Meet Voke Lofts the MHN Excellence Gold in ‘Adaptive Reuse’

Worcester, Mass.—A Gold winner in the MHN 2015 Excellence Awards Adaptive Reuse Category, Voke Lofts is a five-year, $30 million construction project that provides much-needed quality, affordable multifamily housing and marks the beginning of a new chapter for the city.

Developed by WinnDevelopment, Voke Lofts comes at a time when Massachusetts’ once-humming mill and manufacturing towns—the Gateway Cities—are ready to rejoin the state’s economic mainstream. Worcester, a regional hub in Massachusetts, is part of this economic reinvention. This historic community is developing its infrastructure to pursue smart growth, repurposing abandoned schools, mills and factories that once served as industrial centers into multifamily housing, senior living and mixed-use developments.

See the full list of MHN 2015 Excellence Award winners here.

Referred to by locals as “The Voke,” Worcester Vocational High School was one of the first vocational institutions in the country, built in 1909 by Milton P. Higgins, the president of the Worcester-based Norton Co. The building housed the Worcester Boys’ Trade School, which opened with 52 students studying ten trades including machinery, carpentry, and electric work. Following a generous endowment in 1912 from Higgins’ heirs, an addition was added to the Voke. Designed by the regionally prominent firm of Frost, Briggs & Chamberlain Architects, the three-story, red brick, Classical Revival style addition features a three-part west façade with a projecting central mass flanked on both sides by three-bay wings.

In 2006, the historic school was shuttered, and the site soon became a refuge for squatters and vandalism.

Today, Voke Lofts has been transformed into an 84-unit mixed-income multifamily development with one-, two- and three-bedroom options. The development team and The Architectural Team Inc.’s vision preserved the historic character of Voke with its high brick walls and exposed wood ceilings, while taking advantage of the benefits of urban living: proximity to retail, restaurants and public transportation. Resident amenities include an on-site management office, community room with kitchen, a computer learning center, fitness center, a dedicated museum and art gallery, bike storage, a children’s playground and a community garden. Now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the 116,306 square-foot, LEED-certifiable preserved building ignites vitality into the neighborhood.