North Carolina Firm Buys Brattle Street Buildings
North Carolina-based real-estate investment-management firm Asana Partners are the newest property owners in Harvard Square. This summer, the Dow-Stearns Family Trust decided to sell 1-8 Brattle Street and 17-41 Brattle Street, which currently house small businesses like Cardullo's Gourmet Shoppe and Black Ink. The $108-million sale is part of a much broader shift in Harvard Square's identity.
Asana is not the only out-of-town voice playing a key role in the Square’s evolution and potential redevelopment. Regency Centers Corporation, a real-estate investment trust from Jacksonville, Florida, is behind “The Collection at Harvard Square” project which will turn the flatiron-style Abbott Building into a commercial shopping mall. Community groups like the Harvard Square Neighborhood Association and Our Harvard Square have been asking the city of Cambridge for increased transparency for construction plans in the Square, so as to keep changes as accountable to Cantabrigians as possible.
Local residents who have expressed opposition to the plans for “The Collection at Harvard Square” can rest easy about the new owner across the street, for now, as Sam Judd, a managing director at Asana Partners, says the firm has “no plans at all” to build another mall, even though 17-41A Brattle has zoning permission for up to eight additional stories. “We’re not going to change the footprint of Harvard Square. For example, with 17-41A Brattle, that building is going to get a good power washing, and the awnings are kind of ugly. We’d like to improve the general aesthetic.” Asana is particularly concerned with quickly finding a vibrant and attractive tenant to fill the now-vacant Hidden Sweets storefront at 25 Brattle Street, but has not yet decided whether that tenant will be a local business like neighboring Crema Cafe, or a large chain like Urban Outfitters just across the street. “If you look at our other projects, there’s a good mix of local, regional, and national retail. You can expect to see us bring the same to Harvard Square.”
Denise Jillson, director of the Harvard Square Business Association, says she was pleased by the initiative Judd has shown with regards to the sale. “He seems to want to come in and clean things up a bit, and he reached out to us at HSBA after Asana connected with all the tenants in the two buildings on Brattle Street.” Jillson also feels optimistic about Asana’s ability to do critical maintenance work on the Brattle buildings (the HSBA is a tenant), saying that the buildings are in need of electrical, heating, and ventilation improvements.
“Ultimately, we’d love to figure out a way to keep interesting local tenants around long-term, especially those who have expressed a desire to stick around,” says Judd. “We want to engage with Harvard Square and add some new life with the tenants we bring to the two buildings on Brattle Street.”