AlmaViva A New Heart for the North Common

Selected as the 1st place proposal from an annual affordable housing competition that draws submissions from students at Harvard, MIT, Boston University, Tufts, and others, the AlmaViva affordable housing development was created in collaboration with Lawrence Community Works for new affordable housing in the North Common neighborhood of Lawrence.

The project’s introduction captures the context and vision, and spells out the steps of an actionable plan:
“AlmaViva means living soul, a vital and vibrant center. Our development captures a spirit that has defined Lawrence from its earliest days: that the heart of a community beats strongest when its people embrace their power and potential. AlmaViva will be a new heart for the North Common, one of Lawrence’s first neighborhoods, and one that is emblematic of the city’s struggles and its possibilities. The North Common has been the site of seminal events in labor history, afflicted by severe deindustrialization and disinvestment, and home to a grassroots movement of nonprofit groups, business leaders, and residents working together to create a better future for their community.

Great things will happen in the North Common, and AlmaViva will be a part of it. For this to happen, some key issues need to be addressed. Affordable housing is a tremendous need in North Common. Median household income in the neighborhood is $26,224, lagging behind the city average, which is among the lowest in the Commonwealth. More than 90 percent of occupied housing units in North Common are rentals, and half of the neighborhood’s households are considered rent burdened. Additionally, unemployment is high, and educational achievement is low. English fluency among the neighborhood’s Hispanic residents—nine out of 10 people in the North Common—is a persistent barrier to job and educational opportunities.
AlmaViva is a 33-unit development with 18 two-bedroom units, 9 three-bedroom units, 5 one-bedroom units, and 1 four-bedroom unit. The unit mix is split between family households earning 50% and 30% of the area median income.  AlmaViva sits on four parcels in the middle of the North Common neighborhood, all of which are currently vacant. In addition to adding high-quality affordable housing to the inventory and underutilized urban fabric, our development aims to respond to unemployment and educational achievement. To do this, AlmaViva features programming that will create a true neighborhood center of empowerment, based on four concepts: educate, make, nurture, and gather.”

Student Team
Tim Czerwienski (MUP 2014), Tom Skwierawski (MUP 2014), Hans Dietrich Buder (MPP, HKS 2014), Thomas Crowder (MAUD 2014), George Gard (MAUD 2014), Bethany Garver (MAUD 2014), Karina Gilbert (MAUD 2014), Elizabeth Kuwada (MCP, MIT 2015), Laura Phenix (MBA, Boston University 2015)

Development Partner
Lawrence Community Works (LCW)