11-15 Cortes Street Retrofits


Caritas Communities’ properties at 11-15 Cortes Street are made up of two 5-story Second Empire-style row houses, located in the Bay Village National Historic District of Boston.  Built in 1873, the physical conversion of these homes mirrored a social transition as the neighborhood transformed from upscale single family homes to multifamily living within a working-class immigrant community.


Renovation plans called for converting the affordable residential row houses into 41 single room occupancy units, including three handicapped accessible units and three full-sized communal kitchens.  Caritas identified end-of-useful-life issues, including leaky windows, poor roof insulation, and a mechanical electric plant in need of upgrades. 



With limited subsidy and capital financing available, the project took advantage of historic preservation tax credits exchanged for the capital necessary to make the required improvements.


Caritas worked with a conventional private lender for permanent first mortgage financing, while leveraging City of Boston linkage funds and City of Boston DND CDBG/Leading the Way funds. Caritas also used Mass Development tax exempt bond financing with 4 percent Low Income Housing Tax Credits.

Primary energy efficiency measures included replacing all kitchen appliances with ENERGY STAR® appliances and modernizing bathrooms with new efficient fixtures, along with some window replacements.  Caritas is considering installing solar photovoltaic panels in the future and upgraded the electrical system in preparation. Caritas installed gas fired high efficiency boilers to help minimize heat loss while still keeping residents comfortable, and a redesigned storm water recharge system in order to conserve water.  By routing reclaimed water back to the subsurface, the storm-water recharge system will increase the water table surface and conserve water while reducing energy use.

Key elements of the retrofit that reduced energy and water consumption included:

  • ENERGY STAR® certified appliances including ovens, gas ranges with ducted hoods refrigerators
  • High efficiency condensing boilers and pumps with DHW storage tanks and individual controls in all residential units
  • New roof with added insulation
  • Low-flow dual flush toilets
  • Improved mechanical, electric, and plumbing safety and energy system
  • Conduit electrical connections for future photovoltaic panels


Several measures were included in the project to address the health and safety of residents: installation of a new fresh air circulation system to improve indoor air quality, a new handicapped accessible elevator, reconfigured floor plans to serve handicapped residents, and bringing buildings up to current safety codes.


Annual Energy Use

(Source EUI)
Baseline (2014)
100 kBtu/sq.ft.
Actual (2015)
84 kBtu/sq.ft.

Energy Savings:


Annual Energy Cost

Baseline (2014)
Actual (2015)

Cost Savings:


Sector Type



Boston, Massachusetts

Project Size

20,400 Square Feet

Financial Overview

Project Cost $11.4 million

Exterior view of Cortes Street
Exterior view of Cortes Street

Communal kitchen, Cortes Street
Communal kitchen, Cortes Street