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ABOUT

How We Built a Strategic Design Partnership with a Leading National Real Estate Developer

For more than four decades, New England Development (NED) has been well known for delivering and sustaining compelling destinations on a national scale. NED's vast mixed-used development portfolio highlights various property types, from upscale outlet centers, high-end retail locations, planned communities, hotels, golf courses, office spaces, and restaurants—creating compelling opportunities at preferred locations across the nation.

With a finger on the pulse of the changing needs of retailers, tenants, and customers, NED is poised for continued national growth in the future, and the architecture firms lucky enough to partner with them have a hand in the process.

Back to the Beginning

“NED approached us in 2003 and asked to meet with us. Our original Boston studio was tiny at that time, only around 200 square feet in size, and our conference table could only seat two people comfortably. So instead, we met the NED team at a local coffee shop up the street. By the time we had finished our lattes, NED had awarded us our first project—a 450,000 square foot shopping center located in Biddeford, Maine. And so began a fantastic journey with NED that has only continued to grow throughout the last eighteen years,” says Lou Allevato, AIA, NCARB, former Vice-President of Design at HFA and founder of Allevato Architects.

Similar to many of the client relationships that we maintain through our Boston studio, our partnership with NED began under the Allevato Architects banner until its merger with HFA in 2016. The Boston studio team that supports NED has remained constant since 2012. Originally headed up by Lou Allevato, all those years ago, the team has grown to add top talent to help support and grow the business throughout the years—providing thoughtful designs and pursuing a closer relationship with their NED counterparts.

“They [NED] have come to us many times for conceptual design studies just to see what is feasible and what could potentially attract tenants to their current projects. While some of those studies haven’t amounted to project work, many have come to fruition. At the end of the day, these exercises are important because they tend to look at us as a strategic design partner when it comes to their dedication to continuing to strengthen and build their design portfolio,” said Aksel Solberg, AIA, NCARB, Team Lead/Architect.

Designing a Relationship for the Future

One of the most significant ways our team has been able to maintain and nurture our relationship with NED is by taking on all kinds of project work. Aside from larger ground-up projects, we have taken on tenant infills, façade work, renovations/reconfigurations, and more. By embracing various smaller projects while also taking on larger ones, we’ve been able to hone our skills as designers while providing great quality work. This philosophy has fostered a relationship built on trust, creativity, and the high-quality designs that NED has come to know and expect from us.

We’ve consistently been called on by NED to partner together on their commercial retail projects. However, we know that consumer behavior is shifting, and try to keep this top-of-mind with our partners. For some, this means scaling back larger projects and understanding how they can be adapted to more urban and suburban spaces. Consistent engagement with our clients to discuss their business goals at the onset of each new project is a crucial first step in providing high-value service. By developing innovative design solutions that inform how business objectives are achieved, we’re able to use our partnership to ensure that all decisions made are thoughtful and tactical, as well as aesthetically pleasing. NED’s mission is aligned with our own; to transform complex challenges into preferred locations, generate long-term value for communities, and offer sought-after experiences to a wide range of consumers. This synergy in philosophy has allowed HFA and NED to successfully complete many projects together, and we are excited to continue our partnership together into the future.

We believe there is a huge benefit to sharing some of our experience within other industries to help provide thought leadership regarding the ever-evolving consumer experience, especially post-COVID-19. Developers are finding that they must be very creative with how they fill their vacant space these days, repositioning property assets into better performing and more profitable uses, and with that comes an opportunity for innovative design ideas that may not have been the norm in the past. We’ve begun to see a shift in tenant infill where vacant retail spaces are beginning to be taken over by residential, medical, storage, or even micro-fulfillment centers to account for the uptick in online shopping and demand for convenience. Since we have intimate experience in some of these industries thanks to our other teams' expertise within the studio, we can lean in and provide innovative insights that we hope will lead to us being even more involved in these projects in the future.

What’s Next?

Our partnership with NED has always been something we’ve been proud to build on throughout the years. It has continued to evolve, like many of the other partnerships we maintain at HFA. However, something that sets NED apart in our eyes, especially in the mixed-use development industry, is the commitment to quality work and design. The clients we work with understand that architecture is not a commodity, and as such, they respect the time and effort that goes into each project. Because of this, we feel comfortable knowing that the projects we are awarded are part of a larger collaborative relationship that will continue to grow and thrive in the future.

To learn more about our work with New England Development, feel free to contact Aksel Solberg, Team Lead/Architect, or Val Williams, Team Lead/Senior Architect. You can contact them at aksel.solberg@hfa-ae.com or valerie.williams@hfa-ae.com.   

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