Why focus on the story of the original owner?
“The thing I learned from (working with) Disney is it’s stories people remember,” said Mullen, the owner of Penguin Hall and its 50 acres. “People don’t remember facts, but they remember stories. What you always want to do is tell a story.”
The question now for Mullen is how to transform Penguin Hall from the headquarters of one of the nation’s top 20 advertising agencies, a place where 500 people once worked, into condominiums where those 55 and older can live in luxury and continue to be cared for as they get older.
What Penguin Hall will not be, Mullen said, is an old-age home.
“It’s for people who want to get rid of the hassle of homeownership,” Mullen said, “and who want to live in a beautiful place and who want to have activities and who want to do things and who want to travel.”
Love may be the way Penguin Hall gets a new lease on life, not the love between Miller and Byrd, but the passion Mullen has for his property, one of the last parkland estates left to be developed on the North Shore.
Penguin Hall served as Mullen Communications’ headquarters for 20 years before the company moved to downtown Boston in 2009. In 1999, Mullen and the other owners of the company sold the ad agency to Interpublic Group. Mullen later retired, but he continued to own the property at 36 Essex St. (Route 22) and lease it to the ad agency, which, in 2007, announced its intention to move to Boston.
Mullen and Wise plan to demolish the large brick buildings that were built in the 1950s. New buildings with a 1930s feel will extend out of the back of the property and down a slope. The parking lots will be removed, with garages placed under the homes.