HFA is honored to be the architect and engineering partner for Federal Realty Investment Trust’s renovation of its well-known mixed-use retail and lifestyle development, Linden Square. Located in the heart of Wellesley, Massachusetts, Linden Square has a long history within the community, having gone through various uses and states of construction since the early 1900s. In 2020, Federal Realty Investment Trust chose to pursue a reinvestment in the center to update many of its attractions and maintain its reputation as one of the region’s premier retail destinations. HFA is eager to take on the task of bringing modern design and functions to Linden Square while respecting its rich New England architectural palette.
A notable condition under which the Linden Square project began was a socially isolating global pandemic. Many businesses and developers were taking a hiatus from the development track; however, Federal Realty chose to use the unique opportunity to invest in capital improvements. As the world was collectively adjusting to the lifestyles of COVID, the focus, direction, and initial needs of the project’s design were impacted in an interesting way. Each building needed to accommodate the growing need for outdoor experiences and further engage the pedestrian realm through concepts like enhanced landscape architecture, expanded gathering spaces, and increased outdoor seating. This required creative thinking from a design standpoint, as well as increased diligence and collaboration when working with regulatory bodies.
Fortunately, the teams involved in the Linden Square project were up for the task. From the very beginning, HFA discovered that the client expected to roll up their sleeves and join in the months-long design charette alongside the architects and engineers. Federal Realty had a clear vision and vested interest in the project, which lead to great design work and positive reception from the community early in the process.
The Design Journey
Linden Square’s latest design process was a highly collaborative one, with the client, architects, and designers coming together to collectively discover the vision and purpose of the project.
For this most recent capital improvement project, HFA led all aspects of the architecture and building-related improvements for Linden Square. An important part of the design process included researching the site’s development throughout the years and all past iterations of the center. Finding the blueprints and early permit records for a destination that is, in parts, over 100 years old can be difficult. Fortunately, the city of Wellesley kept meticulous records, and their building department had construction documents and permitting cards going back to the 1900s. HFA’s team spent weeks combing through the archives and discovered fascinating relics from another architectural era that provided historical context, as well as design inspiration.
Wellesley is a well-established town in Massachusetts with strong opinions on their urban fabric, down to the types of materials and masonry used on their buildings. It has a historic New England architectural character, which the community is leery of infringing upon. Any modern designs or contemporary motifs must be done tastefully and respectfully of the existing urban fabric.
Extensive, early research ensured that the design team’s new concepts honored existing themes by providing insightful design perspective into criteria that would ultimately determine success or failure. To assist HFA’s pursuit of a “slam dunk”, Federal Realty ensured that the project’s design team had all of the support they needed.
Linden Square’s latest capital improvement design phase began in April of 2020 and the initial concept design was approved by Federal Realty in July. The proposed design was presented to the city’s design review board in November of 2020 and received unanimous approval the first time it was presented, a rare occurrence in the development world. Construction Documents began in January of 2021 and by April, HFA issued six complete sets of CDs for six separate building renovations.
Along with HFA and Federal Realty, instrumental project partners included landscape architects from Halvorson|Tighe & Bond Studio and graphic design artists from omloop. Halvorson’s team creates timeless, engaging landscapes that are rooted in fundamental design principles and inspired by the dynamics of nature. omloop works collaboratively with clients, architects, and planners to seamlessly integrate identity and wayfinding into the built environment, addressing user needs and building a strong brand image.
Even though the project began under unprecedented conditions, HFA was equipped with the technological ability to manage the design process remotely, even finding the design review and feedback processes streamlined thanks to the emergence of Zoom meetings. The spirit of the project unfolded from sketch after sketch, iteration after iteration, and dozens of virtual meetings that included the design team and some key tenants of Linden Square. Each partner engaged in the design journey with a trusting rapport, resulting in a comprehensive team effort to bring the vision of Linden Square to life for the community of Wellesley.
Linden Square Coming to Life
HFA’s team knew this project was not going to be a typical retail design project. Federal Realty had formed a high firepower team of architects, engineers, and artists that focused a lot of time and attention around the human emotions that the design evoked. The goal was to create an endearing, dynamic community destination that would endure over a long period of time. To achieve this, they had to maintain the existing structures while introducing new materials and concepts in a thoughtful way, so as not to overtake the palette that was already there.
Striking a balance between new concepts and existing structures required a high level of diligence in design. Numerous details were carefully and intricately designed to successfully integrate new cladding and framing systems with existing building envelopes. Various types of existing masonry conditions needed to be maintained and embraced to create a tasteful dialogue between the old and the new. At the same time, extensive research was required to develop a detailed knowledge of the types of products needed to refinish various surfaces and materials without detracting from their inherent charm and character. Because of COVID, access to materials became an obstacle to overcome. As the market for materials and building products became increasingly volatile, HFA had to remain especially diligent when developing economical solutions. Because of the need for durable, high quality, and authentic building materials, a more selective process around the most impactful areas of the project became necessary. Therefore, the team focused their attention on the best ways to create the most impactful areas with obtainable materials and within the given budget. Products such as Lamboo’s manufactured bamboo planks offered innovative ways of attaching new cladding systems to older materials without ruining them. New materials being introduced include steel, wood, paints, metal canopies, awnings and metal panels that serve a distinct purpose and complement the charm of the existing architectural palette.
Ultimately, the design goal for Linden Square was to add a ‘sense of place’ to the project by creating memorable, elegant, and dignified gathering spaces that would be utilized by the community for many years. The HFA team is proud of the modern, elegant, and charming design details they created that will enhance the historical New England architecture and provide downtown Wellesley with the upscale retail and lifestyle experiences it deserves.
“We’re excited to see this design come to life in the upcoming months,” says Aksel Solberg, Team Lead/Architect at HFA. “The passion and collective comradery we experienced with Federal Realty, the design partners, and the community is a large contributor to the project’s success up to this point. It has been a professional privilege to be a part of Linden Square’s design journey.”