Dominique Sindayiganza

The 21 buildings that make up the Ascendant Heritage Apartments have been an important source of housing in New York City’s East Harlem neighborhood since the early 20th century. However, after years of use, the properties required renovations to make them more functional, sustainable, and resilient.

To preserve the buildings and their 359 apartments, Ascendant Neighborhood Development (AND) consolidated the scattered-site properties into one rehabilitation project to create cost and construction efficiencies.

“We’re based in East Harlem, and all of our buildings are in East or Central Harlem, two neighborhoods that are facing significant market pressures and concerns about displacement,” says Chris Cirillo, executive director and president of AND. “It was important to focus on the preservation needs of our portfolio.”

Dominique Sindayiganza

The scope of work included installing new roofs and windows; renovating kitchens and bathrooms, and upgrading building systems. As part of the rehabilitation, the team also installed 197 kilowatts-DC of solar capacity across four of the largest buildings in the rehab project, which will offset common area electricity usage in those buildings and several others in the portfolio. As a result, AND will be able to direct the savings to other uses. The solar array was designed and installed by Bright Power.

The nonprofit had acquired the properties, which were across seven separate projects, from the city and private owners in the 1990s.The recent deal ensures that the buildings will be physically and financially strong to serve residents earning between 30% and 80% of the area median income for decades to come. It also positions AND to go out and do more work.

“It was transformational for the buildings but also transformational for us as an organization,” Cirillo says. “It’s allowing to us move forward and fund predevelopment on the types of projects that we want to do to expand our portfolio.”

Co-developed by MDG Design + Construction and Forsyth Street Affordable Housing, Ascendant Heritage is also unique because it does not use low-income housing tax credits. To finance the $34.2 million development, the team worked with several city and state agencies.