Modern Living, Smart-Growth Development

Cambridge, Massachusetts

Zinc—and Cambridge's NorthPoint neighborhood—is founding a new trend by intersecting open-space urban living with a wide range of car-free connections. Situated on 2.4 acres, the development serves as an entry point and western anchor of NorthPoint, comprising 528,000 gross square feet across 392 residential units. As a modern, smart-growth development suited for today's active urban renter, Zinc showcases massing that complements its East Cambridge neighborhood; the building itself comprises three staggered and interconnected blocks, ranging from 13-15 stories.

The design is commensurate with its urban location, presenting a cementitious system of multi-colored panels, lending a sense of movement and vibrancy to the facade. The random placement of the 120 balconies adds character and variety while accentuating the project's residential typology.


From the outset, Zinc was planned as a showpiece for NorthPoint—something that residents would take pride in, and that would be memorable and impressive to visitors.

Transit-Oriented, Resident-Focused

The planning for Zinc situated the development in proximity to the site of the future Green Line relocation and extension project by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA). Located steps from the relocated Lechmere Transit Station, residents can quickly get to Union Square, Tufts University, and downtown Boston via subway.

The project achieves the core principles of transit-oriented development by providing livable and sustainably designed housing with greater access to urban jobs and opportunities. It also helps to realize lower regional congestion, air pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions, and reduce transportation costs for residents, thus freeing up household income for other purposes.

Learn more about transit-oriented developments by clicking here.

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Zinc Cambridge | Interior Design SMMA

Designing for Comfort

As a LEED-NC Silver-certified building, Zinc’s heating and air-conditioning system is comprised of high-efficiency water-source heat pumps. Ventilation is provided by rooftop energy-recovery ventilators, which double as a means of controlling building pressurization and exhaust from the individual apartments. In addition to energy efficiency, the mechanical system was designed for ease of maintenance and operability. 

Efficient Systems, Maximum Comfort

A direct-digital-control building automation system allows the major mechanical and electrical equipment to be monitored and alarmed remotely or at the system’s front end. Each unit maintains dedicated heat pumps for independent temperature control and operable windows for maximum occupant comfort.

The life safety system design includes pressurization for the egress stairs and is coordinated through a master control at the fire command station. Garage ventilation is provided while honoring the constraints of the recreational landscape above and the adjacent Green Line rail to the south.

Exterior Zinc | SMMA Architecture

Connecting the Old and New

Pedestrian connections provide easy access to Charles River parkland, contemporary malls, and Cambridge Street’s vibrant neighborhood shops and restaurants. The development also offers side-door access to bike paths that allow residents to comfortably reach Davis Square, MIT, Charlestown, and the North End.

Special attention was given to positioning the development as a “connector” between NorthPoint and East Cambridge. Pathways and roadways that feed into the neighborhood were planned into the site considerations—overall, the design encourages residents to venture to places like Cambridge Street, so they may easily enjoy the cultural backdrop to this historic and vibrant area.

A Collaborative Effort

SMMA's planning and permitting efforts involved the City of Cambridge, neighboring property owners, the MBTA, and the NorthPoint development team. We worked closely with these and other stakeholders’ to coordinate their future developments, as direct abutters to the property. Key civil engineering design efforts included:

  • Researching and monitoring the City’s sewer and combined sewer systems to maintain a gravity flow discharge to a separated portion of the system, and to locate and design drain/sewer separation projects for inflow and infiltration mitigation. 
  • Designing an on-site drainage system that discharged a 98% phosphorous load reduction, to meet the City’s Charles River total-maximum-daily-load requirement. That system features both a temporary outlet discharge and a future outlet to the NorthPoint development system, and involved obtaining a land disturbance permit from the City of Cambridge.
  • Designing an extension of Water Street to meet City standards, as well as to include all utilities and future utilities for NorthPoint, MBTA Lechmere Station, existing property owners, and city infrastructure. Our design also included the future integration of other streets, curb cuts, and an inter-city multi-use trail for recreation.
  • Coordinating site layout, utilities, and a structured parking garage with the future elevated rail structure that will encroach onto the property site within two feet of the garage.