An Innovative Approach to Redesigning Multi-Tenant Retail Environments
HFA is proud of the reputation that we have built with our clients as a creative, collaborative, problem-solving partner. There is no architectural obstacle or engineering hurdle that we can’t overcome when we work together as a team. One recent example of HFA’s collaborative design approach can be seen with the renovation of 571 Worcester Road.
Once an 18,000+ SF car dealership, 571 Worcester Road is a standalone structure that was purchased by Crosspoint Associates in 2020 to enable a future mixed-use development in Framingham, Massachusetts. Crosspoint is one of the leading retail and mixed-use real-estate developers in New England and has been a long-time client and partner of HFA. When they approached our Franklin studio with this development renovation, we were thrilled to take part.
To summarize the building’s original form, it was:
- Pre-engineered, modular steel structure with metal infill framing
- Insulated metal panel cladding for most of the building envelope
- Storefronts and architectural metal panels limited to the showroom only
- Designed specifically to meet the needs of a car dealership, with a showroom, service areas, and small offices
Crosspoint added 571 Worcester Road to its larger retail development campus with Whole Foods (collectively known as 575 Worcester Road) to create enough multi-tenant retail space to meet the development’s needs. Within the overall Whole Foods Development, 571 Worcester Road is now known as ‘Building D’. Given its existing nature, turning this former Nissan Dealership into a more diverse, retail-friendly building was going to require some creative thinking.
Building D: Challenge, Accepted.
Imagine a rundown car dealership’s empty showroom. That’s where HFA and Crosspoint Associates teamed up to discuss the future of Building D and how it would fit into the master plan. The initial conceptualization meeting (including Aksel Solberg of HFA and Kerry McCormack, Josh Brandt, and John Hueber of Crosspoint Associates) took place in a space on the property that hadn’t been touched in years. The topic of conversation for the meeting addressed a looming ‘elephant in the room’: With all of the COVID-related supply chain issues, how could the project team continue moving forward with a renovation of Building D, without incurring excessive costs? The ensuing discussion was candid and practical, yet passionate.
Material costs had become so volatile that the team’s previous approach to the building’s renovation no longer seemed fitting. Crosspoint had already invested heavily in the overall development and while they knew they had a major challenge to overcome, they and HFA were dedicated to seeing it through. “We knew we were going to have to scrap the previous design,” recalls Aksel Solberg, Development Design Studio Lead at HFA. “We asked ourselves, ‘What can we do? How can we make this building still work for its intended purposes?’”
A Simply Innovative Approach to Retail Design
Given their extensive experience and expertise in retail and mixed-use developments, the Crosspoint and HFA design team knew they needed to address various tenant criteria throughout the project. This included the need for a drive-through for both Starbucks (Building C) and TD Bank (Building A); an expanded building footprint and loading dock capacity for Whole Foods (Building B); a new façade for Whole Foods that aligned with their current brand identity; and ample flexible, leasable space to accommodate retailers, cafes, and businesses. Parking requirements and site design were also critical. The new Whole Foods façade renovation became a central theme and aesthetic driver for the entire center.
With so much attention being paid to the rest of the project, it was incredibly important that the adaptive reuse of Building D achieve an equally impactful design that would complement the architecture of the larger development.
After establishing a collective vision with Crosspoint, HFA’s Development Design Team created a concept that would embrace and express Building D’s existing structure while providing flexibility for multiple retail tenants. A “traditional” retail renovation approach might have required significant demolition and new construction to provide a multi-tenant retail façade, which would have wasted valuable resources. Through collaborative brainstorming, the design team came up with an innovative way of using the existing building to their advantage.
Using the structural performance of the existing building’s core became the central theme of the new design. First, the pre-engineered interior steel framing system was embraced as a reusable endoskeleton. The building’s west facing exterior wall, previously constructed of insulated corrugated metal panels, would be peeled away and replaced with a continuous ribbon of flexible storefronts. The remaining wall areas above and between the storefronts would be infilled with new, more energy-efficient insulated metal panels to create a simple and economical exterior building envelope. To make use of and express the interior structural framing, a new steel exoskeleton was devised to align with the existing structural grid, thereby providing a vehicle for tenants to express their identities and brands externally. This adaptive reuse of the original structure saved significant costs on structural steel framing while avoiding substantial renovations to the rest of the existing structure.
“We were very intentional about what we did to the building,” explains Aksel, “so that we didn't exceed certain thresholds that would have triggered increased renovation requirements and envelope adjustments.”
Careful planning and detailing during the design process was crucial to the success of the team’s new approach to Building D. Using the existing structure and embracing its nature added value to the building via new architectural cladding, capacity for multiple retailers and businesses and cafes, and new architectural engagement with new surrounding sidewalks. Compositionally, the material palette for the renovation was driven by the new façade for Whole Foods’ and the architecture of the other buildings on site. The result is an innovative solution to an existing structure being adapted to the changing needs of commercial developments, which blends with the overarching theme of the larger project.
This creative approach is not typical for retail. “We knew this new design was out of the ordinary and would create something that most retailers weren’t used to,” says Kerry McCormack, Director of Development for Crosspoint Associates, “but we were willing to do something innovative here.” That decision has since proven successful and has attracted new tenants eager to embrace the project’s unique design concept. “The design has an industrial, exposed look,” says Jonathan Hueber, Managing Principal at Crosspoint Associates, “and our new retail tenants see it as an opportunity to do something exciting with their interior store layout and external branding.”
It wasn’t just the tenants who appreciated the design approach. Framingham’s planning board was overwhelmingly supportive of the plan to use Building D’s original core due to the smaller environmental impact on the community. Recycling the bones along with the majority of the building’s envelope provided a more sustainable option than tearing it down, and the city applauded this.
As Crosspoint’s development continues to come to life, we thank our client and the community of Framingham for allowing us to take part in the reinvention of Building D and the retail ecosystem around it.