High-density Affordable Housing Weaves Together Historic Buildings with Thoughtful New Construction

2nd Place, Multifamily

Frost Terrace weaves together three historic houses, significant contemporary architecture and a dynamic, human-centered landscape to transform a forgotten residential site along a commercial avenue. The high-quality multifamily affordable housing development contains 13 three-bedroom, 13 two-bedroom, 13 one-bedroom units and one studio.

The city of Cambridge, Mass., 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 low or even moderate wages struggle to find housing within city limits. Frost Terrace addresses this issue by providing affordable housing specifically for families.

The design of the buildings and site at Frost Terrace contributes to a vibrant streetscape and unfolds in a varied volumetric composition that transforms its site and context for contemporary use. The development is made up of four anchoring elements:

  • The circa 1865 William Frost House, a restored Second Empire building relocated on the site into realignment with an adjacent historic church building.
  • A 5-story masonry volume set behind the William Frost House.
  • Twin shingle-style homes, constructed circa 1900.
  • An elevated 3-story ribbon-like clapboard volume knits together these diverse elements and unifies the site.

By relocating the original body of the William Frost House to the northwest and into realignment with the adjacent, landmarked North Prospect Church building, Bruner/Cott Architects 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, Bruner/Cott Architects 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 costs 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 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 Homes and Multifamily Midrise Gold certification.

The design circulates 100 percent outdoor air through ERV in the new construction, which became increasingly critical in 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 and 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.

The living spaces at Frost Terrace were thoughtfully designed with 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 a community room, private outdoor green space, electric-vehicle charging stations, onsite professional management, indoor and outdoor bike parking, controlled-access buildings and a common laundry center. Preserved trees and new plantings create a verdant site with accessible community space for residents to enjoy and socialize.

A unique feature of the Frost Terrace development is its absence of parking. The design prioritizes space for people over cars and includes only three accessible parking spaces. The development’s 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.

“Charming integration of old and new. Great story about affordability and increased density. I particularly enjoy how the historic house holds the sidewalk edge without being overwhelmed by the addition of new construction behind it. Expertly scaled new construction and lovely sitework makes all the buildings—old and new—fit on the narrow site without feeling cramped.”

Katie Hunt, architect, LRK, Metamorphosis Awards Judge

Retrofit Team


GENERAL CONTRACTOR: Keith Construction Inc.


MEP/FP/FA ENGINEERS: Petersen Engineering and R.W. Sullivan

WATERPROOFING: Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates Inc.




PAINT: Sherwin-Williams and Benjamin Moore

LVT: Commonwealth Commercial Plank from MetroFlor

BATHROOM FLOOR TILE: Mosaic 2-inch Hexagon from Daltile

KITCHEN AND BATH COUNTERS: Quartz Select from Wilsonart

KITCHEN SINK: Undermount from Moen


WALL BASE: Tarkett


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