Long before the South Bronx neighborhood of Morrisania was a predominantly low-income residential area, it was the Manor of Morrisania—the estate of aristocrat and signer of the Declaration of Independence Lewis Morris. The facade of a recently opened affordable-apartment building there, designed by Alexander Gorlin Architects, draws upon this history with the use of a rich color palette for a series of rhythmically patterned metal panels. Paired with handsome gray brick cladding, the concrete block structure’s simple material treatment avoids the stereotypical affordable housing aesthetic. “People actually think it’s luxury housing,” says Alex Gorlin.
The 86,000-square-foot project, called Boston Road Supportive Housing, is Gorlin’s second with Breaking Ground, a New York nonprofit that provides permanent affordable housing for the chronically homeless. The organization used funds from government subsidies, private investors, and bank loans to finance the $47 million development.
The 12-story building comprises 154 studio units and a range of amenities, including a patio and garden, fitness and community rooms, a computer lab, and on-site laundry; social services facilities for self-sufficiency workshops, and case-management offices are also provided. “The idea was to create spaces where people can do things together and not feel alone,” says Gorlin.
The structure also features a number of sustainable-design elements. With its low-environmental-impact construction, high efficiency mechanical systems and lighting, water-saving fixtures, and green roof, the project is in line to receive Enterprise Green Communities certification.
Since opening last year, Boston Road has been a welcome addition to the community, especially for the formerly homeless—many of whom are living with HIV/AIDS— and low-income working adults who reside there. “It’s designed to be upbeat,” says Gorlin, “and people seem to be responding to that.”