A visitor to the building that once housed the New England Mobile Book Fair might not recognize the renovated space at 84 Needham St.
An abandoned warehouse since the bookstore moved to its Marshalls Plaza location two years ago, it has been transformed into an inviting, glass-filled space with storefronts for small businesses.
As managing partner of the firm Creative Development Co. and owner of Creative Bookfair LLX, Charlotte Maynard purchased the 84 Needham St. space in October 2018.
The 33,000-square-foot warehouse was completely renovated, with upgraded systems and larger windows added along the new resurfaced parking lot.
With the ongoing development occurring in Newton, the easy out would have been to demolish the old fortress, bookcases and all, and start from scratch. Instead, Maynard said she “decided to keep the original structure with its unique façade and strong bones.”
That’s why Greg Reibman, president of the Newton Needham Regional Chamber, has called the transformation “unique.”
“You have a small, independent businesswoman who took a building that was in bad shape, which probably could have been torn down and have something entirely different built, but instead decided to restore it,” Reibman said.
Reibman also views the space as the perfect opportunity for businesses that interact with customers, such as a restaurant.
“We’ve seen a lot of companies in this sort of innovation economy show interest in being in Newton,” said Reibman. “What they’ve lacked is a cool, interesting place for them to thrive — this looks like it’s one of those kinds of cool places.”
According to Maynard, there are three companies open for business in the complex but she hopes that soon there will be four. Ideally, the fourth business would be retail, she said, but she’s open to any that seems like a good fit.
The tenants currently occupying the storefronts are The Weight Room, a training facility owned by David Coffin; EverPresent, a digitizing photo service owned by Eric Niloff; and goPuff, a digital convenience store.
Coffin, whose business was previously located in Auburndale, said the motivation for moving to 84 Needham St. was to capitalize on its prime location — and the considerable traffic that passes by each day.
“The car count is about 50,000 [cars] a day,” said Coffin. “We did really well at our previous location, but now we’re out of a basement and on a busy street with a ground level storefront.”
Similar to Coffin, Niloff, who moved his family-owned business to the new spot in October, said he has already seen an increase in traffic and expects it to pick up even more once all of the new signage is installed.
Besides an uptake in customers, Niloff said the location has made the business more productive and brought the team closer together.
“The combination of great access to parking; convenience to the Mass Pike and Route 128; various amenities on Needham St.; and the opportunity to design the interior from scratch to work perfectly for our business have been the biggest advantages for us,” said Niloff.
Coffin, who moved his business in August, said he sees this as a chance to expand an already growing market.
The Weight Room owner said, “The visibility is the biggest change and we hope to continue to grow the business we’ve done.”
The property runs through the Newton-Needham Innovation District, which has been undergoing massive changes in the past few years. According to its website, the innovation district focuses on the “creation and nurture of new technologies and entrepreneurial businesses.”
Reibman said that the biggest changes to the Innovation District and Needham Street “are yet to come,” but the Chamber and the Mass. Department of Transportation are planning an upcoming redesign that will make it more pedestrian and bike friendly.
“Charlotte has done a super job designing a cool-looking building that serves the needs of small and early stage companies that we’ve been looking to attract here as part of our N-Squared Innovation District,” said Reibman. “She is very forward-thinking as new businesses and residents look to locate here.”
Reibman believes more businesses are realizing there is a greater impact to be had in a regional space, like Newton-Needham, than in an urban space, such as the Seaport.
Even though he thought of the Book Fair as a “regional destination,” he is happy to see new businesses find growth in the old building and applauds Maynard for taking on a monumental project such as this.
“Small business is where innovation starts,” said Maynard. “Affordable space is where small businesses can flourish.”