Electeds, neighbors turn out to celebrate venerable agency’s new digs
Yawu Miller | 9/20/2017
In 2013, the building occupied by the Grove Hall social service agency Freedom House was fast becoming uninhabitable. Energy costs were sky-high, there was water damage, costly repairs were needed and the layout of what served as a yeshiva in the mid-20th century was not conducive to the needs of a contemporary youth-oriented organization.
Two years and $2.5 million later, the new Freedom House recently held its formal ribbon-cutting ceremony, with elected officials, community members and the students and staff who are in Freedom House on a daily basis.
Mayor Martin Walsh said the new building will help ensure that Freedom House will continue to serve its mission.
“Freedom House is an invaluable resource for students and families in this neighborhood,” Walsh said. “The transformation of this city-owned property into a dynamic, state-of-the-art space for youth is cause for great celebration.”
Freedom House Executive Director Katrina Shaw, who has overseen the organization through the redevelopment process, said the new design allows the agency more flexibility in how it uses its space.
“We always want this space to be open to the community,” she said. “We can close one side for offices and open up the other side for meetings.”
The evolving mission of Freedom House guided the transformation of its physical setting. Architect Troy Depeiza, co-founder of DREAM Collaborative, said the renovations were designed to maintain the light and openness of the building’s original open configuration, while creating partitions that enable multiple activities.
“It still has a sense of openness so the occupants can still see light coming in,” he said.
The most noticeable building change is a floor-to-ceiling glass wall facing Warren Street.
“The whole idea is to open up that view, not just from the inside, but from the outside, so that folks coming by can see that this is a hub of activity in the community,” Depeiza said.
The window fronts one of three classrooms on the Warren Street side of the building that can be adjusted in size by two removable walls. The space also can serve as a large community meeting room.
New to the building is a kitchen, open offices for employees and walled-off offices for senior staff. The building’s white and silver palate, defined by the cement, steel and glass used extensively throughout the interior, is warmed by lighting and 9 feet tall wooden doors.
“We tried to maintain the original feeling of the place,” Depeiza said.
Shaw said the students who have been attending after-school programming since May have responded favorably to the new build-out.
“They love it,” she commented. “They like the openness, the fact that you can see around the building, the transparency.”
While Freedom House began in 1949 as an all-purpose social service agency working on civil rights issues and neighborhood improvement, it has in recent decades focused more narrowly on youth development, with tutoring and college preparatory programming. It administers college preparatory programs at the Jeremiah Burke and Snowden International high schools, Bunker Hill Community College, UMass Boston, Roxbury Community College and the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology.
Roxbury, Massachusetts –
DREAM Collaborative provided complete design and construction administration services for the fit-out of Whittier Street Health Center @ Quincy Commons, a 2,700 sf DPH-certified retail health facility on the first floor of an existing building located at 276 Blue Hill Avenue. The program for this satellite neighborhood clinic includes urgent care, primary care, mental health, WIC and dental departments, as well as a Code Blue office, laboratory services, storage, reception, triage, provider rooms, and restrooms. Whittier Street Health Center @ Quincy Commons is set to open to the public Spring 2016.
In addition to the new clinic, DREAM Collaborative has provided architectural service to Whittier Street Health Center for three other medical and wellness projects in Roxbury, including:
Whittier Wellness & Fitness Club – DREAM Collaborative provided complete design and construction administration services for the 7,000 sf interior fit-out of the Whittier Street Health Center’s unfinished basement. The space was converted into the new Whittier Wellness & Fitness Club which also includes exercise equipment, classrooms, offices, and lab space. Click here to learn more about this project and see the photos.
WSHC Urgent Care – Renovation of the urgent care facility on the first floor of WSHC’s headquarters. The projects included four new exam rooms, triage, and two provider offices.
WSHC Outreach Patient Services Renovation – Second floor renovation of open space to create four separate offices while providing better adjancy for WSHC’s Outreach and Patient Services with a new connection.
Roxbury, MA –
DREAM Collaborative has been engaged by P-3 Partners LLC, the group behind Tremont Crossing, the proposed new 1.2 million sf mixed-use commercial development which was granted approval by the BPDA on 3/3. DREAM will provide architectural design services for the fit-out of a 31,000 sf museum for the National Center for Afro-American Artists. The Museum of the NCAAA will be the cultural anchor of the new development and create a spacious, accessible, and high-visibility home for the museum’s galleries, special exhibitions, performances, and educational events.
Client: P-3 Partners
For DREAM Collaborative principal Gregory Minott, the connection to Roxbury is personal.
“As a transplant from another state (and from another country before that), Roxbury felt like the closest thing to my Jamaican roots, with neighborhood amenities such Tropical Foods, cultural events at Hibernian Hall, and an active Caribbean community. Roxbury is home to lively small businesses providing diverse ethnic products. Also, my first avenue in civic engagement was serving as the design chair for Dudley Square Main Streets,” said Minott.
In fact, it was a 2008 design competition for the redevelopment of Dudley Square that kicked off Greg’s professional attachment to Roxbury. Greg’s team won the Best Building Award in that competition and never looked back. Today, DREAM has many clients in Roxbury who draw us deeper into this richly diverse, historic urban neighborhood.
What are Roxbury’s key challenges?
Redevelopment has been slower to come to Roxbury than to other neighborhoods so close to downtown. Part of problem is transportation. Currently, the Orange line is the only train service that comes to Roxbury and it doesn’t serve the whole neighborhood. Crime remains an issue. Though statistics show that crime is on the decline, the perception of Roxbury as potentially unsafe place remains.
Disproportionately high levels of subsidized and public housing as well as increasing housing prices paired with stagnant income levels makes it very challenging for Roxbury residents to become homeowners. Developers struggle to build profitable residential projects that existing residents can afford. For developers who are not familiar with the neighborhood, the many active neighborhood groups can mean additional redevelopment challenges. Our experience has been that with the right team, we can leverage the wisdom of the community to benefit the project and the neighborhood as a whole.
What should the future look like for Roxbury?
- The future needs to start with protecting and enhancing what makes Roxbury great in the first place: the people who live and work there, history, cultural heritage, diversity, and the small business anchors of the local economy.
- The future must include major improvements in the public realm and infrastructure for existing residents including parks, roads, and high-speed public transportation.
- Roxbury will benefit greatly from locally-focused investment that provides quality housing including affordable and market-rate rental and increased homeownership, as well as economic opportunities for families and residents at all income levels.
Learn more about our work in Roxbury including 16 new residences at 2451 Washington Street, a mission-driven commercial building for Dorchester Bay EDC, a wellness and fitness club for Whittier Street Health Center, and the new Museum of the National Center for Afro-American Artists coming to the Tremont Crossing mixed-use development. DREAM also pursued three Plan Dudley competitions including Dudley Commercial and 2147 Washington Street.
January 20, 2017 –
DREAM’s managing principal, Gregory Minott, was the subject of the Boston Business Journal’s Executive Profile in last weeks paper. Greg was specifically recognized for his leadership, humility, and world view on redevelopment in the City of Boston.
Education: Bachelor’s degree, architecture Caribbean School of Architecture, 1997; master’s degree, architecture and infrastructure planning, New Jersey Institute of Technology, 2002
Greatest professional challenge
‘I’m from Jamaica so people in Boston don’t always know what to make of me at first. Making inroads with new clients can be especially challenging, but our reputation is strong because there are benefits to being different: I bring a world view to the city’s redevelopment challenges and opportunities.’
Greg Minott has big dreams for his DREAM Collaborative LLC.
Ideally, he’d love to see his 10-employee Boston architecture firm become a Fortune 500 company one day. Realistically, he’ll settle for 50 employees within five years, as he expands his architecture business and possibly ventures into full-scale project developments.
“We see ourselves as more than architects,” said Minott, managing principal at DREAM. “We really see an opportunity here in Boston. We’d still provide services for clients, but maybe start partnering with clients too.”
If that comes to pass, it would be an American dream come true for DREAM and its two immigrant founders, Minott, a native of Jamaica, and Troy Depeiza, a native of Barbados. Both Minott and Depeiza are former architects at one of the city’s most prestigious and prosperous architecture firms, Elkus Manfredi.
Since striking out on their own by forming DREAM in 2008, Minott and Depeiza have established themselves as one of the top up-and-coming architecture firms in Boston.
Among its clients have been the Whittier Street Health Center, Boston Housing Authority, Preservation of Affordable Housing and, most recently, Millennium Partners and its lead architect, Handel Architects, on the envisioned new tower at 115 Winthrop Square, now the site of a closed city-owned garage.
DREAM has also maintained a close consulting relationship with Elkus Manfredi and other firms on projects such as the renovation of the art-deco Verizon building in Boston’s Post Office Square.
To Depeiza, Minott’s greatest strength is conveying to employees where he wants to take the firm — and he’s not thinking small.
“Greg has the ability to share a vision and make it accessible for the entire team to grasp, and the ability to conceive smart solutions under pressure,” said Depeiza. “Greg is a humble leader focused on self-improvement and helping others grow and realize their God-given potential.”
Growing up in Mandeville, north of Jamaica’s capital city of Kingston, Minott says he can trace his love for architecture both to his father, a chemical engineer, and his mother, who worked in residential and commercial real estate.
With his father, he once helped design and build the family’s home in Mandeville, driving around neighborhoods and looking at other homes for ideas they’d like to incorporate into their own house. “We’d say, ‘Hey, that place had an interesting archway and porches. What do you think of that?’ I really got to dream what would go into the house.”
With his mother, he’d often accompany her as she toured homes for possible sales and purchases, further instilling in him a love for design.
So it wasn’t a surprise that he was drawn to technical drawing, art and even physics, later attending the Caribbean School of Architecture, where his thesis was on how his “very scenic” middle-class hometown, Mandeville, and how over-development was threatening its charm.
When not working, Minott said he likes mountain biking, playing tennis, kayaking and just hanging out with his two sons, ages 7 and 4. He also loves traveling back to Jamaica to see family and friends.
November 17, 2016 –
DREAM Collaborative was recently featured in The Bay State Banner.
DREAMing Up Success
Written by Karen Morales
A 120,000 square foot, multi-use building with certified LEED features and various community amenities will open in Dorchester’s Four Corners neighborhood, if all goes as planned for DREAM Collaborative, a minority-owned architectural firm. The project, still in its design development phase, is one of many DREAM Collaborative’s urban development designs intended to revitalize neighborhoods.
While the term “revitalization” can carry loaded connotations, Gregory Minott and Troy Depeiza, co-founders of the firm, strive to bring something of value to surrounding communities with every project. Whether it’s their interior fit-out for the Whittier Street Health Center that contains a fitness facility and medical lab in Roxbury, or their very first client, a renovation of a church in Rhode Island, their work is mission-driven.
“We wanted to have a transformative impact on the neighborhoods we work in,” said Minott.
In 2008, Minott and Depeiza worked at Boston-based firm Elkus Manfredi Architects and entered a design competition together to re-imagine and redevelop Dudley Square.
The competition was hosted by the Boston Society of Architects as part of that year’s public programming for the American Institute of Architects national convention in Boston. The program invited architects to create a design strategy to fill in a newly vacant space in the Roxbury area.
Minott and Depeiza submitted a winning design, recognized by the City of Boston and the Boston Planning and Development Agency. “That really thrust us into the spotlight and gave us the confidence to move forward,” said Minott. “A lot of people knew our names in that neighborhood.”
Minott and Depeiza worked well together and decided to keep the momentum going by starting their own business. “Meeting Greg was complete like-mindedness, and it was the right time,” said Depeiza.
“Most people who come to this country are entrepreneurial-minded,” said Depeiza. “You need to start somewhere but you’re always looking to establish your own business.” Minott is originally from Jamaica and Depeiza from Barbados.
The duo started DREAM Collaborative from home, building a client list using connections from the competition.
“We began targeting nonprofits and private developers in that [Roxbury] area who knew we had credibility in the city,” said Minott.
Minott and Depeiza have eight employees, including interns. As a certified Minority and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise,”we’re very focused on hiring minorities and women and ensuring that they have prominent positions within the firm,” said Minott. “Not only are we innovative with our building designs, but the way we work too.”
The firm has worked with 19 clients so far, according to a list on their website. Their portfolio includes a wide range of clients and projects from Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation to Northeastern University, and “from a 13 unit building to a 300 unit building,” said Depeiza.
When designing a project, the firm engages with the needs and concerns of the surrounding neighborhood. “It’s our priority to go to community members to learn what their goals are for their community,” said Minott.
“And make sure that the development is good for not only new residents but the existing residents,” said Depeiza.
A dream project
The proposed 120,000 square foot building on 260 Washington St., in Dorchester is expected to impact the neighborhood in a number of ways. DREAM Collaborative describes the building as a, “low operating cost, energy-positive, and environmentally sustainable business incubator coworking and event space with a restaurant, cafe, ground floor food co-op and plans for an urban garden.” The performance space is expected to seat 300 – 500 people and will feature a flexible design to accommodate a wide range of events.
The project is designed for LEED Platinum with renewable energy features. Just as important as sustainable energy is resiliency planning, in light of predicted rise of sea levels in Boston.
“It will be a place in case of emergency, that will be a haven for the neighborhood,” said Minott.
Backup systems for water and electricity will be placed on top of building, as opposed to the basement, and storm water management will be included in the plans. The firm is working with Dorchester-based Sustainability Guild International to implement these innovative green strategies.
“It’s more than just a LEED project,” said Minott. “It’s really going to be a catalyst in that neighborhood for that to be the new normal.”
In terms of exterior design, “The whole image of the building is innovative,” said Minott. “There can sometimes be a stigma of what a building in a neighborhood should look like.”
“This is not that,” said Depeiza.
Other projects in the works for DREAM Collaborative is an affordable senior housing building with Hearth Inc., and the renovation of the Grove Hall Library into the new Freedom House headquarters, a college preparatory program.
Currently, the firm is located on Huntington Avenue, across from the Christian Science Plaza. Minott and Depeiza said they are looking for more staff to join their team, as they are growing and taking on more and bigger clients.
Check out the full article online here.
If you are a member of the press, we would love to talk to you too! Contact us today.
Somerville, MA –
Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH) is a nonprofit developer, owner, and operator of nearly 9,000 affordable homes in 9 states and the District of Columbia. POAH’s mission is to preserve, create and sustain affordable, healthy homes that support economic security and access to opportunity for all. DREAM Collaborative has been engaged by POAH to provide full architectural design, community engagement, and construction administration services for a 7-story building with a 2-story podium and 5-story wood-framed construction above housing approximately 78 residential units with parking below. This project is part of a larger masterplan for the redevelopment of the Clarendon Hill Apartments site.
Boston, MA –
Millennium Partners was selected by the City of Boston to develop the site of the former Winthrop Square Garage. Millennium’s $1.3 billion investment would create a 702-foot tower including 750,000 sf of office space and 500 residential units atop a multi-story “Great Hall” podium. The Great Hall will serve as a publicly accessible central thoroughfare and will be used for a variety of educational, civic, performance and cultural experiences. Surrounded by meetings space and restaurant/retail space, the Great Hall will feature a 350-person assembly space. The project also features five levels of underground parking for 550 vehicles.
In collaboration with the Asian Community Development Corp, the development includes a 115,000 sf of affordable housing component which could be built in Chinatown.
Handel Architects is the Architect of Record. DREAM Collaborative has been engaged as collaborating architect with a focus on the design of the Great Hall, as well as additional elements of project.
Some clients have already made the transition to BIM technology for coordination of design and project delivery. Others are still undecided. Here is a brief introduction to BIM.
What is BIM anyway?
BIM, or Building Information Modeling, is a way of designing and documenting a project in a holistic and inherently collaborative, coordinated way. When it comes to BIM, everything starts with a 3D digital model of the building created in a virtual modeling application, such as Revit. This model, however, is much more than pure geometry; a true BIM model consists of the virtual equivalents of the real components of the building as designed, including floors, walls, doors, windows, ducts, etc. These elements have all the characteristics – both physical and logical – of their real counterparts. This digital prototype allows us to simulate the building and understand its behavior in a computer environment long before construction begins. As more information is added to the model, the more useful the BIM capabilities become.
What are the advantages of BIM & Revit?
With Revit, design and construction documents are all linked because they are drawn from the same virtual model therefore a single change made to the model will be effective across floor plans, sections, elevations, and details without any additional coordination. Revit is rapidly replacing AutoCAD throughout the architecture, engineering, and construction industry because insights gained from BIM allow project teams to predict and analyze costs and energy usage long before ground is ever broken. When it’s done right, BIM saves time, reduce costly errors, and allows for much more accurate cost estimating. BIM can be a very useful tool for sustainable design and energy modeling. It also plays an integral role in IPD, or Integrated Project Delivery, in which the architect, consultants, and the contractor share information in close to real time.
Why should a building owner considered using LEED strategies in their next project?
Lifecycle evaluations of LEED certified buildings show that the upfront costs of sustainable building methods are quickly offset by the reduced energy and water used to operate a building. As sustainable technology becomes more popular and more frequently used, the upfront costs are lowered. It is now common for the upfront costs of sustainable systems to be less expensive then the non-sustainable options.
Isn’t it more expensive?
LEED certified buildings cost less to operate, they reduce the energy and water utilities bills by up to 40%. They may also qualify for tax rebates and zoning allowances, retain a higher property value, and they typically can be sold and/or leased at a higher rate.
How does a LEED certified building benefit its inhabitants and the surrounding communities?
For building inhabitants, improved indoor air quality and healthier work or living environments promote higher productivity and improved occupant comfort. Surrounding communities benefit as well since LEED encourages sustainable site selection, meaning that instead of building on an undeveloped parcel we reuse/restore previously developed sites. Other strategies include building in urban areas where alternative transport is easily accessible, reducing heat island effect with sustainable material choices and creating higher density buildings which allow for a bigger percentage of public landscapes.
Can my building be LEED certified?
Any building can be evaluated by a LEED accredited professional to see if the building currently qualifies or if it will need to be renovated in order to become LEED certified. Both new and existing buildings can become LEED certified. You can contact DREAM to see how your building can qualify.
Developed by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) and unveiled in March 2000, the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) green building certification system has singled out commercial, institutional, and residential projects noteworthy for their stellar environmental and health performance in both the United States and abroad. Since 2007, the City of Boston has required that all large-scale projects (Articles 80, 37) meet the USGBC’s LEED certification standards. Boston was the first city in the nation to implement this standard.