Draper Hall will set a new standard for senior affordable housing when it opens to residents in October. The development by SKA Marin will combine 203 units of affordable housing for seniors 62 and older with health-care resources in a key location in Manhattan’s gentrifying East Harlem neighborhood.
This development comes at a critical time when the number of adults 65 and older is on the rise in New York City. Between 2005 and 2015, that demographic increased by over 19% with more growth predicted, according to a recent report from the New York City’s comptroller’s office. In addition, six out of 10 seniors pay more than 30% of their income on rent compared with roughly half of the general population of renters.
“We feel that this is a project that has gotten tremendous support from the city of New York, and there’s a great need for it, especially in Manhattan,” says Sydelle Knepper, founder and CEO of SKA Marin. “We think it’s going to be a wonderful living environment.”
Three-quarters of the units are set aside for seniors on the New York City Housing Authority wait list, while the remaining units have community preference for East Harlem residents through a lottery. All of the units have project-based Sec. 8 vouchers and will serve seniors earning up to 50% of the area median income.
To help residents age in place, the developer has a tenant that will provide an adult day program with home health care and medical services. It also will act as a liaison between the residents and Metropolitan Hospital, which is across the street from the development.
Draper Hall is the overall winner in Affordable Housing Finance’s annual Readers’ Choice Awards for the nation’s top developments. Magazine and newsletter subscribers also chose it as the best seniors project.
In addition to providing key housing and services, SKA Marin is transforming a site, originally home to a nurses’ dormitory and a training facility operated by the New York City Health and Hospitals Corp., that had sat vacant since flooding during Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
The development includes the gut rehab of the existing building and a 14-story new-construction addition to create the apartments and an elevator lobby. The two-story podium is being transformed into a multipurpose community room with views of the East River as well as space for the adult day program. Part of the podium has been demolished to create additional outdoor space for the seniors.
The building includes 200 one-bedroom and two studio units as well as one two-bedroom superintendent’s unit. Designed by Dattner Architects, the units are handicapped accessible, featuring seated showers, larger medicine cabinets, and a video intercom system. A cyber doorman for the building also will increase residents’ sense of security.
The $84.6 million development received tremendous support from the city and the state. According to SKA Marin, it was the first New York City development to receive financing through the Senior Affordable Rental Apartments program, which provides gap funding for affordable housing for low-income seniors 62 and older. Tax-exempt bonds were issued by the New York City Housing Development Corp. during construction with a construction loan by Citi Community Capital covering the first mortgage. Raymond James Tax Credit Funds provided the low-income housing tax credit equity.
The developer expects the property to be fully occupied in December. It also recently started construction on The Gilbert on First, a building for lower- and middle-income families, just south of Draper Hall.
“When the whole community is built, we feel it’s going to be wonderful for everybody,” says Knepper.
This year's 13th annual Readers' Choice Awards competition garnered 120 nominations, from which 36 finalists were selected. AHF magazine and newsletter subscribers then voted for the winners in each category.
The other winners are:
- Family: Courtside Apartments in Miami by Housing Trust Group and AM Affordable Housing
- Green: Tapestry on the Hudson in Troy, N.Y., by The Community Builders
- Historic Rehab: Lofts on Arthington in Chicago by Mercy Housing Lakefront
- Mixed-Use: The Marion West in Seattle by Low Income Housing Institute
- Preservation: Hawthorne East Apartments in Portland, Ore., by Northwest Housing Alternatives
- Public Housing Redevelopment: Raven Terrace in Seattle by Seattle Housing Authority
- Rural: Silver Lakes in Madison, Ga., by The Woda Group and Parallel Housing
- Special-Needs: Crest Apartments in Van Nuys, Calif., by Skid Row Housing Trust
- Urban: Alta Mira Senior and Family Apartments in Hayward, Calif., by Eden Housing