Size 500,000 ft2
Program Luxury apartment units, parking garage, retail space
Clients Kensington Investment Company, Northwestern Mutual
Architect The Architectural Team
General Contractor Suffolk Construction Company
Development Consultant National Development
Mechanical Engineer Cosentini Associates
LEED Consultant AHA Consulting Engineers
Certification LEED Gold (expected)
Site Within walking distance to local transit and Amtrak
Materials 90% recycled-content structural steel, regional gypsum wall board and concrete
Water 44% water-use reduction via low-flow fixtures
Energy 40% energy-use savings and 23% energy cost savings
Landscaping No irrigation required
To say that the Kensington Investment Company’s latest endeavor has been a long time coming would be the ultimate understatement. The 27-story, 500,000-square-foot high-rise at the edge of Boston’s Chinatown features 381 luxury apartment units and 2,400 square feet of retail space, but The Kensington, as it’s being called, has taken 25 years to come to fruition.
According to Harry Nash, the president of the real estate group at Kensington Investment Company, the site was an aggregation of a number of parcels, and the first one was purchased all the way back in 1986. The last parcel was finally acquired in 2004, but the site still required asbestos abatement and groundwater and soil remediation. “It’s been a long process to say the least,” Nash says. “With urban locations like these you can’t acquire all that you need when you want it. Small sites are owned by different people, and if they don’t want to sell, you have to wait it out.”
By the time the project broke ground in October 2011, it had been 25 years since the first parcel was purchased, but the timing couldn’t have been better. Downtown Boston is experiencing a developmental renaissance—the Boston Globe reported that housing units in the area are expected to double in the coming years—and The Kensington is smack dab in the middle of Chinatown, one of the city’s emerging neighborhoods. The Kensington’s luxury apartments are as sleek and modern as the other high-rises going up in the area, but the building differentiates itself through its green features.
The location lends to a more sustainable lifestyle. Two MBTA rapid transit lines are within a block of the site, the property is within walking distance of the South Station Commuter Rail and Amtrak, and each original unit lease receives a one-month MBTA rapid transit pass. The building also features preferred parking and provisions for electric cars and has the usual elements required to meet LEED Gold certification: recycled materials, low-VOC paints, and low-flow fixtures. The Kensington Investment Company, however, went above and beyond in terms of sustainable design.
“We have a corporate goal that all new projects will achieve the highest LEED standard that is economically viable, and this is the first major new construction project the company has undertaken,” Nash says. “Our equity partners, Northwestern Mutual Real Estate Investments and National Development, have very similar mind-sets. With the Kensington, we’re offering incentives for tenants to be green, and we’re also trying to focus on more than just the physical building itself but on health as well.”
A major selling point for the high-rise is that it is totally smoke-free, and the design emphasizes natural light in the building to improve residents’ moods, among other benefits. Nash and his team are also pushing to keep the apartments’ tenants accountable for their usage. Previously, it was not allowed to separately meter water use, but that’s no longer the case. Additional construction and design dollars were spent to meter the water consumption of each unit, the belief being that when tenants are paying the costs of a utility directly, they will become more conscious of how much water they use and potentially use less.
“Saving on energy costs is only part of the goal,” Nash says. “This is a very large project, and it’s not likely that we’ll have the opportunity to do something of this magnitude again in the near future. It’s important to us that we get this right, and I think we have.”