ACEC/MA Announces SMMA as 2020 Winner of Engineering Excellence Award

NAASR Building- Belmont, MA

“SMMA was recently selected as the winner of the American Council of Engineering Companies of Massachusetts (ACEC/MA) 2020 Bronze Engineering Excellence Award for the renovation of the National Association for Armenian Studies & Research (NAASR) Vartan Gregorian Armenian Center in Belmont, MA.

The award celebrates innovation, ingenuity, and excellence in engineering achievement. “The Engineering Excellence Awards program recognizes engineering firms for projects that demonstrate a high degree of achievement, value and ingenuity,” said Jennifer Howe, President of the American Council of Engineering Companies of Massachusetts and Principal and Vice President at SMMA.

“Entrants are rated by an independent panel of judges from the architectural community, the construction industry, academia, the media, and the public sector on the basis of uniqueness and originality; future value to the profession and perception by the public; social, economic and sustainable development considerations; complexity; and successful fulfillment of the client/owner’s need, including schedule and budget.”
The renovation was the first major change to the Vartan Gregorian Armenian Center since its initial purchase in 1989. The project includes functional pieces like a refreshed lobby, and the newly expanded three-story Mardigian Library. The design laces cultural details into common building elements, including a wooden door carved in Armenia by a master craftsman, the curtain wall is adorned a custom frit pattern derived from the Sirun Khach, and light pendants with finishes inspired by colors found in Armenian ceramics.

The physical transformation coincides with NAASR’s innovative plans to expand its global influence. Both through the building design and the narratives it shelters, NAASR will continue to invite modern users to connect with their past while finding inspiration for their next steps.

Kudos to our team and wonderful partners who turned this vision into reality.”


Read Original SMMA Article Here 

Bloomberg Radio Features Altair’s President

Bloomberg Baystate Business for Tuesday, September 29th, 2020

– Beth Casoni, executive director of the Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association, on the low oxygen content of the ocean water and what it means for the lobster catch (2:35)

– Bloomberg Contributor and Iona College Political Science professor Jeanne Zaino has a preview of tonight’s presidential debate (16:32)

– Boston Globe reporter Andy Rosen on the booming local home renovation industry (34:02)

– Janet Ceddia, President and Managing Member of Altair Construction in Newton, on the booming renovation business and the problems it has created (45:15)

– Jill Nelson, VP of Brand Marketing at Dunkin’ Brands, on their National Coffee Day/National Dunkin’ Day campaign, and other marketing issues (56:57)

– Janet Wu reports on the increase in Covid cases in Massachusetts (1:05:38)

– Northeastern infectious disease expert Sam Scarpino on the worrying Covid trends in Massachusetts (1:08:54)

– Anne Mostue reports on the changing political climate in Boston as city councilors Michelle Wu and Andrea Campbell enter the race for Mayor (1:18:28)

– Boston Mayor Marty Walsh on the issues facing the city (1:21:51)

Hosts: Tom Moroney, Joe Shortsleeve and Kim Carrigan

Producer: Dan Pierce

Listen Here

Read Original Bloomberg Article Here 

Contractors are Booked as Homeowners Decide to Renovate

Boston Globe Front Page Feature

Photo: President and owner of Golden Builder Construction Tomasa Pujol at a residential job site in Dorchester. PAT GREENHOUSE/GLOBE STAFF

From the sound of things in some neighborhoods, you might not think the economic downturn has been all that severe in Massachusetts.

Saw blades are buzzing, nail guns are popping, and drills are spinning as contractors descend on home renovation projects in huge numbers. It’s a striking aberration in an economy in which many businesses continue to suffer and unemployment remains high.

The activity is also another indication of how unevenly the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic has been distributed. Some homeowners ― often those whose incomes have not taken a hit ― have reduced costs for commuting, travel, and other expenses, giving them more discretionary income. At the same time, interest rates for home equity loans and mortgages are historically low, making it cheap to borrow money.

Many people have spent an unprecedented number of hours at home, giving them a clear-eyed understanding about what they love — and hate — about their residences.

“The pandemic, especially for people in the middle class and the upper middle class, has created this bubble,” said Chris Parish, a Franklin homeowner searching for a contractor who’s not too busy to take on a small bathroom renovation sometime soon. “We’re all thinking the same thing at the same time, which is we can’t go anywhere, so we should get the most out of the space.”

Contractors around Boston said they experienced a huge demand for services this summer that has extended into fall — especially for modest projects such as adding a backyard deck or a fence. The trend is helping to offset the loss of work builders suffered earlier in the year when larger commercial jobs were put on hold because of the pandemic lockdown.

So many homeowners are seeking quotes that some renovation pros say the main limitation on their businesses right now is time, or the lack of it. Work isn’t hard to come by, but fitting it all into the schedule is another challenge.

Tomasa Pujol, president of Golden Builder Construction in Quincy, has a piece of advice for people seeking home improvement services now: “You’ve got to be patient.”

Pujol said she’s booking a lot of residential work, inside and outside of homes around the Boston area. But some factors out of her control are getting in the way. Building permits are arriving slowly in many municipalities, she said, and materials — particularly lumber — are in short supply. That’s true in other fields, as well, because COVID-19 precautions have slowed factory work. A South Shore glass company, for example, said window orders that used to be filled in about 10 days are now taking six weeks or longer.

For homeowners who have decided to pull the trigger on long-put-off projects, the reality can be jarring.

Chris Parish said he’s been talking to contractors about having work done on the 170-year old A-frame Colonial he shares with his wife and 3-year-old daughter in Franklin.

The downstairs bathroom has always been an issue — a wall that juts out to enclose the shower creates a narrow passageway between the toilet and the sink — but after working from home for months, it’s become maddening. The family is considering selling not too long from now, he said, and expanding the bathroom could increase the home’s value.

But every contractor Parish has spoken with so far says he shouldn’t plan on getting the project done until sometime next year. They’ve told him it might be possible to knock out a small project sooner, such as a flooring fix Parish is considering, but nothing the size of a bathroom job.

All-told, Parish is looking to spend under $15,000 — not a huge price tag for a home renovation. But for many contractors, these smaller projects are providing the most business, according to industry research.

A survey by the National Association of Home Builders found that contractors in the second quarter of this year were more confident in the market for jobs below $20,000 than they were about landing higher-cost projects.

Most of those surveyed said their business had improved during the second quarter — April 1 to June 30 — according to the trade association. Meanwhile, estimates from the Census Bureau say sales of building materials, garden equipment, and other supplies for contractors and do-it-yourselfers were up 16.8 percent in June through August, compared with that same period in 2019 — even as many other retail categories suffered.

But there also are signals that the rapid interest might not last. A recent report by analysts at Oppenheimer & Co. warned that stronger-than-usual sales at Home Depot and Lowe’s could abate soon because homeowners may simply be accelerating expenditures they would have made anyway. Research this summer by the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies predicted a slowdown in the coming year as “continued weakness in the broader economy due to the public health crisis” catches up with the industry.

And even if the small jobs fill the schedule, they don’t necessarily make up for the struggles that contractors have endured this year.

Janet B. Ceddia, president of Altair Construction in Newton, said her company saw $5.2 million in work pushed back or put on hold because of the pandemic. About 80 percent of that was commercial. So far, it has replaced $1.5 million of that business with a mix of work that is about 62 percent residential.

That means that despite the surge in interest, there’s still a lot of ground to make up. That’s harder to do with a lineup of smaller jobs in different locations. It requires crews to move around, tote equipment from one site to the next, manage complicated schedules, and pull more permits. Some tradespeople, such as electricians, are also harder to find, Ceddia said, because they are still staffing up after the shutdown.

Nonetheless, Ceddia said she’s happy to have the work ― Altair is taking on as many jobs as it can handle, and is scheduling into January. While the company is accepting a lot of outdoor jobs while the weather is warm, Ceddia said she is confident that Altair will be able to safely pull off indoor work in colder weather, even if cases of the coronavirus increase.

She hopes safety measures such as masks, temperature checks, and hand sanitizer will help keep workers safe and reassure customers.

“If there were a second wave, we now know a lot more,” she said.

For some homeowners, the traditionally nerve-wracking process of looking for a contractor seems even more daunting, given all of the uncertainty in the economy.

Amber Renberg has been looking for work in the meetings and events field since before the pandemic hit and is considering moving away and renting out her East Boston condo. But there are a few things she’d like to do before she decides to go that route. She said her bathroom, with cheap fixtures and a clunky design, will be a turnoff for prospective tenants.

She has contacted five contractors to provide quotes on a project she estimates at $10,000. Two have come to take a look, and she is waiting for their estimates. But she worries her projects aren’t lucrative enough to interest builders, given the demand.

“They’ll be smaller than it’s worth for them,” Renberg said. “It is frustrating to try and find the person to come in and do a smaller job like this.”

Read Original Boston Globe Article 

NAASR to Host Grand Opening of New World Headquarters

NAASR Building- Belmont, MA

“On Friday, November 1, 2019, the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR) will host the Grand Opening and Ribbon Cutting of its spectacular, new, state-of-the-art global headquarters, named after Vartan Gregorian, President of the philanthropic foundation Carnegie Corporation of New York. The new building’s official name will be the NAASR Vartan Gregorian Building, fulfilling the request of the building’s principal benefactors, Edward and Pamela Avedisian of Lexington, MA.

The public is invited to attend the ceremony from 4 to 7 pm, at 395 Concord Avenue, Belmont, MA. This historic event is the result of a national campaign to build a prosperous future for Armenian Studies and will celebrate NAASR’s 65 years of achievement and mark a new era as NAASR looks toward the future and welcomes the next generation.

Featured at the Grand Opening will be the unveiling of a site-specific sculpture that was donated by world-renowned Armenian-American artist, Michael Aram. His sculpture is an interpretation of a traditional Armenian symbol of eternity, or “Arevakhatch.”

Gregorian will be present along with the Avedisians and David Ignatius, Washington Post columnist and novelist, who will be the master of ceremonies for the NAASR Gala the following evening on November 2, which is already sold out.

Also featured at the Grand Opening will be Ara Krafian, CEO of Symmes, Maini & McKee Associates of Cambridge, the architectural, design and engineering firm for the project; as well as Janet Ceddia, President of Altair Construction of Newton, the general contractor.

“We invite everyone to attend our Grand Opening,” said NAASR Chairman of the Board Yervant Chekijian, who will serve as master of ceremonies at the opening, which will also include a blessing of the building from local clergy. Many other local and national people of note will be in attendance; Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has been invited to speak.

“We are sincerely grateful to all of the extremely generous and talented people who made our vision a reality. This building is NAASR’s gift to future generations,” said Chekijian.

The ribbon cutting will be followed by tours of the building through many of its public spaces, as well as NAASR’s rare book Mardigian Library, one of the top five Armenian libraries open to the public in the diaspora, with some holdings dating to the 1600s, and rare periodicals dating to the 1800s, as well as the unique personal archives of prominent scholars, early Armenian-Americans, and religious leaders.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has given full support with a capital grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s Cultural Facilities Fund and MassDevelopment of $225,000 awarded in 2017, for installation of an elevator, other accessibility features, and fire suppression.

Founded in 1955, NAASR is a world leader advancing Armenian Studies, connecting scholars of Armenian Studies with the public, and building community worldwide. To date, NAASR has financial commitments for $6.2 million of the $7 million project. To learn more about NAASR, contact Sarah Ignatius, Executive Director, at or call 617-489-1610.”

Original article published by The Armenian Weekly.

The Village Bank Celebrates Grand Opening Of Newton Centre Branch

Village Bank- Newton, MA

“The Village Bank held a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the grand opening of its new office in Newton Centre. Located at 720 Beacon Street, the new branch marks the Bank’s seventh location in the City of Newton. Community leaders, customers, business owners, and members of the community attended the ribbon cutting and the bank paid for all metered parking for the event.

“For more than a century, The Village Bank has been proud to call Newton our home. We are delighted to expand our presence and to build on the mission in which we were created – to help individuals and businesses in our local communities meet their financial goals,” said President and CEO of The Village Bank Joseph A. De Vito

The new Newton Centre branch offers the best in full-service personal and business banking, including teller service as well as an ATM and coin machine, and will be staffed with a dedicated team of local professionals led by Branch Manager Reilly Cavanaugh. The new branch also features a community room that can be used by local organizations, as well as a business spotlight area that will showcase various local businesses each month. In addition, the branch will display various art pieces each month as part of the Bank’s partnership with the Newton Art Association.”

Original article published by The Village Bank.

NAASR To Name Its New Headquarters After Distinguished Historian And Philanthropic Leader Vartan Gregorian

NAASR Building- Belmont, MA

The National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR) will name its new headquarters in Belmont, MA, after Dr. Vartan Gregorian, President of the philanthropic foundation Carnegie Corporation of New York, fulfilling the request of the building’s principle benefactors, Edward and Pamela Avedisian of Lexington, MA. The new building’s official name will be the NAASR Vartan Gregorian Building.

“Vartan Gregorian embodies the values at the heart of NAASR’s mission. He has dedicated his entire life to educational advancement and the pursuit of knowledge, engaging in public service throughout his career, and working to better the human condition. We are grateful that we can acknowledge and memorialize his tremendous accomplishments by naming the institution’s new headquarters the NAASR Vartan Gregorian Building,” said Edward Avedisian.

“I am overwhelmed by this most generous and selfless offer and accept it with humility, and with gratitude,” said Gregorian. “I thank NAASR for bringing Armenian history, culture, and values to life through its programming and collections, now visible and accessible to anyone.”

“We are proud to recognize Gregorian’s distinguished life of service and dedication through our new global center,” said Yervant Chekijian, Chairman of the Board. “He is an inspiration for generations to come. We are also sincerely grateful to the Avedisians for their generosity and vision.”

Vartan Gregorian:
Gregorian has had a distinguished career as an academic, scholar, historian, philanthropist, and visionary. Born in Tabriz, Iran, Gregorian received his elementary education in Iran and his secondary education at Collège Arménian in Beirut, Lebanon. In 1956, he entered Stanford University, where he majored in history and the humanities, graduating with honors in 1958. He was awarded a PhD in history and humanities from Stanford in 1964. Gregorian has taught European intellectual history and Middle Eastern history at San Francisco State College, the University of California at Los Angeles, and the University of Texas at Austin.

In 1972, he joined the University of Pennsylvania faculty and was appointed Tarzian Professor of Armenian and Caucasian History and professor of South Asian History. He was founding dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Penn in 1974 and four years later became its twenty-third provost until 1981. His outstanding tenure at the university has been honored with endowed professorships in English and in the Humanities and through several graduate fellowships in the humanities.

After an academic career spanning two decades, Gregorian served as president of The New York Public Library from 1980 to 1989. The institution includes a network of four research libraries and 83 branch libraries, and during his tenure, Gregorian was widely credited with restoring the status of the library as a financially sound, cultural landmark. In 1989, he was appointed the 16th president of Brown University, where he led a campaign that raised over $500 million, bringing the institution’s endowment past the $1 billion mark. Gregorian also oversaw the creation of several new academic departments. In honor of his legacy at the university, a residence quadrangle was named after him, as well as three professorships: the Vartan Gregorian Assistant Professorship, The Brooke Russell Astor Professorship in the Humanities in Honor of Vartan Gregorian, and the Aga Khan Professorship in Islamic Humanities created in honor of Gregorian. In 1997, the City of Providence renamed the Fox Point Public Elementary School after Gregorian to acknowledge his role in strengthening relationships between the university and the community.

In 1997, Gregorian assumed the presidency of one of the country’s oldest grantmaking foundations, Carnegie Corporation of New York. His philanthropic work and scholarly accomplishments have been recognized with more than 70 honorary degrees and dozens of significant awards, including the National Humanities Medal, awarded by President William J. Clinton; and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, awarded by President George W. Bush. President George H. W. Bush appointed Gregorian to the J. William Fulbright Board of Foreign Scholarships, and President Barack Obama appointed him to the selection committee of the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships. Gregorian has also been decorated by the Austrian, Italian, Portuguese, French, and Armenian governments.

Gregorian is known for his leadership in support of democracy, human rights, and civic engagement, and his efforts have been recognized with honors from numerous nonprofit organizations such as the Council on Foundations’ Distinguished Service Award; Aspen Institute’s Henry Crown Leadership Award; the Africa-America Institute’s Award for Leadership in Higher Education Philanthropy; and a special recognition from PEN America. Civic honors from state legislatures and municipalities include Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, Houston, San Francisco, Fresno, Austin, and New York City. Throughout his illustrious career, Gregorian has written extensively about Armenia and has maintained close ties to the Armenian community. When he was appointed Tarzian Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Gregorian recruited three professors to teach Armenian history, language, and literature: the late Vahé Oshagan, the late Robert Hewsen, and Michael Stone. In 1999, the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, his Holiness, Karekin I, bestowed upon Gregorian the St. Gregory the Illuminator Medal, the church’s highest honor; and His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of Cilicia, honored him and his wife, Clare, with the Prince and Princess of Cilicia Medals.

Gregorian is a member of the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia, which awarded him an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters in 2001, following an honorary degree awarded by Yerevan State University in 1995. He is a former trustee of the American University of Armenia, a trustee emeritus of the Dilijan International School of Armenia, and a co-founder the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative with Ruben Vardanyan and Dr. Noubar Afeyan, who established the Vartan Gregorian Scholarship Program in 2018 to support scholarly research of Armenian history. In 2012, Gregorian was presented with the Republic of Armenia’s Medal of Mkhitar Gosh, and in 2017, he was the recipient of the country’s Order of Honor.

Edward Avedisian:
Avedisian, a NAASR Board member, is a world-class clarinetist who performed with the Boston Pops Orchestra and the Boston Ballet’s orchestra before changing careers to focus on investments. Through his philanthropy, Avedisian has donated generously to the Armenian community and beyond. He is a trustee of the American University of Armenia (AUA), where he was the principal benefactor of the new 100,000 square foot Paramaz Avedisian Building. He is also the principal benefactor of the Khoren and Shooshanig Avedisian K-12 School and Community Center in an underprivileged section of the capital city, Yerevan.

Avedisian is a 2016 recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor. He is a director on the board of the Armenian Missionary Association of America (AMAA), and he recently gave a transformative gift to the Rhode Island College of Pharmacy in honor of his late brother Paramaz Avedisian.

NAASR’s New Headquarters:
NAASR’s new headquarters, designed by a talented team from the architectural, design and engineering firm of Symmes, Maini and McKee, led by Ara Krafian, will be a stunning three-story building with a soaring glass façade, allowing natural light to illuminate the interior. A variety of Armenian features are incorporated into the design, including a hand-carved wooden door, which a master artisan in Armenia is carving, and an Armenian Alphabet Wall.

The general contractor, Altair Construction, anticipates completion by the fall of 2019. “We invite everyone to attend our Grand Opening next year on November 1st through 3rd,” said Chekijian.

The building will have many welcoming spaces for the public to gather as well as a secure environment for NAASR’s rare book Mardigian Library, one of the top five Armenian libraries open to the public in the diaspora. It will soon total 40,000 books, with some dating back to the 1600s, and rare periodicals dating back to the 1800s, as well as the unique personal archives of prominent scholars, early Armenian-Americans, and religious leaders.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has given full support with a capital grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s Cultural Facilities Fund and MassDevelopment of $225,000 awarded in 2017, for installation of an elevator, other accessibility features, and fire suppression.

The NAASR staff is working in temporary offices at the AGBU-New England headquarters on Mt. Auburn Street in Watertown and continuing its programming and bookstore on-site and online at

Founded in 1955, NAASR is one of the world’s leading resources for advancing Armenian Studies, connecting scholars of Armenian Studies and the public, and preserving and enriching Armenian culture, history, and identity for future generations.

To date, NAASR has financial commitments for more than $6 million of the $6.5 million needed to build the new center. The nonprofit invites the community to become a lasting part of this inspiring center, with opportunities to contribute at all levels. Please contact Sarah Ignatius, Executive Director, at or 617-489-1610. Learn more about NAASR and its mission at”


Original article published by MassisPost.