Image courtesy of Mahoney's Garden Center

The real estate needs of Mahoney’s Garden Center and Harvard University have been intertwined like climbing vines along the Charles River in Cambridge and Allston-Brighton for decades.

The family-owned garden center operates seven nurseries from Chelmsford to Cape Cod, but has always sought to keep a location in the urban core even as commercial real estate values skyrocketed in the past two decades, the company said.

A long partnership with Harvard University is continuing at the company’s current location at 449 Western Ave. Last month, Mahoney’s completed construction of a new 10,000-square-foot greenhouse designed by Cambridge-based Galante Architecture Studio.

“It’s a very successful location and we have a big following in the city,” co-owner Tom Mahoney said.

The company has expanded several times on Western Avenue since relocating from Cambridge in 2004.

Mahoney’s operated a successful location on a Memorial Drive property that it leased from Harvard from the early 1990s until 2004, when the university moved forward with plans for a graduate housing project.

Harvard real estate executives offered Mahoney’s an alternative at the Western Avenue property, a former Aston Martin dealership that the university had acquired amidst an acquisition spree in Boston.

Mahoney’s considered various sites in Watertown and Allston-Brighton before taking Harvard up on the offer to lease 449 Western Ave.

“It became painfully obvious that the cost of land was prohibitive to find a couple of acres on a decent road where we could function,” Mahoney said. “At the same time, we were talking to Harvard and that exercise resulted in the best deal for us.”

The dealership showroom was converted into storage, while its service center became the garden center’s retail store. Surface parking was replaced with growing areas.

Sean Caron, Harvard’s vice president for campus services, worked with Mahoney’s on the next steps of expansion which were delayed by the Great Recession. In recent years, Mahoney’s has leased two adjacent parcels from Harvard for additional nursery space and parking. It demolished a duplex to make room for the new greenhouse and permanent checkout building, replacing a tent.

Designs by The Galante Architecture Studio provide an expanded greenhouse that gives flexibility to show off seasonal displays of pottery and Boston’s largest selection of houseplants throughout the year.

“The goal was to ensure that every aspect of the design complemented the evolving neighborhood and enhanced the sensory experience for visitors, celebrating an analog experience not often found in today’s retail environments,” Founding Principal Ted Galante of The Galante Architecture Studio said in a statement. 

Mahoney’s parents opened the original Mahoney’s farm stand in Winchester in 1959, and the Cambridge Street location remains the chain’s top-performing store. The company also has locations in Chelmsford, Concord, East Falmouth, Osterville and Tewksbury.

As Harvard proceeds with ambitious development plans in Boston, the Western Avenue parcel is not part of its immediate plans. Mahoney’s current lease runs for another 13 years.

Transplanted from Cambridge, Mahoney’s Spreads Offshoots in Allston-Brighton

by Steve Adams time to read: 2 min
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