Repositioning a Historic Space to Appeal to the Best Young Talent

What was once the nation’s largest and most iconic candy factory is currently undergoing a major makeover in Boston’s Charlestown neighborhood.

Originally built in 1928 during Boston’s candy boom, the historic Schrafft’s Center, which was converted into a four-building office complex in 1986, is now being repositioned into a 1-million-square-foot waterfront business campus with a unique, contemporary design aimed at improving the overall tenant experience and attracting and retaining talent.

When CBT was selected for the project by owner The Flatley Company, our aim was to modernize the space to make it appealing to a cross-section of companies and to lure in a young, hip employee base.

Our renovations to the new Schrafft’s City Center, which sits on the Boston Harbor, include a new 200-plus person cafeteria with outdoor seating, a top-tier fitness center, convenience store, childcare center for employee parents and state-of-the-art conference center.

We were inspired by the building’s industrial past and its history as a beloved candy factory for the new front lobby design. When completed, it will feature a coffee bar and an elevated lounge in a 3-story interior atrium with a gas fireplace. Playful accents will include the chocolate “spill” of brown concrete on the floor and candy apple red glass throughout. We are also creating a custom wallcovering that will have graphic frames displaying historical images of the old candy factory, candy-making and the building throughout the years.

In addition, we are refreshing the green landscaping to activate the public realm around the site and adding attractive outdoor seating and meeting areas because it’s the design of indoor and outdoor space that stimulates the people, the employees, in that space. We are reimagining Schrafft’s City Center to become a destination for employees, not just a place to come work.

This high-profile project represents a major trend happening across the commercial office sector in major cities nationwide. In dense cities, like Boston, New York and San Francisco, land for new construction is scarce and building repositioning has become increasingly attractive in the past decade.

Building owners realize that to compete in today’s marketplace and lure the best young talent, they must strategically rethink and reposition their office, lobby and common space to be not only an extension of the workplace, but also help invigorate the neighborhood in which it resides. Owners understand that repositioning their assets is no longer a choice; it’s necessary to stay relevant and successful while unlocking value.

I tell my team all the time that you need to think differently on every project because each property has a rich history and great story to tell. Repositioning is all about leveraging and enlivening a building’s existing features and amenities while maintaining the essence of what makes the building unique in the first place. The design we came up with for Shraffts is intended to do just that.

When work is completed, our goal is that Schraffts City Center will not only become a great civic neighbor for Boston but that the Schrafft’s brand will continue to evolve and pay homage to a former candy factory that was once America’s “sweetest” building.

About the Author

Haril Pandya, AIA
Haril Pandya, AIA, is principal of the award-winning Boston-based firm CBT Architects. He specializes in and has a passion for repositioning/retrofitting historic and iconic office buildings, as well as parks and public spaces.

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