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Boston Public Library Central Library Renovation: Enterprise Retail Partner Selected

Today, the Boston Public Library Board of Trustees, voted in favor of a joint proposal from the Catered Affair and the WGBH Educational Foundation for a new retail space in the Johnson building, part of the Central Library Renovation in Copley Square. The unique collaboration will feature The Newsfeed Café and a WGBH News satellite bureau and studio. The selection was made based on the quality of the proposal, and its alignment with the mission of the Boston Public Library as a center of community gathering and learning.

“The renovation of the Central Library in Copley Square is setting the tone for other urban libraries across the country, and this partnership is a top notch selection,” said Mayor Walsh. “I applaud the work of the Retail Tenant Advisory Committee for their diligence in selecting a partnership that will serve library patrons from Boston, and across the Commonwealth.”

“WGBH is not only one of the top institutions in Boston, it’s one of the nation’s top broadcasting companies, with a legacy of high quality programming, and educational content,” said John Hailer, Interim Chair of the Boston Public Library Board of Trustees. “This partnership with WGBH will provide a multi-layer experience for the visitors to this new enterprise space inside the renovated Central Library.”

“This creative partnership adds to the Boston Public Library’s mission, offers a wealth of opportunities for new library programming while animating an anchor space here at Copley,” said David Leonard, Interim President of the BPL.

“The Catered Affair is thrilled to partner with WGBH at the Boston Public Library on this new venture,” said Alex Marconi, Vice President of Operations at The Catered Affair. “We feel our concept will be a new destination for visitors to the Back Bay, and will enhance the visitor experience to the BPL’s Johnson building.”

“We are honored to have this opportunity to extend our educational efforts into the heart of the city through the Boston Public Library,” said WGBH COO Ben Godley.  “We share a mission of public service, and we look forward to providing greater access to our quality programming, a direct connection with our trusted news reporting, and deeper audience engagement through this partnership.”

The new retail space will be 4,500 square feet and will be located in the Johnson building at the corner of Boylston and Exeter Streets in the Back Bay. The space is currently under construction, as part of the larger renovation of the building, and is slated for a summer 2016 opening.

The Catered Affair and public broadcaster WGBH have proposed a unique, enterprise partnership. As currently proposed, the space will feature The Newsfeed Café, managed by The Catered Affair, with a coffee shop and casual food offerings throughout the day, including breakfast, lunch, and small plates. In addition, the space would be designed to be used for catered events and other public functions both during and outside of library hours.

WGBH will construct and occupy an 800 square foot satellite news bureau in the space, primarily focused on their radio offerings, and featuring a WGBH Radio/TV anchor desk for live broadcast and pre-taped segments. In addition, the public media producer plans to explore and identify resources and expertise to enhance the BPL’s programs and services, including children’s and teens programming. Further negotiations between the Boston Public Library, The Catered Affair, and WGBH will be held following today’s decision before a contract is finalized.

Selection Background

An RFP for the retail opportunity in the Central Library Renovation was released on March 16, 2015, with responses initially due on May 11, 2015.  The response time was extended until July 20, 2015 to allow for additional applicants. More than 100 businesses and non-profits were contacted, and the BPL received a total of three applications. The other two applicants were Café ArtScience and Storytime Stories.

The Café ArtScience proposal included coffee and tea service, snacks and light food, free public seminars, and innovative and experimental products for the public to test. Café ArtScience currently has a location in Kendall Square. The Storytime Stories proposal included a collaboration with local café, The Thinking Cup; books, toys, and gift sales; events, including character/author visits; and exhibits. The proposal was submitted by the owners of The World’s Only Curious George Store in Harvard Square.

A Retail Tenant Advisory Committee (RTAC) was formed and reviewed the submitted proposals during three meetings, evaluating candidates based on the criteria specified in the RFP. Following the review, RTAC recommended to the Interim President of the BPL that The Catered Affair and WGBH Educational Foundation partnership was the most suitable applicant.

On Friday, November 6, the Boston Public Library Board of Trustees’ Audit and Finance Committee voted to recommend to the BPL Board of Trustees to accept the proposal of The Catered Affair and WGBH Educational Foundation.

Boston Public Library has a Central Library, twenty-four branches, map center, business library, and a website filled with digital content and services. Established in 1848, the Boston Public Library has pioneered public library service in America. It was the first large free municipal library in the United States, the first public library to lend books, the first to have a branch library, and the first to have a children’s room. Each year, the Boston Public Library hosts thousands of programs and serves millions of people. All of its programs and exhibitions are free and open to the public. At the Boston Public Library, books are just the beginning. To learn more, visit

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