By Tim Logan | Boston Globe Staff | November 11, 2016
Located next to the Porter Square stop on the MBTA Red Line, the project includes 20 residential units with off-street parking and 5,000 sf of prime retail space.
The new condominium building in Porter Square looks a lot like many other new condo buildings: Three floors of units above retail storefronts. And the prices — starting at $600,000 for a one-bedroom — are pretty typical for new construction in Cambridge.
But the way the Rand at Porter was put together is something different.
The building’s 20 units were constructed individually at a factory in Maine, trucked to a church parking lot in Arlington, and then stacked atop a base podium along Massachusetts Avenue over the course of one busy weekend in March.
“If you went away for the weekend, you came back and there was a building there,” said Paul Ognibene, chief executive of developer Urban Spaces LLC.
So-called “modular” construction has long been common for single-family tract homes in the suburbs, but less used on condos and apartments in a dense place like the core of Greater Boston. Urban Spaces used the same technique on a building in Reading, and projects in Chelsea and West Cambridge have been modular-built in recent years. But they are still relatively rare, for a number of reasons, including the false perception that prefab buildings are poorly made, a shortage of factories in New England that build modular apartments, and pushback from construction unions.
But for the Rand, it made sense, Ognibene said.