MA Modular Development Moves Forward

More than 100 “boxes” that will create residential units in Newton, Mass., are being installed as the mixed-use project prepares for a summer opening.

Rendering of 28 Austin St., Newton, Mass.

A 68-unit modular multifamily building is taking shape in Newton, Mass., with the installation of the 102 modular “boxes” that will form the residential portion of a four-story mixed-use development. The project is slated for delivery this summer.

Dubbed 28 Austin Street, the project is being developed by Austin Street Partners, a joint venture of GreenStaxx (formerly Oaktree Development) and Dinosaur Capital Partners. In addition to the one- and two-bedroom rental apartments, the project in the city’s Newtonville neighborhood will feature 5,000 square feet of retail space, including several stores and a Work Innovation Center with shared and co-working spaces. It will also feature a new landscaped public plaza, outdoor seating and a fountain designed by Nancy Schon, a local resident and renowned sculptor. One third, or 23, of the apartments have been designated as affordable.

Built atop a former municipal parking lot in conjunction with the city, the project will replace 124 public parking spaces at ground level and add 90 underground residential and retail employee parking spaces. The developers hold a 99-year land lease with the city for the property and made a one-time payment of $1.1 million.

Designed by Stantec, 28 Austin Street is using GreenStaxx modular building technology, a patented design system of units, or blocks, that are designed and engineered to be assembled like Legos to fit any site. For this project, the units—65-feet long and 13-feet wide—were built in Canada, transported by flatbed truck and are now being set in place.

28 Austin St. under construction.

The GreenStaxx system was designed by company founder Arthur Klipfel and used in several of the Cambridge, Mass.-based firm’s transit-oriented multifamily projects—including 30 Haven, a Reading, Mass., mixed-use 53-unit development selected as a 2014 finalist for the Urban Land Institute’s Jack Kemp Excellence in Affordable and Workforce Housing Award. Klipfel said Austin Street Partners selected Stantec and NEI General Contracting as the development team in part because the firms have modular construction experience.

“The integral component for the GreenStaxx system is the vertical integration of the developer, architect, general contractor and the modular manufacturer, so that they’re operating as one company, marching to the same drummer, in order to achieve maximum efficiency for a project,” Klipfel said in a prepared statement.

Green Amenities

The development, which is set to be the greenest multifamily property ever built in Newton, will have a rooftop solar array to provide more than half of the building’s electricity and a rooftop terrace and garden. It will be using energy-efficient heating and ventilation systems, fixtures and lighting and all units will have EnergyStar appliances. Electric-car charging stations are also being installed.

Other resident amenities include a common living room, fitness center and play areas for children and dogs.

Module at 28 Austin St. gets a lift from a tower crane.

The transit-oriented development is located steps from the Newtonville MBTA commuter rail station, which can take residents to Boston’s Back Bay station in 15 minutes and to the city’s Financial District in 20 minutes.

“The development of 28 Austin Street reflects Dinosaur Capital Partners philosophy: Invest for the long-term while enhancing the quality of life for our neighbors,” Scott Oran, principal of Dinosaur Capital Partners, a Boston-based real estate investment and development firm, said in a prepared statement. “And 28 Austin Street repurposed an underutilized public parking lot while providing energy-efficient affordable housing options for Newton residents.”

Project History

Plans for the development date back to December 2015, when the Newton City Council approved the project. After complaints from residents and a lawsuit challenging the special permit, the project was scaled back going from 80 units of housing to 68 and from 9,000 square feet of retail to 5,000 square feet, among other changes. Once a settlement was reached, the ground lease was signed in December 2017.

In September, the Boston office of HFF arranged $30 million in financing that provided a construction and permanent loan from Eastern Bank to the Austin Street Partners joint venture.

Image courtesy of GreenStaxx and Dinosaur Capital Partners

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