New Construction and a Restored 19th Century House Anchor Affordable Housing in Porter Square
Known for residential design in new construction, restoration/renovation, and industrial conversions, Bruner/Cott Architects announces the completion of Frost Terrace, a 100 percent affordable housing apartment community at 1791 Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge’s Porter Square. Achieved in partnership with Capstone Communities and Hope Real Estate Enterprises, the complex is in a desirable, transit-oriented neighborhood facing an extreme shortage of such housing. It provides 40 families and individuals with long-term rental options.
Directly adjacent to the firm’s Lesley University Lunder Arts Center on Massachusetts Avenue, Frost Terrace comprises three extant buildings—1 and 2 Frost Terrace, plus a contextual modern addition that balances the overall composition. The William Frost house, built in the late 1800s, was preserved, transformed, and expanded at the rear of the complex to provide additional living quarters. Formerly surrounded by similar houses and the North Avenue Congregational Church (moved to its site from Kirkland Street near Harvard Square in 1867 and is now the Lunder Arts library), the Frost house is the last of its kind on the block, providing continuous historical context.
Designed with light and air in mind, twenty-six of Frost Terrace’s 40 units are generous 2-to-3-bedrooms. Thirteen one-bedroom and one studio unit complete the mix. Reserved for households earning less than 60 percent of the area median income (AMI), with four units reserved for households earning less than 50% of AMI and four units reserved for households earning less than 30% AMI, the complex received over 900 applications during its initial leasing.
A transit-oriented development that prioritizes space for people over motor vehicles on the site, Frost Terrace offers immediate proximity to the MBTA, bike lanes, and essential community services, as well as 44 secure bike parking spaces. Three parking spaces are provided for residents with disabilities.
Sustainable design strategies include LEED Gold certification aspirations for multi-family mid-rise. Environmental interventions include the installation of solar panels, stormwater management, tree preservation, and energy efficient equipment, complemented by landscaping and paving improvements that created accessible community space.
“Rooted in community building, new contextual architecture, and historic preservation, Frost Terrace’s sustainable design aligns with current principles of affordable housing—prioritizing mobility, lowering utility costs, conserving resources, and creating healthy living environments,” says Principal-in-Charge Jason Forney. “Our goal was to respect and renew the venerable aspects of the site and its structures while delivering environmentally responsible housing for today and tomorrow.”
The Frost Terrace project was made possible by an affordable rental housing award announced by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker on July 25, 2018, which provided $57 million in direct subsidies for 19 high-impact projects throughout the state. Additional funding was derived from Low-Income Housing Tax Credits and subsidy funds via the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) and funds through the City of Cambridge Affordable Housing Trust.
Photography Credit: Robert Benson Photography