Faneuil Hall under major renovations
Overhaul done by next summer
The operator of Faneuil Hall Marketplace, one of Boston’s most visited yet dated landmarks, is proposing a dramatic overhaul of the historic property that would create a new boutique hotel and shake up a shopping experience that has changed little since the 1970s.
The plan, from Ashkenazy Acquisition Corp., is designed to bring Boston residents back to a central retail district that remains popular with millions of tourists but has lost much of its appeal for locals.
The company’s proposal would turn the marketplace’s crowded central food court into more open retail spaces, bars, and sit-down restaurants. It would add several glass pavilions for shopping and dining, and the South Market building would get a 180-room hotel.
Many of the changes, described to the Globe in interviews Tuesday, could be in place as soon as next summer, pending regulators’ approval.
“We want to create an environment that’s active 12 months a year,” said Barry Lustig, an Ashkenazy vice president. “Our intent is to make this a relevant property to the people of Boston, where families and couples can be in the kind of space you can’t find anywhere else.”
Renovation plans for the city-owned market, one of the most familiar and historic gathering places in Boston, need approval from the Landmarks Commission and the Boston Redevelopment Authority.
Mayor Martin J. Walsh said the plans are “a good first step” and that the city would “continue the conversation” with the developer and the marketplace’s vendors.
Faneuil Hall is steeped in history, which helps make it one of the world’s most visited sites. It served as a rallying point for the American Revolution, and the three buildings constructed near it — Quincy Market, South Market, and North Market — have become a hub of commerce and culture that attracts more than 20 million visitors a year.
The property has been managed in recent decades by a succession of private companies. Ashkenazy bought a ground lease to operate the market in 2011 and has been working on a renovation plan for nearly three years.
The head of Faneuil Hall’s merchants association, Carol Troxell, said she hoped that any changes would not cause vendors to be displaced from the market.
“The local merchants welcome modern upgrades to the property; we just want to be part of the marketplace,” she said. “We recognize that it has to be a mix of vendors. But it’s a local market, and we want it to be primarily local Boston and New England merchants.”
Troxell said merchants are worried about rent increases and whether they will be able to afford rents in the upgraded property. Ashkenazy has said its plan will cost tens of millions of dollars, but its executives declined to be more specific. Lustig said the company intends to retain the vast majority of the current vendors, but acknowledged some will be replaced and others will be moved to new locations in the complex.
“The pushcarts and the food vendors that are truly unique to Boston are going to absolutely be part of the future evolution of this property,” Lustig said. “There are some who are selling goods that are not really Boston, and that’s a little different.”
Lustig said the company intends to add several restaurants and stores in coming years. He declined to name any but promised a mix of national brands and local entrepreneurs.