on 7,000 square feet of land from Benjamin Fiske. A century or so later, Sovereign Bank and then Santander took over the building. Over the years, the building housed a general store, an ice cream parlor, multiple banks, and a public meeting space on the third floor. The 1896 Queen Anne-style property remained idle for years and suffered from neglect.
As Santander sold bank branches with twenty-year leases to use its capital elsewhere, the Odd Fellows Building was sold to a California developer. When the lease was due to expire, the developers engaged Faust and The Edge Group to broker the sale of the building, the Fiske House and the adjacent parking lot, comprising 4+ acres of land (a unique opportunity to have such acreage available in a town center).
Technical Team for Permitting
To successfully market these properties, a technical team was organized to include architects, engineers and would-be buyers. The team was led by the Vice President of the California developer/owner of the properties, Ben Swenson, and Faust, Principal of The Edge Group (now Bell Tower CRE Group). This team worked together to develop strategies for the properties to ensure permitting would be attained. Over the course of two years (and during the pandemic), the team worked tirelessly via remote meetings to develop strategies for the properties.
After a large condominium development proposal was denied by the town, the technical team went back to the drawing board with a focus on marketing the properties individually. P&S agreements had since expired. A priority for the owners was to preserve the historic Odd Fellows Building. Concessions were made to secure a deal including paying the legal fees for re-permitting efforts. The sale and P&S were successfully negotiated, and Ali and his business partner, Houman Baiany, purchased the historic building.
The Odd Fellows Building remains an important landmark in the center of town. The renovations and restoration work include all eight units leased, brokered by Bell Tower CRE Group. The vision for the first floor is to be the site of another restaurant; another puzzle piece in the center’s transformation to offer services within walking distance.
Summary of the Value Delivered by Bell Tower CRE Group
- Input and insight into the initial plan to revitalizing Chelmsford Center.
- Project Management services for the renovation of 6 Boston Road.
- Project Management services for the renovation of 34 Central Street.
- Property Management services for 6 Boston Road.
- Successfully brokered the sale of 34 Central Street (home to Fishbones restaurant).
- Co-led the technical team to develop strategies to achieve permitting and the sale of Odd Fellows Building, the Fiske House, and the adjacent parking lot.
- Successfully brokered the sale of the historic Odd Fellows building including navigating and overcoming complex permitting process that took two years.
- Brokered the lease of the rental properties at Odd Fellows Building.
- Brokering the lease of the office space units at 6 Boston Road.