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City’s first modular apartment building unveiled

By Holly Dutton

The city’s first modular apartment building will open in September.

New York City’s first multi-unit modular residential building was unveiled to the public last week in northern Manhattan.

Pre-fab steel and concrete modules were hoisted atop one another by crane for the $13 million project named The Stack — in a nod to its innovative design — a seven-story, 28-unit residential building at 4857 Broadway.

The 28-unit rental building is expected to be completed in September when the apartments will be leased by a team from Douglas Elliman and Newmark Grubb Knight Frank will handle marketing of the retail space at the base of the building.

Developers Jeffrey Brown, of Brown Hill Development, and Kim Frank purchased the site in 2008.

“We were determined to put up a good building,” said Brown. “It’s been an investment of a lot of time and a lot of thought and imagination, some trial and error, and all the things that come with doing something new and doing it first and being a pioneer.”

The site is somewhat unusual in that it is 150 feet deep – most sites are 100 feet deep. “We wanted to utilize the geometry as much as possible,” said Brown. “We were determined to check out the feasibility of a modular project.”

While developer Forest City Ratner has been making headlines for its planned 32-story modular residential tower at Atlantic Yards, that project is still in the early phases of construction.

Artist’s rendering of The Stack

Brown and Frank are excited to be part of the modular building movement and believe the practice is set to become the norm rather than the exception.

In 2009, they brought on Peter Gluck of Gluck+ architects to explore the options for the Inwood site. “We determined we could do a modular project here and we thought it would give us a much higher quality end product, save us a little time and save us some money,” said Brown. “And basically that’s what we’ve been able to achieve here.”

The team spent an “inordinate” amount of time designing the project, exploring alternatives, and looking at modular manufacturers. “The time is right for this,” said Gluck, who did his first modular project in 1970. “Most modular construction has been trailers; wood and really cheap stuff. This is really high quality stuff.”

Construction began last November, during which time the modules were constructed off-site at DeLuxe Building Systems in Berwick, Pa.

Each of the 56 modules included in the project is 12.5 ft. wide and is designed to fit four across, giving the building its 50 foot width. Individual units span more than one module. Ten of the units have terraces, which were also pre-fabricated.

Gluck’s firm has another modular residential building in the works on the Upper East Side, and plans to add more down the line.“It’s time has come,” said the architect of modular housing in New York. “Mostly I think it’s a need for housing, urbanization, and difficulty of building traditionally. A whole lot of things have culminated to make this possible now.”

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