Frost Terrace is a unique, transit-oriented, 100% affordable family community. By weaving together three historic houses, significant contemporary architecture, and a dynamic, human-centered landscape, the design transforms a forgotten residential site, along a commercial avenue, into high-quality multi-family affordable housing for 40 low- and middle-income families—including (13) three-bedroom, (13) two-bedroom, (13) one-bedroom, and one (1) studio unit(s). Frost Terrace creates critically needed, modern, and sustainable affordable housing. The City of Cambridge has one of the highest costs of living in the United States, and there is a dearth of family affordable housing throughout the city. Long-time residents have been priced out of Cambridge and those who make a low or even moderate wages struggle to find housing within city limits. Frost Terrace addresses this issue by providing affordable housing specifically for families. 65% of Frost Terrace’s apartments are two and three-bedrooms for families (almost 33% are three-bedrooms). The design of the buildings and site at Frost Terrace contributes to a vibrant streetscape and unfold in a varied volumetric composition that transforms its site and context for contemporary use. The development is made up of four anchoring elements— (1) the former ‘William Frost House’, a restored second empire building relocated on the site into realignment with an adjacent historic church building; (2) a five-story masonry volume set behind the William Frost House constructed c. 1865; and (3 and 4) twin shingle style homes constructed c. 1900. An elevated three-story ribbon-like, clapboard volume knits together these diverse elements and unifies the site. On the site, the Architect relocated the original body of the William Frost House to the northwest and into re-alignment with the adjacent, landmarked, North Prospect Church building (previously relocated and converted for use as Lesley University’s Lunder Arts Center’s library by the Architect). This move helped communicate the residential history of the site along Massachusetts Avenue and freed up a significant portion of the site for new apartments/construction. Throughout the restoration, the team reused as much of the existing structures as possible and needled in new structure where it was needed to support renovations. Wood was prioritized as a construction material to keep costs down. The project employs Type 1 construction (podium) with Type 5A construction above to maximize the site while maintaining construction cost and material efficiency. Top cord bearing trusses are used to maximize daylight openings, and the project features a significant Vierendeel truss. The team also worked to create opening patterns on bearing walls that encouraged variation but minimized transfer of loads. Frost Terrace’s approach to sustainable design aligns with the principles of affordable housing—lowering utility costs, conserving resources, prioritizing mobility (bikes and transit), and creating healthy living environments for residents. The project includes re-used existing buildings and materials, wood structure and finishes, energy recovery ventilation, efficient electric-driven heat-pump systems, and highly insulated envelopes (new and upgraded). Pending final review, the project is expected to achieve LEED for Multi-Family Mid-Rise Gold certification. The design circulates 100% outdoor air through ERV in the new construction, which became increasingly critical in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the relocated William Frost House, each unit contains an independent ERV. All mechanical systems, except for the heating and cooling of buildings C/D are centralized in building B, and fed underground to the restored buildings, reducing mechanical complications that are typically common in restoration projects. Units feature independent air source heat pump systems that are the heating and cooling for each unit. It is a relatively recent development that you can use those systems as far north as Cambridge without some sort of backup heat source. The living spaces at Frost Terrace were thoughtfully designed with both comfort and convenience in mind and utilize premium materials and finishes. Each unit features a spacious, open concept design, energy efficient appliances, individual climate and temperature controls, ceramic tile in bathrooms, large windows, air conditioning, and high-efficiency lighting. Select units include a washer/dryer. Community amenities include access to a community room, private outdoor green space, electric vehicle charging stations, on-site professional management, indoor and outdoor bike parking, controlled-access buildings, and a common laundry center. Preserved trees, and new plantings maximize the tight site; creating a verdant and vibrant site with accessible outdoor community space for residents to enjoy and socialize outdoors. A unique feature of the Frost Terrace development is its absence of parking. The design prioritizes space for people over cars and includes only 3 accessible parking spaces on the site. Its immediate proximity to the MBTA, bike lanes, and essential community services like grocery stores makes it a truly transit-oriented development. Inside, there are 44 secure bike parking spaces for residents. Out of 100 potential points, the Frost Terrace site has a walk-score of 97, a transit-score of 74, and a bike-score of 99. Frost Terrace is an innovative project that transforms a forgotten residential site along a commercial avenue into high-density, affordable urban housing. The design combines new construction with the creative reuse of existing historic resources - reminding us of the past while connecting to the present and future of Cambridge - and leverages the urban, transit-friendly site to create a place that favors people over parking.
Bruner/Cott Architects is a 35-person collaborative design practice located in Boston, Massachusetts. We strive to create thoughtful client-oriented design solutions that transform place and enhance the human experience, while respecting the natural environment. We are driven by design excellence and an active commitment to a sustainable future and are industry leaders in transformative-reuse.
Cast your vote
The voting session is closed