Emerson College said Friday it has signed up Tatte Bakery & Cafe and El Jefe’s Taqueria as two of four new restaurants for a prominent building across from Boston Common that it is bringing back to life.
They will likely be joined by a ramen restaurant, juice bar, and another retail business on the ground floor of the century-old Little Building on the corner of Boylston and Tremont streets, which Emerson has been renovating to add dormitory beds and restore its facade.
Emerson College President Lee Pelton said the college was looking for food options with a “cool-factor” that would appeal not only to students and faculty, but to workers, residents, and visitors.
“As much as I love this [college] community, 4,500 people cannot sustain a single restaurant,” he said. “We hope the price points will be affordable for most students, but they are also there to invigorate this neighborhood.”
Both restaurants will bring their own flair to the downtown corridor: Tatte with its bright atmosphere and picture-perfect pastries; El Jefe’s offers free guacamole with its meals, and will serve beer and wine.
While 75 percent of the college’s student body lives on campus, the main traffic for the new businesses is likely to come from the thousands of employees who work within a 10-minute walk of the Little Building.
“It is really encouraging the neighborhood to come down here, with all of these people in the towers,” Peggy Ings, vice president of government and community relations, said. “I think everyone around here will really appreciate that there are more restaurants.”
All restaurants are expected to open this spring. Emerson is in the middle of expanding the Boylston Street sidewalk to create a plaza-like atmosphere with street furniture, trees, lighted planters, and signage. Construction began last year and is expected to be completed by September.
This is all part of what Pelton said is the second phase of Emerson’s nearly two-decade relocation from Beacon Street in Back Bay to downtown. Emerson’s move has been one of the bigger factors in the change of that part of downtown, near the Theater District and the old Combat Zone along Washington Street.
“It was a place that you didn’t want to be seen coming to or coming from, it was a very awful place,” Pelton said.
Liz Vizza, executive director at Friends of the Public Garden, said she appreciates what Emerson has done to the area since it moved in the 1990s.
“It has been a very dramatic difference, and in many ways it has been positive, bringing positive activity to that corner, as well as into the parks, is always a good thing,” Vizza said.
The college’s leasing team said multiple businesses were interested in the Little Building spaces because of their potential to transform the area.
“It’s taking a very underutilized corner and turning it into a new, exciting opportunity,” Ami Cipolla, executive vice president of The Dartmouth Company, said. “We could do 10 more restaurants if we had the space.”
Tatte founder Tzurit Or said she is excited about what her bakery can bring to the area.
“It’s much bigger than providing an amenity to students in that building, it is about really trying to change the whole area and give it some love,” she said. “I love that challenge, it matches with our mission and what we are looking to do.”
On the corner of Tremont and Boylston, the Tatte bakery will be its 15th store, with yet another new one coming in Charlestown.
In addition to the four restaurants set to open in the Little Building, two more restaurants will open in Emerson-owned buildings at opposite ends of campus. Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh will open at 134 Boylston St., formerly Griddler’s Burgers & Dogs, and French Quarter will open at 545 Washington St., formerly Salvatore’s.