Multi Residential Restoration/Renovation

NEI General Contracting Completes Renovation of 490,000sf Rivermark Towers

Photos by Mike Worthington

Cambridge, MA – NEI General Contracting announced it has completed a 490,000sf occupied renovation of an affordable housing complex for Homeowners Rehab, Inc. (HRI).

Located at 808-812 Memorial Drive in Cambridge, the Rivermark complex contains 89 apartments in a 10-story building, 211 apartments in a 19-story building, 38,000sf of commercial space, and five levels of parking. Of the 300 units, 212 will be for low-income residents and administered by the Cambridge Housing Authority. The remaining 88 apartments will be rented at market rates. Designed by Bruner/Cott, work began in 2020 and was completed in December 2022.

“An occupied rehab of this scale and scope offers an exceptional opportunity to address property issues raised over the years by management staff and by residential and commercial tenants. We knew that we needed a uniquely qualified architecture firm and general contractor, and selected Bruner/Cott and NEI. Our incredible team identified bathrooms and kitchens, ongoing leaks from the exterior, the existing inefficient envelope, and general aesthetics and functionality of the common spaces as high priority for this renovation,” said Sara Barcan, HRI executive director.

To achieve a sleek, modern look while improving energy performance and boosting air filtration to improve indoor air quality for residents, more than 320,000sf of the towers’ ribbed face concrete facades were overclad with a custom, unitized 12-inch-thick panel wall system. Installation of the new, high-performance facade and window systems supported mechanical system upgrades and significantly reduced residents’ cost of living.

Rivermark before the renovation

The project scope also reworked the landscape and community courtyard to improve lighting, circulation, and accessibility. Common spaces such as the community room, activity room, and computer lab were reconfigured to improve functionality. Lobbies, elevators, and corridors were updated with modern finishes, flooring, lighting, and signage, in addition to select interior unit renovations. Amenities include on-site daycare; retail space; a playground and designated outdoor areas on site; community spaces including a programmed activity room, computer lab, and large community room with kitchen; communal laundry rooms; on-site fitness center; an on-site parking garage; and in-unit air conditioning and heat controls.

The project pursued and received Enterprise Green Communities Certification, a program aimed at transforming the quality of affordable housing in America, meeting criteria related to integrated design, site improvement, resource conservation, and operational energy considerations.

Project team members on the Rivermark project also included Peterson Engineering, MEP engineer, and Nitsch Engineering, civil engineer.

“Both NEI and Bruner/Cott worked closely with our HRI development and resident services staff. Our beautifully upgraded community spaces align with reimagined programming that meets residents’ needs and aspirations. We and our residents are thrilled by the new and improved Rivermark,” added Barcan.

From a construction and management point of view, the combination of occupied rehab and the start of construction at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic was an ongoing challenge for the two and half years of construction. Constant daily communication between all members of the team was required to address resident needs while maintaining the construction schedule and staying on budget as residents were temporary relocated to on-site units while work occurred in their apartment. Careful planning with construction workers on-site, relocation team, movers, cleaners, and property management avoided large disturbances to tenant life by keeping everyone safe through careful PPE policies and relocation plans.