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

Renovation of Iconic YWCA Building at 140 Clarendon Serves the City’s Most Needy Citizens

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.

Nidhi John, AIA, a Principal with PCA and lead architect for the project, said, “It was such a heartwarming experience working with this incredible development team and City and State officials on the design and creatively resolving the countless challenges we encountered. Moving the project through its design and construction phases as quickly as we did reinforced the commitment of all our stakeholders to creating urgently needed housing for the most vulnerable among us.”

Pine Street Inn staff provides social and supportive services for the 111 residents transitioning to permanent housing. This nationally renowned nonprofit partners with people experiencing homelessness to help them move from the streets and shelters to permanent supported housing with wrap-around case management services.

Jan Griffin, Vice President of Housing for Pine Street Inn, described the importance of the building’s design for its new occupants. “PCA’s work on 140 Clarendon Street is informed by their deep understanding of how to create affordable housing that meets a wide range of occupant needs. The design provides a welcoming, accessible, and supportive experience in the building’s individual apartments and community spaces. It supports our program goals and helps our residents thrive as they transition to permanent housing.”

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.”

About PCA

Founded in 1982, PCA is recognized as one of New England’s most creative and innovative design firms. The staff brings an uncommon blend of business insight and creative problem-solving to each project. With expertise in architecture, planning, and interior design, PCA teams provide thoughtful, award-winning designs for hospitality, housing, retail, higher education, and mixed-use clients — making places that thrive in the marketplace and bring lasting value to the community. For more information about PCA, please visit www.pcadesign.com.

About Beacon Communities LLC

Beacon Communities LLC is a privately owned real estate firm that develops, acquires, invests in, and manages a wide range of multi-family housing. Their portfolio includes affordable housing, market rate housing and mixed income-housing. Their developments range from new construction to historic adaptive reuse, to the renovation of existing housing. They take on challenging developments and make them succeed. Their driving passion is to create well-designed homes that improve the quality of life of their residents and enhance the neighborhoods in which they are located. For more information about Beacon Communities LLC, please visit www.beaconcommunitiesllc.com.

About Pine Street Inn

Pine Street Inn partners with homeless individuals to help them move from the streets and shelter to a home and assists formerly homeless individuals in retaining housing. We provide street outreach, emergency services, supportive housing, job training and connections to employment. We tirelessly advocate for collaborative solutions to end homelessness and provide a permanent home and community for everyone. For more information about Pine Street Inn please visit www.pinestreetinn.org/home.

About The Mount Vernon Company
The Mount Vernon Company is a real estate investment company recognized as one of the leading apartment property owners in Massachusetts. The company, founded by Bruce A. Percelay, has grown over the past 30 years to include 1,600 apartments, five hotels, and select commercial and vacation properties. Mount Vernon Company received the Community Excellence Award from the Rental Housing Association of the Greater Boston Real Estate Board, the Paragon Award for Industry Excellence by the National Apartment Association, and the Best Landlord in Boston recognition by Boston Magazine. For more information about The mount Vernon Company, please visit https://mvernon.com/