Posts tagged with "Housing":

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Zero Energy Red Hook Green Gets Zero Help From City

Red Hook Green gets a red light from the NYC Department of Buildings.  Brooklyn's touted "brownstone of the future" is up against the ropes after a zoning decision ruled the mixed-use building cannot proceed as planned.  Jay Amato's ultra-sustainable, shipping-container chic Red Hook Green was denied its proposed accessory residential use on industrially zoned land, officially throwing the entire project into limbo. Designed by Garrison Architects, Red Hook Green was to be a model of sustainability in the Brooklyn neighborhood.  The 4,000 square foot net-zero-energy structure would have provided live-work space with an array of green technologies including a solar car charging station, photovoltaic panels, and an ultra-insulated building envelope. It was that residential component that ran Red Hook Green afoul with the DOB.  By law, the accessory residence cannot exceed 15 percent of the building's gross area - and in fact the space in question only comprised 12 percent of the total area - but the city saw the entire structure as too small to warrant such a space to begin with.  Amato shares the latest on the RHG blog:
As of yesterday, my dream of building the first net Zero-Energy work live building in Brooklyn seems to be officially DEAD! ... I was advised that given my particular use, I could  make an “M” zoned plot work.  What that means is that given the majority of my structure was to be dedicated to commercial use, the living quarters would be an ‘accessory’ to the true function of the building.  Therefore we would request the building department grant us permission to live in what would is called a “caretakers apartment”, which would be incidental to it’s primary use.
The Brooklyn Paper spoke with the architect about the current state of Red Hook:
Garrison saw his defeat as part of an ongoing conflict in Red Hook between residential and manufacturing. “It’s been a battleground,” Garrison said because industrial businesses do not want Red Hook to become residential. So Garrison’s lot remains zoned for manufacturing, even though it is actually too small to be used for anything except residential. “Common sense is not prevailing here,” Garrison said.
Red Hook blog A View from the Hook shares this sentiment, pointing out that the lot where the project was to be built is next to two residential structures. We'll see how Amato proceeds from here.  Three options he's considering - redefine the project as an office building, file for a zoning variance with its requisite costs and delays, or scrap the site and begin anew somewhere else - will surely add time, cost, and frustration to the already ambitious project.
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House Proud: AIA-HUD Awards for Excellence

Four housing projects were spotlighted today by the American Institute of Architects' Housing & Custom Residential Knowledge Community and the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development as laudable examples of affordable housing architecture, neighborhood design, participatory design, and accessibility. Category 1: Excellence in Affordable Housing Design Paseo Senter at Coyote Creek, San Jose, Calif. David Baker + Partners, Architects A new urban district, this affordable neighborhood fronts a newly created main walking street, or Paseo, that connects the arterial roadway to the area’s adjacent park. At its midpoint, the Paseo widens into a public plaza that holds the main entries to the two residential districts. The bold color palette has proved extremely popular with residents and the community, who consider the project a signature addition to the neighborhood. The property is 100% handicapped- and wheelchair-accessible, and the pool features an automatic lift. Category 2: Creating Community Connection Award Arbor Lofts, Lancaster, Calif. (Pictured at top) PSL Architects This 21-unit affordable housing development for artists is the first urban infill project to be completed since the city implemented its new Downtown Specific Plan to transform this mostly vacant city area into a place of historic, cultural, social, economic and civic vitality. The design incorporates many sustainable design methods; among these, the use of high efficiency mechanical systems qualifies the design to exceed California Title 24 Energy Code requirements by 20% and the lighting system exceeds the requirements by 24% which significantly reduces the use of energy. Category 3: Community-Informed Design Award Congo Street Green Initiative, Dallas building community WORKSHOP A tight-knit community consisting of 17 single-family and duplex houses, all built before 1910, recognized the need for re-development, but also did not want to relocate. Through a series of conversations with the residents, a plan was developed to restore and/or reconstruct six owner-occupied homes. The idea is centered around the concept of creating a temporary home, or “holding house,” to house the family whose home was currently under renovation. To date, three resident’s homes have been completed and the fourth is under construction. Category 4: Housing Accessibility—Alan J. Rothman Award Madrona Live / Work, Seattle Tyler Engle Architects PS A converted storefront built in the early 1900’s for a client with an extensive art collection required a flexible and multi-functional space that provides wheelchair accessibility while not making that the primary focus of the design. Entering from the sidewalk, the main living space has a single level polished concrete slab for unrestricted wheelchair access. A floating concrete countertop that steps from low to high accommodates disparate height requirements of the clients and exemplifies how the design provides an elegant solution on a tight construction budget. The jury for the 2010 AIA/HUD Secretary Awards includes: Jury chair, Andrew V. Porth, AIA, Porth Architects, Inc.; Natalye Appel, FAIA, Natalye Appel + Associates Architects; Geoffrey Goldberg, AIA, G. Goldberg and Associates; Grace Kim, AIA, Schemata Workshop; Jane Kolleeny, Architectural Record and GreenSource; Luis F. Borray, Assoc. AIA, U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development and Regina C. Gray, PhD, U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development.
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Harlem In Bloom

A crumbling row of ten Renaissance Revival apartment buildings, which were once the first black-owned property in North Harlem, are about to be remade again as one of a growing number of affordable, sustainable housing complexes sprouting up across the city. The project, which according to the Daily News, is set to begin by year's end, is being tackled by affordable housing guru Jonathan Rose and his Smart Growth Investment fund, who bought the buildings in January as the fund's first acquisition in its cheap-and-green portfolio. Dattner Architects, experts on both affordable and sustainable housing, is responsible for the retrofits [PDF], which include a photovoltaic array on the roof, efficient energy systems, lighting controls, new windows and insulation, and sustainably sourced materials. In addition to making it a more conscientious project, it also makes it a more feasible one, as these features open it up to stimulus and HUD moneys targeted at sustainable buildings—to the tune of $3 million.
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You Windermere Some, You Lose Some

The Observer is reporting that Windermere, an individual landmark dating from the late 19th Century located on West 57th Street, was recently purchased for $13 million, or an astounding $181-per-square-foot. The sumptuous red brick apartment building had fallen into disrepair some years ago after its Japanese owner apparently lost interest in it, leading to a lawsuit we covered last year. Last Thursday, the commission announced [PDF] a landmark victory in its civil suit, which netted a record $1.1 million payment to the city, $2.6 million for seven displaced tenants of the former SRO, and an agreement from the new owner of the building to restore it to its former glory. (The suits had to be settled before the sale could go through.) So it looks like a win-win for everyone: An affordable gem for some enterprising developers, a windfall for the city, and a victory, most importantly, for those poor tenants.
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HOUSEpital

On the popular Fox doctor drama House, actor Hugh Laurie plays an acerbic, yet ingenious infectious disease specialist whose curmudgeonly ways, drug use, unrepentant machinations, and sadistic treatment of patients has earned the show—now in its fifth season—an enormous and dedicated following. The series unfolds at the fictitious Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital, where, segment after segment, Dr. House and his team bicker, sneer, and get to the bottom of rare medical afflictions, killing off the odd invalid from time to time. Well, the stage for this gripping serial need not remain a figment much longer: the utterly factual Princeton hospital has recently announced that it will soon move its facilities to a brand new home in none other than Plainsboro, New Jersey! The new $440 million hospital, to be known as the University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro (UMCPP), has been designed as a joint venture between RMJM and HOK and is scheduled for a 2011 completion. It will combine facilities for the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, including 238 private patient rooms, areas for families to spend the night, and operating rooms designed to accommodate robotics. The project will feature green-era perks, such as 100-percent fresh air ventilation, sustainable finishes, and energy efficiency controls. Digital technologies will also be employed in the form of self-check-in kiosks and computerized record keeping. UMCPP will act as the centerpiece of a 160-acre healthcare campus that will also include a medical office building, a nursing unit, a health education center, a fitness and wellness center, a senior residential community, and a 32-acre public park. With all of these amenities, it's hard to imagine what the cantankerous Dr. House would find to gripe about!
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Obama Goes Home

President-elect Barack Obama gave a half-hour interview to CNBC tonight (full interview here, transcript here) that was impressively policy heavy--a real treat for the wonks out there, though who isn't these days--in advance of the unveiling of his nearly $800 billion stimulus package tomorrow. One of the issues he necessarily touched upon was the housing crisis (video), given its place at the center of the current meltdown.
I think the most important thing when it comes to declining home values is, number one, preventing further foreclosures. That just erodes home values across the board. And that's why I think for those of us who are still paying a mortage--you know, you hear sometimes folks up in the country say, 'Well, I've been responsible. Why should I provide any help to somebody who maybe took out a mortgage that they couldn't afford.' Well, this goes back to the adage that if your neighbor's house is burning, you got to first worry about putting out the house, even if they'd acted irresponsibly. I think that's true when it comes to foreclosures as well. We've got to prevent the continuing deterioration of the housing market.
Sadly, he didn't say much more on the subject, except that we need to make long-term investments as well, like "weatheriz[ing] homes all across the country, which can "drastically cut the country's energy bills, increase energy independence, [and] reduce global greenhouse gases." As for his stimulus plan, he didn't say much about that, either--presumably he's saving all the fireworks for tomorrow--but without mentioning infrastructure once, or saying much about new housing or other construction, we're a little worried. After all, we need him now more than ever.
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No One Buying New Housing Marketplace

There has been a lot of talk lately about how it is now up to the government to spend stimulate our way out of the current economic doldrums, and how much of that will come through infrastructure spending. One place where such investment is critically important is affordable housing, especially in light of all the foreclosures. While New York has fared better than other areas on that front, it is still unwelcome news that the city has rolled back the timeline for its New Housing Marketplace Plan. Back on December 14, Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave one of his weekly radio addresses, which focused on the rising foreclosure rate and how his administration was coping with the challenges that presented (text). In addition to mentioning expanded mortgage advice and anti-abandonment measures, the mayor highlighted the New Housing Marketplace Plan, which is run by the city's Department of Housing and Preservation:
"The New Housing Marketplace - our Administration's affordable housing initiative, and the most ambitious such effort ever made by an American city. Our ten-year goal is to fund development and preservation of 165,000 homes - enough to house the entire population of Atlanta."
But, the mayor continued:
"Now, with the economy stalling and even the most qualified developers having a hard time getting credit, we know we can't keep that pace up. So we're stretching out our schedule for completing the second half of our housing program to six years instead of the five years we'd planned for at first." [Emphasis added.]
As the Times pointed out today, "Mr. Bloomberg announced the extension in December during a speech and in one of his weekly radio addresses, neither of which received much attention beyond housing advocates." Whether it was impacted by the news the day before that HPD head Shaun Donovan would be taking over HUD for the Obama administration, we're also not sure (the HPD press office has yet to return our call). But according to the Times, a spokesman for the mayor said the extension was tied to Bloomberg's announcement in May that he would stretch a four-year construction plan for the city to five years amid signs of a declining economy. Still, this isn't exactly news. In September, when the mayor was trumpeting the successes of the program at its halfway mark, the Observer was already calling them into question. Eliot Brown reported that the administration was already shifting gears:
[A]s the financial industry hits major turbulence and the city’s once lush climate for development turns dry, the Bloomberg administration is struggling to meet its goals for new construction (currently targeted at 91,637 units) and will likely need to shift the balance more toward preservation (73,395 units).... Although city officials say the original plan emphasized preservation in its early years, the reality of an inclement market has caused reevaluation, and the administration says it will likely need to lower its goals for creating new units, and increase its goals for preserving current ones.
There are other factors at play, such as the impact of changes to the 421-a tax program, which, along with inclusionary housing bonuses--like those in many recent rezonings--encourage for-profit developers to include low and moderate income housing in their projects through tax breaks. But still, with the paucity of credit having dragged the city's construction sector to a halt and many predictions of a new recession, what the administration can do to continue to stimulate affordable housing remains an open question. This is especially bad news for out-of-work architects given all the affordable housing work they've had of late. Perhaps the mayor should try giving Secretary Donovan a call.
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The Downturn of the McMansion?

 <bobs>/flickr
Amid the anxiety, speculation, and real hardship caused by the ongoing economic downturn, the provocative thesis of this Washington Post article stands out, which, if correct, could hold a silver lining for architects. Reporter Elizabeth Razzi interviews housing historian Virginia McAlester about how previous periods of economic declines shaped consumer demand for housing. The answer is simple and somewhat obvious: the demand for small houses rises. Her predictions for this cycle are less so. While McAlester argues the downturn of Depression through World War II, and the resulting shortage of materials, led to the construction of smaller houses, specifically Levittown and its progeny, she argues that this cycle could lead to a different landscape. While she argues that McMansions, with their multiple gables and double height foyers, will fall out of fashion, they will not be replaced with rows of modest Cape Cods repeated in endless rows. She argues that some McMansions will be converted into multiple unit “manor houses.” New construction, she argues, will likely be more compact, attached and more closely located to shopping and other amenities. While a spokesman for the National Association of Homebuilders refutes some of McAlester’s predictions, he agrees that highly energy efficient houses will be increasingly in demand.
deatonstreet/flickr
What could this mean for architects? While many architects design lavish, over-scaled homes, speculative builders, who rarely employ architects, dominate the McMansion segment of the market. Architects have for the past twenty years, been increasingly designing mixed-use buildings and districts, as well as compact, urban, and green projects. So it seems logical, then, that developers who are looking to salvage their unfinished subdivisions or respond to future demand may give enterprising architects a fresh look.

Hope for Housing (Update: And Carrión)

President-elect Barack Obama named Shaun Donovan, chair of the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD bio), to serve as his Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. The announcement came during his weekly web-address: AN had heard from a number sources that Donovan--an outside candidate--had taken a month off in late October and early November to prepare a white paper on affordable housing for the Obama campaign, though HPD did not return numerous calls seeking confirmation on this or his possible nomination. Well, now it's official. If confirmed, Donovan will be returning Washington, where he served as Deputy Assistant Commissioner for Multi-Family Housing in the Clinton Administration. A graduate of Harvard, Donovan has been acclaimed for his work on the mayor's New Housing Marketplace plan, which seeks to create 165,000 affordable units over a decade through construction and preservation. Get acquainted with the appointee's thoughts on housing policy, which AN published after a chat with Donovan last year. Update: Both Posts--that being The New York Post and The Washington Post--are reporting that Bronx Borough President Adolofo Carrión Jr. will serve as Director of Urban Policy for the Obama administration. The Bronx Beep had been also in the running for the HUD position, though whether he has been awarded a greater or lesser prize remains to be seen as the exact mandate of directorship has yet to be laid out by the administration, as we reported. Carrión is less known for his work on land-use issues than his compatriots in Manhattan and Brooklyn--partly a result of the relative levels of development in each borough--though the Baychester-raised Bronxite did receive a masters in planning from Hunter, according to his official biography, followed by stints at the Department of City Planning, Bronx CB5, and local non-profit developer Promesa before he moved to City Council and then the borough presidents office. Politco points out that the number of New Yorkers in Obama's cabinet is beginning to rival the number of Illini there, which hopefully means the Feds will stop ignoring the city as it has in the past.