Case Study

Harborwalk in Boston

5 min read

Renovated Development Includes Protection From Sea Rise

More and more, developers and architects are having to pay attention to climate change, especially when building anything near water. So, when WinnDevelopment and The Architectural Team (TAT) turned 20 dilapidated public housing units in Boston into 52 rental apartments and homeownership condos, a carefully thought out, gently sloping berm was added to keep the new housing safe from any rising water from the adjacent Boston harbor.

Besides a magician’s skill in more than doubling the number of housing units in the exact same footprint, the Harborwalk Residences/Harbor125 Apartments development mixes in rentals, homeownership units, retail, and mixed incomes ranging from very-low income to middle-income to market-rate.

“It was a vision driven by need,” says Andrew Colbert, senior project director at WinnDevelopment, Boston. The Boston Housing Authority wanted to replace deteriorating public housing and add incremental units, while allowing temporarily relocated residents the ability to return to the new units. There are now 22 affordable rental units at the site, two more than before.

Total development cost for the two projects was $30.2 million, says Colbert, with a mix of non-competitive funding sources, including four percent Low Income Housing Tax Credits. There is one retail space, which has just been leased to an exercise company.

“It’s one of the most complex redevelopments we’ve ever done,” says Andrew Stebbins, senior project manager at The Architectural Team (TAT), also based in Boston. “There were a lot of puzzle pieces to manage and fit together, in terms of maximizing the site’s potential for residential use while also considering resiliency implications and the need for a welcoming public realm,” says Stebbins, who is nationally known as a speaker on the topic of multifamily housing and climate change. 

“We completely transformed the site,” says Colbert. “What was once a parcel that completely blocked off the surrounding neighborhood from the waterfront, now links it.”

Increasing the Number of Units
One of the reasons the project team was able to increase the number of units is that it decreased the number of buildings on the site from four to two, at the same time increasing the number of floors from two to three. One building holds the rental units while the other has the homeownership units. The reconfiguring also provided room for community space, which the earlier project lacked. The separate buildings are each three floors but differ in some architectural characteristics.

Stebbins noted the project also dedicated about 25 percent of the ground floor to public space (approximately 4,800 square feet), with a secured bike-parking room and a patio/common area in addition to the retail space. He says this was similar to the concentration of public space in the adjacent Clippership Wharf space, which TAT designed. The scale of the two projects, though, is much different, as Clippership Wharf has 458 units of housing.

The rental building has a definite family orientation. MassHousing notes Harbor125 Apartments has one one-bedroom unit, six two-bedroom units, ten three-bedroom units and five four-bedroom units. All 22 units were awarded project-based vouchers. Amenities include activated ground-level retail space, a management office, a community room and a public bicycle storage room.

“Harborwalk Residences has 14 middle-income condominium homeownership units, featuring five one-bedroom condos at 80 percent of area median income, five one-bedroom condos at 120 percent AMI, one two-bedroom condo at 80 percent AMI, one two-bedroom condo at 120 percent AMI and one three-bedroom condo at 120 percent AMI,” says the agency.

In addition, “There are 16 market-rate condominiums, featuring five one-bedroom units, ten two-bedroom units and one three-bedroomunit. Enterprise Bank and Trust was the construction lender.”

Many Financing Sources
MassHousing was a key player in the financing of the development, providing WinnCompanies with a $6.6 million permanent mortgage and $4.05 million in bridge loan financing for the 22-unit, low-income rental development and $1 million from its Workforce Housing Initiative to support the 14 middle-income homeownership units.

The agency noted other financing sources were $7.6 million in Low Income Housing Tax Credit equity for the rental project, and $6 million in Inclusionary Development Program (IDP) funding from the Boston Planning and Development Agency, contributed by Lendlease, Inc., from the company’s adjacent Clippership Wharf development.

“Bank of America was the construction lender, tax credit investor and state Brownfield tax credit investor. The Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta provided subordinate Affordable Housing Program funds and Blue Hub Capital was a subordinate lender,” says MassHousing.

“Harborwalk Residences and Harbor125 Apartments preserved and revitalized much-needed affordable rental housing and created new homeownership opportunities for first-time homebuyers on the East Boston waterfront,” says MassHousing executive director Chrystal Kornegay. She says the agency “was pleased to foster housing and economic opportunity for the residents who now call these apartments and condominiums home.”

The project checks MassHousing’s boxes for transit-oriented development as it is one block from a Blue Line station, and its ongoing Workforce Housing Initiative, for the middle-income units.

Construction was done by Cranshaw Construction, Newton Lower Falls, MA, and half of the labor on the project was completed by minorities, women and Section 3 workers.

Both of the new buildings achieved LEED Gold certification through U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED for Homes (Version 4) program, including Energy Star certification and EPA’s Indoor airPLUS label for high indoor air quality.

Mark Fogarty has covered housing and mortgages for more than 30 years. A former editor at National Mortgage News, he has written extensively about tax credits.