Ellen Anselone: Designing Award-winning Adaptive Reuse Projects in Boston’s Most Significant Locations

Ellen Anselone, AIA, LEED; Principal/VP, Finegold Alexander Architects

BOSTON- Over the course of her more than 30 years at Finegold Alexander Architects, Ellen Anselone, AIA, LEED, has risen through the ranks to her current role as Principal and Vice President at the firm. A dedicated leader of the Finegold Alexander team, Anselone has designed some of Boston’s most significant residential, commercial, hospitality, academic, and civic adaptive reuse projects, such as The Lucas, an award-winning redevelopment of a historic South End church into beautiful condominiums. In each of her projects, Anselone champions existing and future architecture, utilizing expertise in historic preservation and a passionate dedication to sustainability to create something new and artful from the old.

The Lucas (Photo/Raj Das Photography)

Anselone delivers design excellence that is at once responsive to a client’s need as well as sensitive to the neighboring context; highly sustainable and confident and fresh in approach. Whether new construction, adaptive reuse, preservation or restoration for higher education institutions, developers or library clients, Anselone’s projects are often transformative in terms of placemaking, identity, brand, and the user experience. A creative problem solver, Anselone has made her mark in the field; and was part of the leadership transformation in May 2018 which saw the firm become a Women Business Enterprise (WBE)-certified firm as she and three peers lead the firm into its next era.

Anselone is currently leading 727 Mass Ave, a 37-room boutique hotel and commercial space on top of the former Cambridge Gas Light Building, and 260 High Park, the adaptive reuse of a former church building in Toronto, among others. Anselone earned her degrees from Roger Williams University. Some of her other recent projects include award-winning work for The Lucas, The Boulevard at 110 Broad Street and the Stoughton Public Library (pictured below).

Anselone is a key player in the industry, including her involvement with CREW Boston, Urban Land Institute (ULI), the WULI Women’s Leadership Initiative Council, and is a member of the AIA and BSA. Additionally, she is an active member of her community, serving as a board member of the Milton Historical Commission. She has participated in speaking engagements over the years with Architect’s Newspaper, Urban Land Institute, and ABX conferences. She is the recipient of the 2018 Preservation Massachusetts Tsongas Award and the 2019 Banking New England and American Business Media Women of Fire Award.

Finegold Alexander Architects is a design collective focused on creating architecture for public, private and mission-driven organizations. The firm’s approach to transformative design is to push the realm of possibility. Finegold Alexander’s projects, whether they are preservation, renovation, adaptive reuse or new construction are integrated into their physical, cultural, and environmental contexts. As pioneers of the adaptive reuse movement, Finegold Alexander has for decades extended the life of historic fabric, preserving a common cultural, historical and physical heritage.

Founded in 1967, Finegold Alexander has a single office in Boston that employs 36 professional staff including 20 registered architects, 12 architectural designers, and 5 administrative, finance, and marketing staff members. Its team includes 14 LEED Accredited Professionals. Finegold Alexander is a Massachusetts SDO-certified WBE that provides services for projects ranging from 20,000 SF to 500,000 SF and beyond. Many of its projects require complex technical analysis and engineering to solve design problems.

Finegold Alexander has expertise in developing multi-phased construction plans for projects that often require a mix of renovation, restoration, new additions, and selective demolition. Recently completed projects from the firm include the 246,000 SF Lowell Justice Center, which is LEED platinum certified, the first state courthouse to achieve this distinction. Other recent work includes the VITA – a new 5-story mixed use residential building with 82 units in Jamaica Plain, and currently under construction in Toronto, is another church conversion project – 260 High Park which features a condominium within a historic neo-Gothic church building including 15 church loft residences offering luxurious amenities in a one-of-a-kind setting.

Boston Real Estate Times asked Ellen Anselone a few questions on architecture and the industry as a part of our coverage of the 2022 Outstanding Women in Real Estate Awards.

Boston Real Estate Times: How has architecture changed your life?

Ellen Anselone: Architecture has given me the opportunity to have career in a creative field. I enjoy that no day is the same and that it has allowed me to meet so many different people with varying interests. I’ve created a wonderful network and developed true friends from working in the AEC industry. Though some have moved away to different parts of the country, we still keep in touch and it’s always a fun time when we can reconnect in person!

BRET: How has the industry changed during the last 30 years as far as technology, markets and design are concerned?

EA: Technology has been the biggest catalyst for change in the industry. Instead of hand drawings, we now have the ability to design in three dimensions by utilizing computer modeling. This has allowed us to be more creative and come up with some really unique design schemes. Designing in 3-dimensions has also helped the constructibility of our design.

The demand for sustainability has increased as well, even in the developer sector. We work to push boundaries and reduce embodied and site energy use, use materials that contribute to our health and well-being, and work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Another big change is there are more women in the profession. In the beginning of my career, I was often the only women in the room during meetings, and today that’s not always the case! There’s still more work to do, but it’s great to see the progression we’ve made in the industry.