Charles St.Meeting House Brings Retail Challenges

When tasked with filling several retail vacancies at the Charles Street Meeting House two years ago, Paul Elias sought to bring in new businesses that would fit in well among existing shops on the street and comfortably within the historic building at the key intersection of Mt. Vernon and Charles streets.

Elias, a partner at J.M. Forbes & Co. LLP, has served as landlord and a trustee of the Meeting House, since mid-2011 when the Boston money-management firm acquired the building. It was completed in 1807 for the Third Baptist Church from a design by renowned American architect Asher Benjamin, and, in the years preceding the Civil War, served as a stronghold for the burgeoning Abolitionist Movement. The building is listed on National Register of Historic Places, and is a part of the Beacon Hill Historic District.

To find suitable tenants, Elias turned to Annette Born, a Brookline real estate broker who specializes in boutique retail and restaurants.

“The Meeting House is a big, well-known, historic building that deserves some interesting retail,” Born said, “It’s located in a great area, with a great mix of shops run by independent operators, and that’s what people look for when they’re shopping in the neighborhood.”

Elias said he hoped the selected tenants would reflect the goals outlined in the Beacon Hill Civic Association’s “A Plan for the Neighborhood” by activating the street-level and contributing to the neighborhood’s unique mix of businesses and services.

“We wanted to make sure we were doing things consistent with the ecology of the street’s shopping district,” Elias said.

Today, the Meeting House’s tenants are Cynthia Driscoll Interiors; Agostino Salon; Dress, a woman’s clothing store; and Tatte Bakery and Café, which offers the only outdoor restaurant seating on Charles Street.

John Corey, co-chair of the Joint Charles Street Committee and a Beacon Hill Civic Association board member, describes Tatte as a welcome addition to the neighborhood. “It fits in really well with the street and creates activity after dark,” he said.

City Councilor Josh Zakim, whom Elias credits for helping to fill the building’s retail vacancies, regularly holds office hours at the café.

“Neighbors were really looking for something to liven up the streetscape, and. Tatte fits that mold well,” Zakim said.

Nina Castellion, president of the Beacon Hill Business Association, applauds Elias for being a good steward of the Meeting House, as well as helping to enhance the neighborhood.

“Paul Elias is an example of how a landlord can work in partnership with a community to meet market rental rates, while providing an opportunity for Boston area businesses and produce great results,”’ Castellion said.

Meanwhile, Elias recognizes the magnitude of his role as caretaker of a historic landmark situated in the heart of Beacon Hill’s business district.

“This is a very important place, so we look after it carefully and feel our responsibilities heavily,” Elias said.

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