NEW YORK – Ushering in a new era for affordable housing development strategy in the five boroughs, pioneering experts in housing RKTB Architects have announced the completion of Phoenix Estates II, a multifamily residence for families and seniors in the Hunts Point neighborhood of the Bronx. Conceived employing an innovative approach that exploits a recently adopted zoning rule, the eight-story mixed-use complex features an inventive design that harmonizes with the surrounding residential-industrial neighborhood in addition to adding urgently needed affordable rental options, and includes street-level community-use space.

700 Menida Street , Location: Bronx NY, Architect: RKT&B

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-square-foot residence at 700 Manida Street was developed by two nonprofit organizations: Mutual Housing Association of New York (MHANY) and Nos Quedamos. The result may be a first for the city: a project with 100% of its units designated affordable, and with senior units distributed throughout the building rather than grouped together and siloed off. According to the developers, RKTB’s design contributions have created a model transgenerational community while also delivering affordable apartments that have a market-rate feel.

“The inclusion of senior living units is unusual, but we expect there will be many more such projects in the near future,” says 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.”

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

According to RKTB, development 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. Including senior units made possible a 45-percent increase in the allowable floor area.

Pioneering design and development

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

RKTB Architects brought to bear the firm’s five decades of design experience as well as its accumulated understanding of zoning and other development challenges. The result is a residential project that is both suitable for the neighborhood and welcomed by the community it serves.

“As sponsor, co-developer, and manager, we are proud of the building designed by RKTB and constructed by Galaxy General Contracting,” says Ismene Speliotis, executive director of MHANY Management, Inc. “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.”

She adds, “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 Menida Street , Location: Bronx NY, Architect: RKT&B

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.” says 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.”

At the complex rear RKTB has placed a 7,100-square-foot 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 square feet 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.

For more information or for interviews with the architects, please contact C.C. Sullivan