Bishop Allen Apartments

Bishop Allen Drive & Norfolk Street, Cambridge

Just-A-Start Corporation engaged Curtis Construction for the renovation of 27 three-bedroom, and five two-bedroom affordable housing units in the Central Square neighborhood, at the intersection of Bishop Allen Drive and Norfolk Street, Cambridge.

Historic Restoration

Affordable Housing




Winslow Architect



Completion Date

September 2015

Multi-Family Residential

This historic preservation renovation project of four buildings presented significant design challenges relating to historic preservation. Just-A-Start, Winslow Architects, and Curtis Construction teamed to design and build creative solutions. Curtis was tasked with preserving the historic character of the circa 1880’s building while bring it up to code, providing energy efficiencies and providing ADA accessibility for certain apartments.

The 32 apartments in four buildings were originally built in the 1880s and were renovated keeping the original architecture. The renovation’s design was provided by Winslow Architects of Arlington, MA.

Restoring these historical buildings to their original architectural design comprised of new doors, the de-leading of old painted surfaces and new paint, the removal of vinyl siding and the restoration of the architectural details of the historic buildings.

The project included energy efficient windows and new insulation, upgraded kitchens and bathrooms, new flooring, and a high efficiency boiler.

Awarded 2016 Cambridge Historical Preservation Award

Awarded preservation recognition because of its project team’s painstaking careful attention to historic detail throughout the process.

The renovation presented significant design challenges relating to historic preservation.  Just-A-Start, Winslow Architects, and Curtis Construction teamed to design and build creative solutions.

Key accomplishments are the establishment of a new fire sprinkler system throughout each unit where previously there had been none, upgraded fire alarm systems, conversion of selected apartments to ADA handicap accessibility, abatement of lead paint and asbestos, new energy efficient boilers, thermal insulation upgrades as well as new kitchens and baths.

All of the above was accomplished while providing an extensive replication of the buildings’ original exteriors. The team was asked to replicate the original detailing for these buildings. Working closely with the Cambridge Historical Commission, using photographs of the original structures, many of the original details were recreated using modern materials.

Permission was granted from CHC to use cementitious clapboard siding as a way of achieving the desired results while providing a weather-tight siding that is not subject to water damage. This use of cementitious siding is unique for historic preservation and allowed the dual goal of preservation and building efficiency as well as use of sourced woods that are particularly resistant to weather damage, brought from New Zealand. The team worked with CHC to select siding colors to make certain that the materials met their requirements for consistency with the historic character of the buildings.

A system was designed and built for installation of 1” rigid insulation with strapping beneath the siding, throughout the 4 building. Existing historical architectural elements such as brackets, columns and pediments were refurbished. Other historical architectural elements such as certain copper roofs and flared bands of cedar shingle siding were deteriorated too severely to refurbish, or had been eliminated during prior renovations. In those instances, the copper roofs and flared siding bands were replicated in kind using new materials.

The net result is development of safer, modernized, energy efficient housing units that bear a far greater resemblance to their original appearance than they have in the past 100 years. Completing the historic preservation of 4 buildings in such close proximity has created a transformational impact on the feeling of the neighborhood, while preserving its long term use as home to an affordable housing population with fewer and fewer housing options in the area.

Architect John Winslow says, “If ever there was a good example of how a restoration uplifted a neighborhood, this is it. I am proud to have been a part of this team.”

Project Team


DHCD (LIHTC, State Historic tax credits)

City of Cambridge (Affordable Housing Trust, Historic Commission)

Boston Private Bank


Mass Development

Mass Historical Commission & Commerce Insurance as the purchasers of the state credits

Brookline Bank





Just-A-Start Corp.

Peter Graham /Project Manager Housing Development

Robert MacArthur /Senior Project Manager

Paul Wilbur /Construction Manager


Winslow Architects

John Winslow /Principal

Anthony Macchi /Architect

Property Manager:

Maloney Properties

General Contractor:

Curtis Construction Company

John Curtis /President

Rich Murphy /Project Manager

Phil Fantoni /Project Superintendent

Exterior Carpentry & Siding Subcontractor

SB Carpentry – Norton, MA

Painting Subcontractor

New Color Painting – Somerville, MA

Historic Door Restoration Subcontractor

Olde Bostonian – Boston, MA

Window Manufacturer

Jeld-Wen – Charlotte, NC

Historic Wood Door Manufacturer

Simpson Door Company, McCleary, WA

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