The seven-story Aspen stands as a successful example of inclusionary housing. This mixed-use building includes 240 residential units, a parking garage, an outdoor landscaped deck, fitness center and laundry facilities, as well as retail commercial space on the ground floor.
While the market-rate units permit a maximum return on development, the affordable units receive a subsidy with a low-interest bond as part of the financing. This affordable component also provides a safety net as the building is rented up—the demand for affordable units is so profound that such units can not be provided fast enough.
The ability to combine affordability with financial success is achieved, in large part, through subtle distinctions. For this reason, the design of the Aspen has helped to determine its financial success. While the lobby and public spaces have finishes indicative of a market-rate building on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, the structure is ‘block and plank,’ a reliable, yet relatively inexpensive building structure, especially when compared to concrete or steel building frames.
The design of interior finishes is essentially the same in all units, yet with telling differences. The apartment floors are wood throughout with the exception of the bathrooms and kitchens, which are tiled. Here, the differences begin to emerge. The affordable units have vinyl-tile kitchen floors with laminate counters, while the market units have upgrades. These upgrades include granite counters and tile floors. All fixtures within the units are upgraded from the affordable units to the market units. Some market units have terraces, while affordable units do not. Meanwhile, all units of the building are, within their type, the same size.