After its Avenir Apartments debuted in 2009 and leased quickly, Trinity Financial, a Boston-based developer, wanted to construct another upscale rental building in the downtown Bulfinch Triangle historic neighborhood, near the North End, the city’s oldest residential community.
Trinity approached Denver-based REIT Aimco, one of the country’s largest owner–operators of rental sites, about working together on a 1½-acre triangular parcel. The appeal stemmed from a potential building’s views of the Inner Harbor, Boston skyline, and the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway Conservancy, says John Bezzant, Aimco’s chief investment officer. The site had another plus: its historic legacy. The Middlesex Canal, once an important transportation artery until railroads emerged, had bisected it. The canal is now a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.
Besides its views and history, the property, named One Canal, appealed to the developers for its high Walk Score to the Financial District, the Inner Harbor, a bike path, Beacon Hill, and the underground North Station and Central Artery. (The latter rerouted Interstate 93 into the Thomas P. O’Neill Jr. Tunnel and became known as the “Big Dig.”) The below-ground construction posed a challenge, because any building would have to withstand train vibrations and pedestrian and car traffic.
Architect Nancy Ludwig, FAIA, LEED AP, senior principal and president of ICON Architecture in Boston, designed a U-shaped building that wraps around a vent shaft and electrical substation; embraces the Greenway through glazing and outdoor spaces; and uses the tunnel wall for one elevation. ICON worked with acoustic consultants to isolate potential vibrations from transit tunnels below, accomplished by setting the building atop 8-inch-thick rubber pads.
Mixed Rental Pool
Although Aimco and Trinity knew that an upscale rental building would appeal to a young-professional cohort that likes to walk from home to their offices, stores, and entertainment, the team thought the right product could attract empty-nesters, as well.
Because of Boston Planning & Development Agency guidelines, new multifamily housing has to include an affordable component. One Canal incorporates 20 such units, which occupy the fourth to 10th levels, along with 266 market-rate apartments, all with luxury details and electric cooking equipment. The top two floors contain 24 “designer penthouses” with more luxe materials and gas appliances. Units range from studios to three-bedrooms in a wide range of prices.
Beyond the Expected
To appeal to One Canal’s wide tenant mix, the team included amenities that have become almost expected in modern Class A multifamily, such as car and bicycle parking, a well-equipped fitness room, a lounge, a kids’ play area, a dog run–spa, an automated package-delivery system, delivery space for food and dry cleaning, and outdoor spaces. The glass-railed, multilevel rooftop deck, however—with its pool, cabanas, movie screen, fire pit, and barbecues—is considered novel for Boston.
The material and appliance choices meet Boston’s building energy code requirements and include Energy Star appliances, a high-efficiency HVAC system, dual-pane windows, and WaterSense plumbing. The building’s overall aesthetic features warm woods, industrial accents, and watery blue hues. “Great attention was paid to details,” says Dennis Duffy of locally based Duffy Design Group, the interior design firm on the project.
Because of the architecture surrounding One Canal, ICON designed one of the building’s façades in red brick—to conform to its historic North End neighborhood—and sheathed a side facing the Greenway in a lighter-color brick. The architect also added gray metal paneling at the structure’s top and base for a modern verve.
Landscape architect John Copley of Copley Wolff Design Group in Boston specified mounds with grasses to fashion intimate outdoor spaces and selected specimens that would withstand wind and cold, such as oak sedge, Russian sage, and Korean feather reed grass. A decorative wood wall sheathes the vent shaft. A multilevel, glass-enclosed lobby “pavilion” showcases the canal’s history in a mural, and granite quarried from the canal lines a wall. City Winery, a restaurant-cum-live-entertainment small-chain concept, has leased space in the ground floor.
Opened for occupancy last May, One Canal is 85% leased and represents a $195 million investment on Aimco’s part.