Landscape Architecture for Mixed Use Residential and Commercial Affordable Housing
We recently completed three mixed-use affordable housing projects in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Each came with its own set of needs, challenges, and opportunities to create a highly usable urban garden space. We are extremely proud of our work on the Putnam Square Apartments, Chapman Arms and 151-157 Allston Street.
Here is a look at each project and how we approached landscape design for each.
Putnam Square Apartments
Putnam Square Apartments is a 94-unit affordable housing development for elderly and disabled residents. Homeowners Rehab, Inc. (HRI) completed an extensive rehab to make the building more accessible and sustainable for its residents. With financial support from Harvard University, HRI instituted a wrap-around services program for residents that will allow them to age-in-place within their home. Backed by the City of Cambridge along with partners HRI, Harvard and other funding the aim of the project was to ensure that these tenants have an affordable place to live in Cambridge. Putnam Square is a critical piece of the city's affordable housing.
Our involvement in this project consisted of creating gardens, seating areas and other landscaping to provide the residents with usable outdoor space. The front courtyard is a space where residents sometimes gather to people watch. We added bench seating and created a garden which incorporated the existing locust trees along with evergreens and flowers to add depth.
The courtyard was the perfect opportunity to create usable outdoor space for the residents. It included a fountain, fencing and tables where the residents could enjoy and relax. We incorporated a large existing locust trees and supplemented the planting with native, drought tolerant plants.
Residents also expressed an interest in creating garden space to grow herbs and vegetables. Because of the limited space in an urban context, we turned out attention to the buildings roof where we created 3-foot high raised beds on wheels for the tenants to plant personal gardens.
This 50-unit building is located in the heart of Harvard Square. It consists of 25 units which were at risk of expiring affordability, 25 market rate units and 10,000 square-feet of commercial space.
Chapman Arms was the state's first 40-T project. Chapter 40-T was created in 2009 to prevent affordable housing from converting to market rates once owners paid off mortgages with affordability restrictions or opted out of federally subsidized Section 8 contract.
The building has had a fascinating history. Originally built in 1898 as the Craigie Arms dormitory for Harvard graduate students, it was designed by Josephine Wright Chapman, one of the first female architects in the United States. During World War I, the building was taken over and used to house the U.S. Naval Radio School. Harvard sold the building in 1923, and it became private housing. In the 1970s Peter Wolf and other members of the J. Geils Band lived in the building. In 1986 it became a mixed-income community and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Our involvement in this project was a challenge. We needed to honor the history of the building and use several existing old redbud trees that have been on the property for decades. We added hardy hydrangeas to integrate with the red bud trees and added benches to create seating in the front of the building. The courtyard was improved by the addition of an ADA compliant ramp to make it accessible to residents with mobility issues. Our design also added a brick terrace, as well as tables and seating to create a private gathering area for the residents. A large locust tree was supplemented with plantings of native, drought tolerant plants to create a low maintenance garden.
151-157 Allston Street
In July of 2014 this six-family building was engulfed by fire. Firefighters put out the blaze, but the damage was extensive. Thankfully, no one was inured but all six families lost everything and the apartment s were uninhabitable. Redeveloping the property became a top priority with the goal of creating a healthier, more efficient model of housing and returning all six-families to their homes.
The project included an extensive set of green features. LEED for Homes Platinum certification is pending from the U.S. Green Building Council.
We created garden for four families on the property that included a permeable bluestone paving, outdoor seating, flower gardens and evergreen hedges.
Our designs all focused on creating gardens and hardscape that provided maximum enjoyment, functionality, and aesthetic beauty for the residents to use and enjoy regardless of their abilities.
Kimberly Mercurio Landscape Architecture creates landscape designs for clients in Eastern Massachusetts, Cape Cod and the Islands. Contact Kimberly Mercurio Landscape Architecture at (508) 495-1075 to discuss your project.