Press | January 7, 2007

Bronx Seniors to Bask in the Sun at Melrose Commons

Real Estate Weekly


A building that breaks the template of conventional HUD 202 design, La Casa de Felicidad is now ready for occupancy.


The result of a dynamic collaboration between Magnusson Architecture and Planning (MAP) and a unique joint venture of two of New York City’s premier not-for-profit developers, Phipps Houses Group and Nos Quedamos, this new senior housing project is located in the Melrose Commons section of the Bronx.


The teaming of these three organizations was a recipe for design innovation. Founded in 1905 Phipps Houses Group, the oldest and largest not-for-profit developer/owner of housing for low- and moderate-income families, brought extraordinary experience to the project.


Nos Quedamos, a nonprofit community development corporation committed to preserving their voice and vision for their community, possessed an intimate knowledge of the neighborhood.


Magnusson Architecture and Planning, winners of two AlA Design Awards for residential projects, worked closely with the two developers to provide a truly creative design.


The innovative placement of resident day rooms on each floor was inspired by neighborhood elders who often sat on lawn chairs in front of their apartment buildings in pleasant weather.


MAP positioned day-rooms at the corner of the building with double height windows that face out onto Third Avenue.


Typically HUD 202 guidelines do not provide for such gathering spaces on every floor. MAP’s placement of the dayrooms near elevator lobbies complied with HUD 202 requirements. These gathering spaces enhance a sense of community in the building, and offer a place where elderly residents can spend time together regardless of the weather. The elimination of doors further encourages residents to use the spaces freely and frequently.


Touring some other urban HUD 202 projects, MAP garnered tested design details that could be applied to La Casa, which lead to the inclusion of details such as roll-in showers in handicapped units.


Nos Quedamos’ ties to the community prompted some unique design decisions, such as the use of cavity walls in the building’s construction. Typical HUD 202 buildings are built with bonded walls, which are not breathable and retain mold-causing moisture. Nos Quedamos lobbied for the use of cavity wall due to the high incidence of asthma in the neighborhood.


“We viewed cavity wall construction as better for residents’ health and we felt it added to the value and maintainability of the building in the longterm,” said Yolanda Gonzalez, Director of Nos Quedamos.


Nos Quedamos was instrumental in choosing the building’s site. In order to reinforce residents’ connection to the urban community, there is a corner setback creating a small plaza on the street level.