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Worcester, Massachusetts: Courthouse Lofts Preserve History and Add Mixed-Income Housing in the Downtown

Aerial photograph of the Courthouse Lofts, its principal courthouse building in the foreground and annex building in the background, in the context of the surrounding Lincoln Square neighborhood of Worcester, Massachusetts.
Photograph of the main entrance to the Courthouse Lofts, formerly the iconic Worcester County Courthouse, constructed in the Greek Revival Style.
Photograph of the interior of the Major Taylor Museum on the site of Courthouse Lofts with displayed exhibits on the walls in the background and bicycles in the foreground.
Photograph of the clubroom at Courthouse Lofts, with chairs and tables arranged within the domed room of a former courtroom.
Photograph of the interior of a residential unit at Courthouse Lofts with a two-level staircase and a kitchen area in the background.


Home > Case Studies > Worcester, Massachusetts: Courthouse Lofts Preserve History and Add Mixed-Income Housing in the Downtown


Worcester, Massachusetts: Courthouse Lofts Preserve History and Add Mixed-Income Housing in the Downtown


In recent years, Worcester, Massachusetts, has sought to revitalize its downtown through the adaptive reuse of historic assets as mixed-use spaces that include needed affordable housing. Between 2010 and 2020, Worcester’s population increased by nearly 14 percent, and the city has used this growth as a catalyst for investments in the central business district that take advantage of the city’s historic properties. The former Worcester County Courthouse, an iconic structure in the Greek Revival style that served the community since the mid-19th century, had been vacant since 2007. Located in the Lincoln Square neighborhood to the north of the downtown, the courthouse was converted in 2021 into Courthouse Lofts, a new apartment complex offering housing opportunities for residents with a wide range of incomes, while preserving historically significant elements of the building’s exterior and interior. Common spaces and amenities inside the massive complex honor the structure’s historic use as a courthouse. A new public museum dedicated to Marshall “Major” Taylor, a pioneering African-American cyclist who overcame racial discrimination and won major races in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, ensures that local residents and visitors will keep Taylor’s legacy alive. For its innovative adaptive reuse of an historic asset that preserves mixed-income affordable housing, Courthouse Lofts received a 2022 Jack Kemp Excellence in Affordable and Workforce Housing Award from the Urban Land Institute.

Courthouse Lofts

Trinity Financial developed the property with the support of city and state agencies. Courthouse Lofts contains 118 studio, one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments distributed throughout the 214,000-square-foot complex, which includes the original main courthouse building from the 19th century as well as building additions from later that century and a connected annex built in 1955. Thirteen units are affordable to households with incomes of up to 30 percent of the area median income (AMI), and 43 units are affordable to households with incomes of up to 60 percent of AMI. In addition, 16 units have rents affordable to households with incomes of up to 80 percent of AMI, and 23 units have rents that are affordable to households with incomes of up to 110 percent of AMI. The remaining apartments are market-rate units.

Common spaces and amenities connect residents with the building’s history and facilitate opportunities for social interaction and community building. A clubroom now sits beneath the monumental domed ceiling of the courtroom of the former Massachusetts Superior Court. Other amenities include a game room, a fitness center, a children’s indoor playroom as well as an outdoor playground, and a makerspace for residents to work on creative projects. Onsite property management connects residents with local social service providers, including Resources for Communities and People, a local organization specializing in workforce development, family unification, and self-sufficiency services. The Worcester Housing Authority refers some low-income residents to Courthouse Lofts.

The signature amenity, available to both residents and the public, is the Major Taylor Museum, a 1,700-square-foot space accessible from Main Street. The museum, free and open to the public 5 days per week, is a collaboration between the Major Taylor Association and the Worcester Historical Museum. According to Michael Lozano, vice president for development at Trinity Financial, the museum advanced Worcester’s commitment to Major Taylor’s legacy by providing inviting educational spaces, including informational panels, interactive media, displayed artifacts, and a biking exhibit, to invite further exploration of his life history.

Preserving a Historic Asset

The City of Worcester wanted to rehabilitate this historic structure, vacant since the state decommissioned it as a courthouse in 2007, and the city worked with the state and the local community, including the Worcester Historical Museum and the Major Taylor Association, to realize plans for the site. These stakeholders envisioned the revitalized courthouse as a gateway to downtown that would spur the adaptive reuse of other nearby historic properties. The city acquired the state-owned land for Courthouse Lofts and made it available for development through an open bidding process. The city chose Trinity Financial to develop the property in 2017, and construction began months before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The project, delayed by the pandemic, opened in two phases, with half of the units opening in the spring of 2021. Courthouse Lofts was fully leased after its first and second openings and continues to maintain a waitlist for all its units.

Trinity Financial had to comply with state and federal historic preservation requirements, which required creative architectural and design decisions that would meet the project’s goal of creating significant affordable housing. The residential units and common spaces reflect the courthouse’s original uses. The resident lounge, for example, maintains the original courtroom features, with the witness stand and audience seating reimagined into common spaces where residents can work or interact socially.


The $71 million project was realized through a combination of local, state, and federal sources, with most of the funds coming from federal and state low-income housing tax credits. According to Lozano, the city of Worcester provided important predevelopment support through site control and remediation to ensure that the site was ready for rehabilitation.

Table 1: Financing for Courthouse Lofts

Federal low-income housing tax credit equity (Massachusetts Housing Investment Corporation) $11,900,000
State low-income housing tax credit equity 13,200,000
Tax-exempt permanent loan (MassHousing) 14,200,000
Federal historic tax credits 12,600,000
State historic tax credits 4,600,000
Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development 12,000,000
Deferred developer fee 2,100,000
Total $70,600,000

Award-Winning Adaptive Reuse

Courthouse Lofts has been a catalyst for the redevelopment of historic properties in downtown Worcester. According to Lozano, the project spurred the adaptive reuse of the old Boys Club of Worcester and the old Worcester Auditorium. For Lozano, Courthouse Lofts inspired important lessons that are still informing the developer’s ongoing work, particularly those involving the historic preservation of a large property converted into new uses and the challenge of providing workforce housing in a large, mixed-income project. The project has also won the retrofit magazine Metamorphosis Award, the Preservation Massachusetts Paul & Niki Tsongas Award, and the Worcester Chamber of Commerce 2022 Game Changers Award.



The contents of this article are the views of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development or the U.S. Government.