New Project Plans for 1627 Mass Ave!

HRI is excited to share the initial design for its upcoming project at 1627 Mass Ave!

In partnership with ICON Architecture, HRI is proposing a two part affordable housing and historic adaptive reuse at 1627 Mass Ave: the historic Saunders mansion will be renovated into four apartments, and a new six story 25 unit building will be constructed on the rear of the lot, for a total of 29 new affordable rental apartments. In keeping with HRI and the City of Cambridge's goals to add new affordable family housing in the city, there is a focus on two- and three-bedroom units. Currently, we are proposing 10 one-bedroom, 12 two-bedroom, and 7 three-bedroom apartments for a total of 29 new affordable apartment homes.

1627 Mass Ave is a unique example of how developers, designers, and investment from the public and private sector in affordable housing can support sustainability in both new construction and the existing building stock. The Saunders House will meet the Enterprise Green Communities standards and upgrades to the existing building envelope will dramatically improve its performance and allow for the building to be all-electric. The new construction building will be Passive House Certified, with low-energy solutions for heating and cooling, so that it has a path to using net zero energy; it will offset a portion of its energy needs through solar PV on the roof. High-performance envelopes also mean higher comfort and better indoor air quality for the residents. Sustainable landscaping choices are planned, with native pollinator plants slated to be added around the mansion.

The yards around the mansion on the Mellen St and Mass Ave side will be maintained, keeping the mansion’s position as a landmark. Two building exterior alterations are planned and have been discussed with Cambridge Historic Commission: the demolition of the rear addition, and the removal of the modern ramp from the front entry. Because of the removal of the ramp, the historic mansion will be accessible via an elevator located adjacent to the two-story connector joining the renovated building with the new construction.

As this is a transit-rich location, HRI will be providing transit incentives to new residents, as well as providing sheltered bicycle parking spaces in the basement of the building.

Below are renderings and elevations from ICON Architecture, portraying the renovated mansion and new building:

View from the corner of Massachusetts Ave and Mellen Street:

View from Mellen Street looking towards Massachusetts Ave:


Thanks for joining us for the 2nd Community Meeting! What's next?

Thank you to everyone who came out to HRI's second community meeting on our 1627 Mass Ave project. If you missed the meeting, you can access the video above and meeting presentation here. Please continue to share your feedback and questions in the Feedback section.

It was great to see such a large turnout for this virtual meeting! We are grateful to all who took time to provide input into this new affordable family housing for the community. HRI is excited to provide 29 new rental apartments at the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Mellen Street. We aim to have a low carbon footprint in all of our new buildings, and 1627 Mass Ave is no different; it will include solar PV on the roof of the new building, all electric heating and cooling, native pollinator plantings, be constructed with healthy and low-embodied carbon materials, and include improvements to the historic Saunders house. HRI is pursuing a combination of Passive House and Enterprise Green Communities certifications for the project.

To recap, during the meeting we shared information on how many apartments we plan to construct, with a focus on serving families. Our architect, Icon, previewed early designs for the site, including building renderings, elevations, unit layouts, and floor plans. HRI also reviewed background studies our consultants conducted on transportation, trees, and zoning.

Participants at the meeting raised questions about activating green space around the mansion, accommodating transit needs of new residents, the condition of the sidewalk and road near the buildings, and opportunities for residents to access resident services from HRI. We appreciate the feedback about creating more housing opportunities for Cambridge residents and look forward to continuing to engage with you. We will post updates as we move into the Planning Board stage of approvals under the Affordable Housing Overlay.

Draft renderings of the project will be posted in an update soon.


Join us for our next Virtual Community Meeting, March 15th at 6 pm!

Join HRI for the 2nd community meeting under the Affordable Housing Overlay to discuss the proposed renovation and new construction project of 1627 Mass Ave into high-quality, much-needed affordable housing.

This virtual meeting will:

  • Seek input and feedback from the community prior to filing with the Planning Board
  • Present details of the housing program
  • Introduce the site and architectural design
  • Share aspects of what makes this site unique
  • Explain how HRI will invest in the historic features of the Saunders House 

Meeting Details:

When: Wednesday, March 15, 2023 at 6:00 pm

Where: Virtual (Zoom): Register by visiting

Questions: Reach out to HRI at

If you’re not able to attend the meeting, make sure to add your ideas and comments on our site. We’ll also be posting a meeting recording so you don’t miss out on any new details. Thank you!

Did You Know?

Photo source: Library of Congress

According to the Cambridge Historical Commission, the mansion at 1627 Mass Ave was originally built for Charles H. Saunders, who became mayor of Cambridge in 1868. Constructed in 1862, the home is one of the best preserved examples of Second Empire style buildings in Cambridge with a steeply sloped Mansard roof. When it was first built, the mansion was considered one of the most impressive Mansard homes on the avenue, setting the standard for future mansions to come. At the time, Massachusetts Ave was known as North Avenue, and became an even more popular location for new homes once the railroad station in Porter Square was constructed.

Because of its prominent location at the corner of Mellen Street and Massachusetts Ave, 1627 Mass Ave includes many detailed components on multiple elevations. The front of the building includes a three-bay entrance, and bay windows and dormers appear on the side elevations. The original cast iron fence with granite posts still stands today.

Historic renovation of this property will consider important historic details that differentiate the property and make it an outstanding example of nineteenth century architecture.

Thanks for meeting with us! What's next?

Thank you to everyone who joined HRI for our first Virtual Community Meeting last Thursday, September 15. If you missed the event, don’t worry, you can still watching the recording in the video above! Click here to view the PowerPoint presentation.

To recap, during the meeting we presented on the upcoming affordable housing development at 1627 Mass Ave, and talked about our goals for the project, including historic restoration, new construction, and conforming with the affordable housing overlay.

It was great to see such a great turnout! We appreciated the community's questions about tenant selection and family-friendly outdoor areas. We look forward to updating you again at the next meeting!

Please continue to share your feedback and questions in the Feedback section. Thanks!

Join us for our first Virtual Community Meeting, September 15, 2022, 6 pm!

Join HRI for the first public meeting to discuss the proposed renovation and new construction project of 1627 Mass Ave into high-quality much-needed affordable housing. We’ll introduce the team, the site, and the project process. Members of the public are encouraged to attend and participate. 

The Project will be developed under the Affordable Housing Overlay (AHO) ordinance. Our proposal includes:

  • Preservation of the exterior historic character of the building
  • Conversion of the existing mansion into affordable apartments
  • Construction of additional affordable housing on the parking lot 

Meeting Details

When: Thursday, September 15th, 2022 at 6:00pm

Where: Virtual (Zoom)

Meeting ID: 823 1799 8431 Passcode: 1627

Dial in option: (312) 626 6799 or

(646) 558 8656