Oliver Lofts, Project of the Year: Mixed-Income
© Andy Ryan Oliver Lofts, Project of the Year: Mixed-Income

Historic mills, quite often found in Massachusetts and the greater New England area, are typically located on the outskirts of a city. So WinnDevelopment was excited to find vacant two connected, early–20th-century mill buildings in the Mission Hill neighborhood of downtown Boston.

“We as a company focus largely on historic mills and converting them,” says Elizabeth Fish, vice president of WinnDevelopment. “It was a great opportunity in the city of Boston, which you don’t get [very] often.”

Winn is best known locally for the Bostonian Hotel and has a lot of background in the mixed-­income arena. So revamping the former pickle factory and Oliver ­Ditson music publishing building to create duplexes and one- and two-bedroom units was nothing new.

At the resulting Oliver Lofts, some units are reserved for formerly homeless residents, some are devoted to live/work artist spaces, and a number are market-rate units. Winn focused its marketing efforts on young professionals and families while also serving affordable housing residents. The new building contains visible ceiling beams and other hints of its historic past while also offering multiple nods to modern transportation, including a Zipcar parking space, underground and surface parking, bike storage, and a transit-service ticket station.

Of course, along with the historic charm came some downfalls. “We had to [put] heavy insulation in the building,” Fish says. “So, unfortunately, there’s not as much exposed brick.”

Despite such obstacles, the company was able to ­install tinted glass that helped qualify the structure for LEED Platinum certification, the first such award to be given to an adaptive-reuse building in Boston.

One of the biggest constraints of the building was the lack of windows on its top floor, a condition that couldn’t be altered because of the structure’s historic status. Winn creatively solved the problem by cutting out a center portion of the top floor to open up its units to a series of private outdoor patios.

As of July, all 64 units of this first-phase building had been leased.