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Jul 18, 2023 | Insights

Revitalizing Communities for Over 50 Years: The Remarkable Transformation of 99 Bishop Allen Drive

Nestled in the heart of Central Square, Cambridge, MA stands 99 Bishop Allen Drive — a historic structure with a rich legacy. Originally comprised of four row homes built in 1855, this building has undergone remarkable transformations. In 1965, it underwent a major renovation and was converted to nonprofit office space, serving as a hub for community-driven initiatives. With notable tenants such as the Cambridge Community Foundation, Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, and the Algebra Project — founded by renowned educator and activist Bob Moses — this building has played a pivotal role in fostering positive change for several decades. However, in 2019, the building faced a troubling and unknown future as the previous owner had decided to put the building up for sale. The local community was worried about the severe impact and vital loss of resources if the building couldn’t be saved. Thanks to the collaborative efforts of the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority (CRA), local organizers, supporters, financing partners and others the building was saved from a potential loss.

Photo: 99 Bishop Allen Drive circa 1970.

The CRA purchased the property in October 2019, and then from then until 2021 embarked on a comprehensive renovation project, working in collaboration with design, construction, energy management, and project management partners. With a combined investment of over $13 million, the purchase and renovation aimed to enhance accessibility, restore the historic façade, improve energy efficiency, and upgrade vital systems to ensure tenant safety and comfort. TSNE Property Services was approached to collaborate with the CRA, providing advisory and consulting services during the renovation phase and assuming full building property management upon project completion. TSNE and the CRA worked together to provide storage and temporary office space to all tenants displaced during the property during work. Which included space at The Link, in Kendall Square. The renovation was completed in December of 2021 and all previous tenants were welcomed back to a much-improved building to do their good work from, with TSNE serving as the property manager and CRA as the building owner.

Photo: Loop Lab & Enroot employees at the ribbon cutting ceremony.

99 Bishop Allen Drive tenant Steven Nutter, of Green Cambridge said, “[In 2019] we were simply appreciative that we had physical office space. Getting that was a watershed moment for the organization and our ability to have a greater impact. At the same time, before the renovation we had one working electrical outlet, the windows didn’t open, and the heat didn’t exactly work. During the colder months, we had to choose between plugging in the space heater or plugging in our laptops! Robust nonprofits are crucial to a resilient Cambridge. The investment that the CRA made here, with the support of the rest of the community and TSNE, has been transformative for the nonprofit community, especially those that are continually emerging to help fill the needs of residents.” 

TSNE Director Faisal Abid welcoming visitors to the ribbon cutting ceremony
Photo: TSNE Director Faisal Abid welcoming visitors to the ribbon cutting ceremony

Partnering with the CRA, TSNE Property Services has played a pivotal role in preserving and managing 99 Bishop Allen Drive. As the only 501(c)(3) organization in the Boston area offering full-scale property services, TSNE is committed to equity and ensuring affordable spaces for nonprofits. By providing proactive building, facilities, and tenant management services, TSNE helps nonprofit property owners and developers reduce expenses while maintaining well-run spaces. The collaboration between TSNE and 99 Bishop Allen Drive exemplifies the transformative impact that collaborative efforts can achieve. Thanks to the dedication of the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority, community organizations, and TSNE Property Services, this historic building continues to serve as a vibrant center for nonprofits. 

To learn more about the Property Services team and their commitment to supporting nonprofit organizations, visit our website here or reach out via email to facilities@tsne.org. Together, we can create spaces that empower and strengthen our communities!

About the Writer 

Jake Barrows is the Associate Director of Property Management for TSNE’s Property Services Department. He joined the group in 2022. In his role of Associate Director, he assists in all departmental operations, especially in facilitating tenant and client relationships and needs resolution within the department. Jake brings a varied background and work history with private multi-family property management experience, as well as new construction oversight and quality control background.