BELMONT, MA — By the end of April, the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR) expects to begin demolition of its aging and cramped headquarters on Concord Avenue in Belmont, MA, to make way for all-new construction at the site, which will create a new three-story building with a soaring glass wall extending the full three floors in front and illuminating the interior with natural light. “This will be one of the most beautiful buildings in the country,” said NAASR Chairman, Yervant Chekijian, “and a true global center for the Armenian community.”
The plans call for a variety of Armenian features incorporated into the design. The lead building donors are Edward and Pamela Avedisian. The two other leading donor families are Margaret C. and Leon J. Atamian and Family, and Marta and James Batmasian. Many NAASR members and the community have also made significant gifts. “We are honored and grateful to the many generous families who have put their trust in NAASR as one of the world’s leading institutions to preserve Armenian heritage for generations to come,” said Chekijian.
The Belmont Planning Board approved the new construction plans after a presentation from Ara Krafian, CEO of the architectural and engineering design firm of Symmes, Maini & McKee (SMMA) of Cambridge, MA, on December 19, 2017. Recently, NAASR selected a general contractor, Altair Construction, and anticipates a start date for site work and demolition in April. Meanwhile, NAASR has continued to raise funds for the $6.5 million campaign and, to date, has financial commitments for over $4.8 million. “We invite the community to become part of NAASR’s inspiring plans for our headquarters and create a lasting way to recognize your family,” said Chekijian.
NAASR’s rare book Mardigian Library is one of the top five Armenian libraries open to the public in the diaspora, soon to total 40,000 books, with books dating back to the 1600s, and rare periodicals dating to the 1800s, as well as unique personal archives of prominent scholars, early Armenian-Americans, and religious leaders. The new building will have ample space to accommodate existing holdings and allow for substantial growth, within a secure and up-to-date environment.
NAASR’s new headquarters will be a central gathering space and world-class research center for Armenian Studies. Plans call for an expanded and secure library; an expanded event hall for diverse programming and community events; a welcoming bookstore; a new classroom; a Shoah Foundation video archive viewing room; a spectacular Garden Atrium; an Armenian Alphabet Wall alongside the monumental stairway; an Atrium Overlook; and a top-floor Solarium for study and receptions before and after events, with full accessibility under the Americans with Disability Act (ADA).
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has given full support with a capital grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s Cultural Facilities Fund of $225,000 awarded in 2017, primarily for installation of an elevator and other accessibility features under the ADA. The center will bring scholars of Armenian Studies, professionals, and the general public together and serve as a repository of culture, history, and language and as an educational center for scholars and people of all ages from grade school on up.
NAASR will move to temporary offices at the AGBU-New England headquarters on Mt. Auburn Street in Watertown. NAASR’s library and bookstore will go into storage for a year while the building is under construction, although NAASR will operate its bookstore online, at www.naasr.org .
NAASR will continue to offer programming and co-sponsor conferences nationwide during construction. NAASR plans to hold programs in the Boston area with Armenian community partners and educational institutions in the region, and will continue its national programming at venues around the country.
Founded in 1955, NAASR is one of the world’s leading resources to advance Armenian Studies and serves as a bridge between scholars of Armenian Studies and the public, preserving and enriching Armenian culture, history, and identity for future generations. Find more about NAASR at www.naasr.org .
To become a lasting part of NAASR’s new headquarters, please contact Sarah Ignatius, Executive Director, at [email protected] or call her at 617-489-1610.