Boston Public Library
Strategic Planning

The BPL Compass

Johnson Building Improvement Project: Commercial Space

by Gina Perille

Commercial space for retail and potentially dining could be developed at the street level in the Johnson Building along Boylston and Exeter streets. Likely areas include the existing children’s room, the Boston Room, and Deferrari Hall. The commercial space could open onto the street and/or into the library, creating connected experiences to/in the neighborhood.

Tenants would be sought that would add to the library experience, potentially linked to the concept of knowledge. For example, one approach is for the commercial space to become the place for companies to showcase their latest innovations and technologies that may not be available yet for purchase. Companies may be willing to pay highly competitive rents for BPL space. Some space could be allocated for more traditional retail, but for products that are knowledge-based such as software, books, and maps.

If dining is considered, even on a limited or modest basis, the goal would be to make it part of the library experience. In addition to normal food services, the dining experience could include a speaker’s series or weekly round table discussions on topical subjects for book clubs or idea groups made up of micro-communities coming together to discuss subjects about which they are passionate.

The commercial space would facilitate improved architectural qualities of the building by creating transparency and activity toward the sidewalk, as well as new potential revenue source.

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