The Boston Parks and Recreation Department has announced that Mayor Thomas M. Menino has signed the lease for the adaptive reuse of the former Men’s Comfort Station on Boston Common with Earl of Sandwich, a Florida-based franchised restaurant chain.
Earl of Sandwich is a collaboration between Robert Earl and John Montagu, the 11th Earl of Sandwich and his son, the Honorable Orlando Montagu, who are direct descendants of the fourth Earl of Sandwich, John Montagu, who is credited with inventing the sandwich while serving in the Royal Navy in 1762. The Parks Department’s goal has been to lease the building following a competitive RFP process and public comment period as a means to rehabilitate and preserve this historic structure.
“As we did so successfully with the Frog Pond, the City of Boston’s development of this site will bring positive activity to an underutilized part of the Common,” Menino said. “We welcome Earl of Sandwich and look forward to a new casual dining option in the city as they transform the building into an entirely new use. This company was chosen through a competitive process and we were impressed with their commitment to meeting the challenge of turning this site into an exciting destination for residents and visitors alike.”
Owned by the Parks Department, the Men’s Comfort Station is one of nine historic structures on Boston Common. The single story building is octagonal in shape and made of cast stone with remnants of a glazed copper roof. The structure requires full rehabilitation and renovation of the interior and exterior, as well as reconnection of all utilities.
With a compatible use identified, the Parks Department has granted a long-term lease to Earl of Sandwich. The 15-year agreement calls for annual lease payments of $50,000 to the City of Boston. The company will fully restore the building at their own expense.
The Earl of Sandwich plans call for the interior of the building to be renovated for use as a kitchen with storage and prep areas. Service will likely be through a walk-up window and the renovation may include the addition of removable outdoor seating.
Founded in 2004, Earl of Sandwich restaurants can be found in seven states as well as in Paris and London, with additional locations under development. Earl of Sandwich serves fresh baked sandwiches on artisan bread, as well breakfast items, warm soups, fresh salads, wraps and dessert items in keeping with the Earl’s original inspiration of “the portable meal.”
“We are thrilled about Earl of Sandwich coming to Boston Common,” said City Councilor Michael Ross, who brought the model to Boston after leading a trip through New York City parks. “This is an exciting and vibrant new use that will restore a landmark and attract residents and visitors to America’s first public park.”
The lease requires that the business be open from at least April 15 through Oct. 31 each year, although it’s possible the season may be extended. No alcohol will be served and beverages will comply with the City’s Healthy Beverage Executive Order. With the lease agreement signed, the design phase of the building renovations will begin. Earl of Sandwich hopes to open in this location as early as spring 2012, dependent on construction beginning on the site this fall.
Built in the 1920s for use as a public toilet facility, the Men’s Comfort Station has been closed to the public since the 1970s. The 660-square foot building is located on Boston Common between the athletic fields, tennis courts, and Parkman Bandstand. It is a heavily trafficked, highly visible area with minimal existing services or concessions.
The rehabilitation of the building must be performed to the standards of the Boston Parks and Recreation Department and the Boston Landmarks Commission, and must comply with all State and City building codes and requirements. The agreement requires that new use of the building be compatible with the mission of the Parks Department and the context of the park.