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Boston sees a new future for double-wide triple deckers

City housing officials and the local architects' association are asking builders what it would take for them to put up new housing "inspired by triple deckers" on two city-owned vacant lots on Geneva Avenue in Dorchester and River Street in Mattapan.

An RFP issued by the Mayor's Housing Innovation Lab and the Boston Society for Architecture seeks proposals of between 6 and 15 units for the lots at 379 Geneva Ave. and 569 River St.. They cite the need for affordable, smaller buildings based on Boston's old-school, traditional triple deckers, "a once deeply affordable housing model and replicable building type originally built on small sites," rather than more expensive buildings modeled after stacks of trans-oceanic shipping containers.

In deference to the neighborhoods in which the buildings would site, the mayor's office notes that triple deckers are also known as three deckers.



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buildings modeled after stacks of trans-oceanic shipping containers.

That's a perfect description of the new Dot Block development on Dot Ave. It has some kind of a corrugated ugly exterior reminiscent of shipping containers.


Check out this duplex in Medford.

This was trucked in as four pieces, stacked, assembled, and finished in a very short time. Yeah, the too much pavement is too much, but the building is very nice.

There's another one on Forest St. around the corner somewhere but I can't even seem to find it because it looks like it has been there as long as the others. These are all infill.

No reason you can't stack modules three deep to get three units on a lot.

UPDATE: link fixed - forgot the closing "

how did that Medford house get permission to turn the entire front yard into a parking lot?

Well, sorta. Seems that way in some places. At least it is permeable.

I think it had to do with some neighbor's existential panic over OMG PARKING.

Magoo grew up in a triple decker that had a firepersons pole from top floor to the bottom. Magoo would slide down the pole weeeeeeeeeeeeeee all day long if Magoo could. But Ma Magoo would stop Magoo after about five consecutive weeeeees. Magoo.


Anything but more of those cheaply built, wood-frame, 5-over-1s. They’re making Boston look like every other generic, techie American suburb, and they’re going to age horribly.


As opposed to clapboard sided triple deckers which are known to stand up so well to years of neglect…


never underestimate the longevity of a tripledeckuh made of pallets and old Kappy's boxes.


Plenty of them have. You really think Avalon and the gang are gonna meticulously maintain those apartment blocks like a loving, live-in landlord might their triple-decker?


Why take care of something when they can let it fall apart to give them reason to turn over the entire complex, raze it completely, and build even MORE luxurious "high living" condos that cost twice as much.

This is their game plan.. and always has been. Remember, eventually these "new" buildings will be old. No one will want to live in an older unit, thus rents will come down. And then less $ is coming in.

So they throw everyone out, raze it, build new, and charge 3x the amount more than they were the old building.

I can't tell if you're joking but this is kind of the ideal thing to do in a city with a growing population. Every few decades, as the population continues to grow, you replace the buildings with taller buildings. Housing in a city shouldn't be expected to last 100 years.


How about something like this on Dot. Ave

Three deckers are also cheaply-built and wood framed, though they don’t have retail/commercial on the first floor, meaning they’re only the “5” part of the “5-over-1” idea.

Folks said exactly what you’re saying about 3 deckers back when they were commonplace, and they ended up pushing for building code changes that effectively illegalized them, one of the earliest forms of exclusionary land use regulation (this was before zoning!)

The “5” refers to “Type V”, a wood-framed structure, and the “1” refers to “Type I”, a fire-resistant podium structure (usually concrete). Wikipedia has you covered on the details: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/5-over-1


As opposed to growing up in a suburb, some of us actually grew up in a 3 decker and know more than you about them.

We had solid wood as opposed to some crappy soft pine. We had stained glass windows. We had solid floors, no rot, solid porches. Granite foundations as opposed to poured concrete.

My house wasn't cheaply built. It was top notch. It has finishes that Jeff's crappy new apartment building could only dream of having. Staircases as solid as when it was built in 1895.

The three decker my wife's grandfather built in Brighton nearly 100 years ago is solid as the day it was built. It is still in the family.

Don't listen to Jeff. He thinks he's the smartest guy in the room. He isn't by far.


Balloon framing has significant hazards and so many have survived only due to advances in fire fighting, not because they were inherently high quality construction. The framing in question is typically northern white pine felled in Maine or wherever there were still trees tall enough to get the length - finishes like flooring and millwork are more varied in quality.

Your family may have built their own or properly supervised the construction, but in many places these were slapped up quickly several blocks at a time by speculators employing roving crews. For everyone like you who grew up in good quality buildings I know someone who has lived in less well constructed specimens with ongoing problems like shifting and settling because the foundation wasn't properly constructed to begin with and rodent issues due to there not being full separation between floors.

My 90+ year old mother-in-law lived in about twelve different apartments growing up in Dorchester and Southie and she could give you a good rundown of how much these things differed even in the decades after they were built.

should be ashamed of themselves for all the crap that has been built in the last 25 years.
Architects show their lack of creativity every development you look around at today. I challenge them to name one nice looking housing development never mind one that has one an award.


There's a bunch across the street from ye olde St. Margaret's church and school in Dorchester. Here is my favorite. My assumption is that each side has a different owner.


The left side of this building is fond of decorating his house with trump signs. It looks like as of September 2023, the image shows the owner has taken them down. Finally.

Boston sees a new future for double-wide triple deckers

Great - now I'm stuck with a mental image of with a behemoth pickup truck & a Storrowed triple-decker at BU Bridge!