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How architects figured out how to nearly double size of Hunts Point development

Residents have begun moving into what’s being billed as a “model transgenerational community” in Hunts Points.

Developed by nonprofit organizations Mutual Housing Association of New York (MHANY) and Nos Quedamos, 700 Manida Street may be a first for the city: a project with 100 percent of its units designated affordable, and with senior units distributed throughout the building rather than grouped together and siloed off.

According to the developers, contributions from RKTB Architects have created the model community while also delivering affordable apartments that have a market-rate feel.

Ismene Speliotis, executive director of MHANY Management, said, “700 Manida is living proof that when the development team and the City partner and are committed to the highest standards – without double standards or compromising on quality – beautiful housing can be designed, built and operated for hard-working, deserving families at the lower end of the income scale.

“700 Manida now provides affordable, state-of-the art top-shelf homes for seniors and families coming from some deplorable living and high-rent-paying conditions.”

700 Menida Street.

Dubbed Phoenix Estates II, the eight-story multifamily residence for families and seniors exploits a recently adopted zoning rule and utilizes inventive design that harmonizes with the surrounding residential-industrial neighborhood.

With 108 studio and one, two and three-bedroom units – 48 of which are reserved for seniors, all studio and one-bedroom – the 102,000 s/f residence might have been limited to about 55,000 residential square feet and fewer than 60 units, if not for the Affordable Independent Residences for Seniors program, a ZQA modification adopted by the New York City Council in 2016 which allows for increases in density when set-asides for seniors are part of the program.

ALEX BRITO

“The inclusion of senior living units is unusual, but we expect there will be many more such projects in the near future,” said Alex Brito, AIA, a principal at RKTB. “Our initial proposals for the site were much smaller, included no senior units, and were just not feasible, financially speaking.

 “Then we began to explore a recent Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA) modification, and new avenues to a larger development opened up.”

Including senior units made possible a 45-percent increase in the allowable floor area.

“We have a near 50-year history as early adopters, trendsetters and pioneers,” said Carmi Bee, FAIA, a partner with RKTB. “These days our clients count on us for our familiarity with the City’s byzantine zoning rules. Without that knowledge, many projects stall.”

The design approach is expected to foster pride in the neighborhood. Identifying cost-effective materials and finishes for the apartment interiors, such as quartz countertops and high-quality LED fixtures, the architects sought to add value by weaving a “market-rate feel” into the affordable rentals.

Outwardly, the design presents a façade that feels at home among the surrounding buildings. “The massing is broken into sections that step down toward adjacent two- and three-story brick residential buildings, so it doesn’t seem out of scale,” said Brito. “And the set-back at the main entrance, alternating masonry and metal paneling, and solar shades over the window openings all add depth and visual interest.”

700 Menida Street interior

At the rear of the complex, RKTB has placed a 7,100 s/f landscaped yard, nestled within the building’s L-shape. With spaces designated for active play and for quiet activities, the amenity provides an asset for all residents. Meanwhile, the street level of Phoenix Estates II includes 3,700 s/f  of community facility space. Currently used as art galleries, these areas can accommodate other uses in the future, such as after-school programs, daycare centers, and even medical services.

Completed late this past summer, residents of Phoenix Estates II began moving in to their apartments in August of 2021.

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