Transformation is Peter Niemitz’ business. But you can’t turn an empty shell into something with beauty and functionality without also having a degree of passion.
Niemitz was chosen by the Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group to do the renovation of its new space at the Boston Atlantic Wharf. It’s in a place known to Bostonians as the old Russia Wharf, where industry ruled for years. In more recent times, the building was an empty shell—what Niemitz called “a vanilla box of concrete and steel.”
So, what kind of vision does it take to turn a building like that into a restaurant?
“The concept,” says Niemitz, “was to give it the industrial history of the Wharf and the merchant business that went on here for hundreds of years. They wanted something different—not the traditional dark wood and paneling. They wanted a fresher, more modern take on things.”
Looking at the finished restaurant, you can see that vision in action. It’s got what Niemitz calls “an eclectic mix of elements,” with classic wood wainscoting, ceilings that replicate the steel beam structure of the industrial era, and the feel of an urban loft. The restaurant also has an open wine cellar, rooms for special events, an outdoor dining area, and an open, European-style kitchen.
Describing the new Smith & Wollensky, Niemitz says, “The open kitchen is a completely new direction for them. The lighting is a signature element. But it’s not any one piece that makes it unique—it’s how it all works together. It just feels great.”
The design detail extends even to the artwork. “I wanted the art to look like it was from a personal collection,” says Niemitz. “Like someone bought what they liked.”
The building is part of the overall renaissance happening along the Wharf, which is also known as Fort Point Channel. “Back Bay has always been the retail, restaurants, hotels,” says Niemitz. “Fort Point Channel, on the other hand, was a shipping channel and, for years, was in decline. Now, we’re seeing a resurgence.”
The Wharf has its points of interest, too. Good Will Hunting was filmed in the area, and the neighboring Financial District brings business to the burgeoning restaurant. Says Niemitz, “It makes a nice link between South Boston, the Seapoint District, and downtown.”
Niemitz himself is a known Boston entity. His firm, Niemitz Design Group, specializes in restaurant design and is responsible for the Union Bar and Grille, Westin Copley Place, Grill 23, and Top of the Hub in Boston.