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PCA Completes Affordable Housing Design in Boston’s Back Bay Neighborhood

March 15, 2024
140 Clarendon Street apartments, Boston MA

Boston — The recently unveiled 140 Clarendon Street apartments in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood, designed by Cambridge-based architecture firm PCA, provide urgently needed permanent affordable housing with 210 new studio and one-bedroom apartments and a mix of community and amenity spaces. The conversion design doubles the number of apartments in the 1929 building while keeping several existing cultural and educational tenants in the multi-use building.

Developed by Beacon Communities in collaboration with The Mount Vernon Company, 140 Clarendon reimagines the Back Bay’s 13-story former YWCA. Dubbed “The Miracle on Clarendon” by The Boston Globe, the ambitious project arose from a collaborative effort by a team of development partners, architects, builders, funders, and neighbors willing to embrace the affordable housing initiative and warmly welcome the new residents into the community. The property is managed by Beacon Residential Management, and Pine Street Inn provides services for the 111 households who have experienced homelessness under the national Housing First model.

“The success of 140 Clarendon Street provides an inspired example of how public and private partners can collaborate behind a shared vision and solve seemingly insurmountable challenges,” said Darcy Jameson, Vice President of Development for Beacon Communities. “From the start, the City and State’s political leadership, in collaboration with Beacon and Pine Street Inn worked together to create and preserve affordable housing for those who are most vulnerable.”

One notable challenge for the design team was reconfiguring the former hotel floor plates to meet the diverse space needs and program essentials for a diverse mix of occupants. Of the 210 apartments, 111 are designated for residents transitioning from unhoused to permanent housing. The remaining 99 affordable apartments are reserved for income-eligible households.

140 Clarendon’s existing residents and tenants remained in the building throughout construction, a challenge that necessitated a complex phasing of the renovation work. These tenants include individual residents, and commercial tenants such as the YWCA (the original building owner, who has called 140 Clarendon home for almost a century), The Lyric Stage Company), the City of Boston Snowden International School, and Viga Eatery.

“We hear a lot from tenants and visitors about how the building is distinctive, and not at all institutional in its look and feel,” noted PCA’s Nidhi John. “From the lobby to the comfortable lounges on each floor, to the unique design and layout of each apartment, the occupant experience is warm and welcoming throughout. That is what we were aiming to achieve – a strong sense of home and belonging for everyone.”