One of 2021’s most unique new multifamily communities, Courthouse Lofts, is the adaptive reuse of the 250,000 square foot former Worcester County Courthouse in Massachusetts into 118 mixed-income residential units and an onsite museum dedicated to pioneering cyclist and Worcester resident Major Taylor.
Rethinking The Future Awards 2022
Second Award | Housing (upto 5 floors) (Built)
Project Name: Courthouse Lofts
Studio Name: The Architectural Team (TAT)
Architect: The Architectural Team (TAT)
Contacts: Mike Binette, AIA, NCARB | Senior Partner + Managing Principal
Phil Renzi | Senior Project Manager
Rebecca Maybury, AIA | Project Manager
Interior The Architectural Team (TAT)
Contact: Meghann Van Dorn | Director of Interior Design
Developer: Trinity Financial
Contacts: Patrick Lee | Principal
Michael Lozano | Vice President Development
Aaron Horne | Assistant Project Manager
Sadio Desmond | Brand Manager
Kevin McCarthy | Senior Design and Construction Manager
Bruce Polishook | Senior Construction Manager
General Contractor: Tocci Building Corporation
Contacts: John Tocci | Chief Executive Officer
VJ Tocci | Project Executive
Area: 250,000 square feet
Year: Completed in 2021
Location: Worcester, MA
Landscape Architect: DMLA
Contact: Deborah Myers, ASLA | Principal
Civil Engineer: Bohler Engineering
Contacts: Josh Swerling, PE | Principal
Jim Cranston | Project Manager
Nick Dewhurst | Senior Design Engineer
Structural Engineer: DM Berg Consultants
Contact: Ali R. Borojerdi, P.E., LEED AP | Vice President
Fire Protection, Plumbing, Mechanical, and Electrical Engineer: Petersen Engineering, Inc.
Contacts: James Petersen, PE | Principal
Chuck Dudas, PE | Senior Manager
Jason Ngai, PE | Mechanical Engineer
Michael Trickett, PE | Electrical Engineer
Historic Consultant: Public Archaeology Laboratory, Inc.
Contact: Alisa Augenstein | Senior Architectural Historian
Photography Credits: Ed Wonsek
The intricate conversion maintained the regional landmark’s historic integrity and was consistent with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. With a thoughtful, comprehensive vision, Courthouse Lofts sets an important precedent for rethinking large-scale institutional properties as solutions for current housing crises, while preserving culturally significant historic character for future generations and creating meaningful living experiences in the present.
Courthouse Lofts offers pragmatic ideas for architects working to convert buildings from different time periods for new uses. Over time, the original 1840s-era granite building was expanded with multiple additions in 1878, 1898 (Old Courthouse), and 1955 (Annex). Therefore, during the renovation and conversion process, the design team thought strategically beyond the typical façade, fenestration, and roof restoration considerations. Each section of the courthouse complex reflected its associated era’s design aesthetic and construction techniques. Since the entire complex is a designated landmark, historic elements from each section had to be thoughtfully preserved. The design team painstakingly restored original courtrooms from each era of construction, along with main entry spaces, circulation corridors, stairs, ceilings, flooring, stained glass, and spatial volumes. This approach is more important than ever before: As midcentury properties become eligible for historic landmarking, this design team’s careful attention to modernist features and their historic character will provide a critical case study for the future.
Courthouse Lofts also demonstrates how architects can employ major interventions to create effective residential programs, while remaining sensitive to a building’s historic character. The design team generated code-compliant and efficient interior circulation by selectively removing existing stairways to simplify interior wayfinding. Similarly, the design team amplified natural light penetration by removing non-historical infill additions and forming numerous interior courtyard spaces. As a result, the 12 courtrooms, four libraries, nine lobbies, 11 major corridors, and 30 stairs were largely retained and incorporated into the residential program. These interventions underscore the core project vision: Honoring the building’s history while giving it contemporary utility.
From an interior design perspective, common areas use millwork and FF&E to emphasize zones that break up large spaces with discrete amenities. For example, the monumental domed main courtroom serves as a resident clubroom with multiple uses, including a kitchen built into a former witness stand, media areas in the former audience seating plinths, and a restored holding area behind the jury box. In the center of the space, lounge and remote work settings enhance functionality and reduce the room’s perceptual scale. The design of individual units is equally creative – out of 118 units, only two share the same floor plan.
Ultimately, Courthouse Lofts offers an ideal case study of how design teams can sensitively restore and adapt historic buildings, creating essential residential offerings for new generations that look beautiful, function flawlessly, and continue to tell remarkable stories.