Summary: 270 Centre is an original design for a prominent site in the dense urban fabric of Jamaica Plain. The architects worked closely with a community development corporation (CDC) to develop a new mixed-use building with 30 units of affordable housing above ground floor local retail. 100% of units are affordable, with a mix of studios, one, two, and three-bedroom apartments ensuring diverse households. Three units are reserved for Department of Mental Health clients and four for chronically homeless individuals.
Site and Context: The 19,000sf site at the base of Hyde Square (‘Boston’s Latin Quarter’), is across from Bromley Heath public housing and the Jackson Square MBTA Station, and alongside the Southwest Corridor Park. Long vacant public parcels, part of the swath of destruction left from the planned I-95 extension through the neighborhood, surrounded a substandard private building. The CDC combined the parcels to create a project with substantial social impact.
Process: An active community of residents and business owners, already engaged in city and community planning efforts for the area, worked with the city to establish development guidelines. The design/development team facilitated their continued involvement in design review, focusing on creating a contextual and forward-thinking building that would contribute to the rehabilitation of the fractured neighborhood. Community input also helped prioritize the types of businesses to be recruited for the retail space.
Challenges and Solutions: The first project completed in the long-anticipated redevelopment of Jackson Square, 270 Centre establishes a new tone, replacing a blighted corner with a strong street wall that mediates between Bromley Heath’s monolithic mid-rises, and modest clapboard houses to the south. Reconciling extreme differences in building types and density, 270 Centre builds a reciprocal relationship with the surrounding community with massing, detail and materials. Salmon brick rain-screen transitions to fiber cement clapboard that reflects nearby houses. The rhythm of metal-clad full height bays with large windows offers a modern interpretation of the traditional bays of nearby buildings. The building curves to transition around the corner to face the linear Southwest Corridor Park, with a prow of vegetated screen at the roof. A patio extends from the adjacent retail space to take advantage of the view of the park and Fort Hill beyond.
Sustainable Design: The design team used an integrated design process to create a cost-effective, sustainable building designed to meet LEED-NC standards, though certification was not sought. Designed with energy modeling, a high performance envelope minimizes energy use and maximizes daylight and natural ventilation. Oversized double-paned windows muffle traffic noise and insulate against New England weather extremes. Right-sized, high performance HVAC systems, and EnergyStar appliances and lighting reduce energy demand. A white EPDM roof reduces heat gain and heat island effect, as does the minimal impervious pavement needed for just 13 parking spaces, half located beneath the second floor. A 30 kW grid-tied photovoltaic array powers common lighting, HVAC and equipment. A monitor in the lobby displays real-time energy production, allowing residents to track building performance. Three stories of panelized wood-frame construction for residential floors reduced construction waste and the project schedule.
Healthy and Accessible Homes: The 2009 Boston Indicators Project Report noted the highest asthma-related hospitalizations in Jamaica Plain and Roxbury. The team set a goal to minimize environmental triggers and improve residents’ health. The tight exterior envelope keeps particulates out. Constant ambient exhaust in lieu of kitchen hoods, and pressurized halls improve indoor air quality, as do low/no VOC finishes and a no smoking/no pet policy. The project was designed for universal accessibility. Four units are barrier free, and all units are visitable and designed for future adaptability to specific needs.