On the site of a historic elementary school dating back to the late 1890s in the Bronx, New York, a new 26-story, mixed-use high-rise is giving back to the surrounding community in the same vein that Public School 31 did.
“Over the years, the school fell into extreme disrepair and was deemed structurally unsound so the city made the decision to demolish the building,” says Thomas Brown, vice president at Trinity Financial. “The community was very invested and very interested in making sure the site now housed another signature building that meets its needs. Trinity Financial interpreted the city’s request for a signature and iconic project by making an architecturally stunning and transformative building that provided high quality affordable housing and social service components addressing multiple needs.”
Trinity Financial and local nonprofit partner MBD Community Housing Corp. went above and beyond just providing housing at 425 Grand Concourse. The team created a sustainable and resilient development that caters to the community’s needs—from health care and fresh food to education and cultural components.
“It’s the everything project because we tried to address so many needs,” says Brown. “Primarily, it’s housing. We feel like housing is one critical need, but residents must also have other needs met in order to be successful and to be able to optimize their lives.”
The development, which celebrated its grand opening in early November, provides 277 studio, one-, two-, and three-bedroom units for households earning between 30% and 130% of the area median income—from formerly homeless families to working professionals. Brown says the lack of affordable housing is a key concern in the Bronx as well as the rest of New York City.
Local nonprofit BronxWorks is providing on-site services for the formerly homeless families. In addition, the development features two decks with open space on the third and 25th floors and is next door to a city playground and park. Free buildingwide Wi-Fi access also is available for residents.
To address the Bronx’s need for affordable health care, Damian Family Care Centers will open a health clinic that will be affordable to low-income families. Located in a food desert, a locally operated supermarket will provide fresh food and produce to the community. Space also has been set aside for a cultural facility in the development.
“Additionally, in a nod to the P.S. 31 site, we wanted an educational component,” Brown says. Hostos Community College, which is part of the City University of New York, will operate a 29,000-square-foot educational center that will house its ASAP program to help low-income college students achieve their higher education degrees.
“The way I look at it, the city gave us 25,000 square feet of land and significant financing, and we made sure that investment yielded every possible benefit for the community,” he adds.
Designed by Dattner Architects and constructed by Monadnock Construction, the development also tackles state and global needs.
It is touted as one of the largest passive house developments in the United States. Certified by Phius, the development is 70% more energy efficient than standard high-rise new construction. Features include additional insulation, an airtight building envelope, energy recovery systems, and thermal bridging. With high asthma rates in the community, filtered, ventilated air goes into the apartments’ living spaces.
“We wanted this project to be a prototype in passive house and be a leader in the passive house movement,” Brown says. “The state of New York has stated a goal of reducing carbon emissions by 2030. It’s an ambitious goal, but we are embracing that here at Trinity.”
Future-proofing also was a priority for the team since the area has been impacted by prior weather events. Features include gas-fired emergency power for the elevators, potable water, emergency lighting, and life safety systems.
To make 425 Grand Concourse a reality, Brown credits the collaboration of partners. “No developer does it by themselves,” he explains. “You need a great team who embraces the end goal of the project.”
The development was financed with tax-exempt bond proceeds, recycled bonds, conventional equity, low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) equity, developer equity, and additional funds. With the different uses and funding sources, eight condominium structures had to be created within the development.
The New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and Housing Development Corp. (HDC) were instrumental in the $178 million development, with HDC issuing the tax-exempt bonds, HPD allocating the LIHTCs, and both providing subsidies. TD Bank served as both the LIHTC and conventional investor. Red Stone Equity Partners was the LIHTC syndicator, and JPMorgan Chase served as the participating construction lender. The Bronx Borough President’s Office and the New York City Council supported the development with Reso A funds. In addition to the $750,000 awarded through the Buildings of Excellence Competition, the New York State Energy & Research Development Authority also provided funding. Additional partners on the transaction included law firm Nixon Peabody and accountant CohnReznick.