Back on the MAP
When the economy turns unpredictable and wallets start to tighten, demand for well-designed affordable housing remains strong. One design firm, Magnusson Architecture and Planning (MAP), has discovered this successful niche. MAP has specialized in subsidized housing for moderate and middle income families in revitalizing urban areas, as well as in master planning and community development, since its founding in 1985.
Although MAP took a detour and merged with a large healthcare design firm in 1998, last year MAP was re-launched by two of its initial principals, Magnus Magnusson, AIA and Petr Stand, APA, with the addition of a third, Joseph Lengeling, AIA.
Today the firm is working to further reinforce its reputation in the housing market, expanding into “market-rate” design, while also moving towards establishing an educational practice.
“With the addition of Joe we are able to tap into his vast educational experience,” says Magnusson. “He was project designer for Stuyvesant High School’s latest facility in downtown Manhattan, and we hope to leverage his experience in this arena to expand our practice.”
“As more urban communities begin to revitalize, housing and educational needs expand. It’s a natural extension for us to move into more school projects, especially in those neighborhoods with which we have worked closely during the past decade,” adds Stand.
One such locale is Melrose Commons, a neighborhood in the South Bronx, where MAP has been working for more than a decade. The 35-block urban renewal area, radiating from Melrose Avenue and East 161st Street, has been undergoing a transformation – in part, because of the work of MAP.
Beginning in the early 1990s, the firm partnered with a local organization, Nos Quedamos, to devise the urban renewal plan for the area, a plan that ultimately called for approximately 1,700 units of new housing, 250,000 square feet of commercial and community facility space, and four acres of open space. Today, MAP is the primary architectural and planning firm for the neighborhood.
“In Melrose, we partnered with local advocacy groups to help rebuild a decaying neighborhood,” says Magnusson. “As architects and planners we want to ensure that our work is appreciated and enjoyed far into the future,” says Stand. “When we first become involved in a community, we make sure we understand what the residents ideas for their community are. Our design should fit into the neighborhood’s context and reflect the residents’ visions, not just ours.”
In addition to the firm’s planning and design work in Melrose Commons, MAP has several new mixed-use housing developments in the works in Brooklyn, Yonkers and Manhattan, and a senior housing complex in Middletown, N.Y. Many of these projects are mixed-use, providing housing, childcare centers and medical services, as well as commercial space.
In the area of education, Lengeling notes that the expense of building a school in New York City is prompting communities to seek creative ways of meeting the increasing demand for educational facilities. For example, MAP recently helped a non-profit organization look into becoming part of a larger, mixed-use housing development, and helped the group learn about obtaining low-interest bond financing to facilitate construction of a 20,000-square-foot charter school.
“MAP has a great deal of experience in working with local community groups, especially on the housing front,” says Lengeling. “Housing needs and educational needs go hand in hand in any developing community.”
It’s not hard to understand why MAP has often been called the “Architects for Community Development.” The firm has shown a strong commitment, through its design and planning practice, to improving communities. With its latest push to expand the practice further into the educational market, MAP is truly working to put itself on the map.