Waverley Woods Ribbon Cutting

On Thursday, June 4, Affirmative Investments hosted the grand opening of the Waverley Woods Apartments on Trapelo Road in Belmont, MA. Waverley Woods includes 40 units of newly constructed affordable rental housing units within six 2.5 story structures, on-site tot lot, management office, and parking. All of the homes are Low-Income Housing Tax Credit units.

Special Constraints. The Town of Belmont is a wealthy primarily residential suburb that is known for its mansion-filled Belmont Hill neighborhood. Only 3.2% of the town’s 9,900 homes are considered “affordable” by the Department of Housing & Community Development. To address this deficit, in 1999, Belmont adopted a zoning by-law and a Memorandum of Agreement for the redevelopment of the massive McLean Hospital site. A tiny corner of the site was set aside for the construction of affordable housing.

Site Description. The 1.34 acre property was notable for its “undevelopable” qualities: severe slope (36’ of grade change from front to back), ledge outcroppings, scraggly tree growth, and at-grade exposure to heavy traffic on one edge. On the other hand, the site is in close proximity to Waverley Square- a multi-modal transportation node, and other commercial and open-space amenities.

Design Solution. In order to address the slope of the site and to distance the housing from the traffic in an aesthetically satisfying manner, the site was shaped to create terraces of housing that reflect the natural slope and blend the buildings into the landscape. From the central parking court, the lower buildings appear to only be 1-1/2 stories tall, as the first floor is built down onto the first terrace. A series of bridges connect the parking court to the middle level of the lower line of buildings. Full-site accessibility is achieved through gently sloped walkways joined by a lift that connects the parking court to the lower terrace.

A new stone-faced, multi-layered, landscaped retaining wall system provides an attractive “gateway” into Belmont. The wall is set back to provide space for a wide sidewalk, as well as a planting strip for street trees.

Planning for Waverley woods started with an open green charrette at Town Hall where the community joined with the development team and Belmont’s “green” organization, Sustainable Belmont, to brainstorm strategies to make the development as green as possible. In the end, the project exceeds DHCD’s requirements for sustainable housing, and all units meet the Energy Star for Homes standards.

Waverley Woods has already received four awards including the 2009 Charles L. Edson Tax Credit Excellence Award for Green Housing (Honorable Mention) from the Affordable Housing Tax Credit Coalition, and the John M. Clancy Award for Socially Responsible Housing from the Boston Society of Architects/AIA.