In the late 1930s, developers started bouncing back from the Great Depression, and began building again in the Bronx. They filled in lots on the Grand Concourse with garden apartments in the Art Deco style, giving the borough some of its most distinctive architecture and establishing it as one of the centers of the style in the United States.
Construction was short-lived, though, as America’s involvement in World War II soon siphoned off resources from housing. And when the war was over, Art Deco mostly was too.
But now, nearly a century later, the architecture of the 1920s and ’30s is experiencing somewhat of a revival in New York City. Designs recalling the early iterations of modernism have been popping up around the city, from Cary Tamarkin’s High Line-hugging condos at 508 West 24th Street to a small apartment building in Queens.
Add to that list the Excelsior II, a nine-story affordable housing project planned for the Highbridge section of the Bronx. Designed by SLCE Architects, 120 West 169th Street mixes the colored horizontal bands of Art Deco buildings with more austere gridded casement windows. (While the rendering depicts a clean façade free of through-wall air conditioning units, we wouldn’t be surprised if the final product has PTACs.)
The project, on the corner of Nelson Avenue, is being developed by the Briarwood Organization on behalf of the Highbridge Community Development Corporation. The building will have 60 apartments, including five studios, 31 one-bedrooms and 21 two-bedrooms, and construction is projected to cost $18 million
Developed in partnership with the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, renters into the building will be required to make between 30 percent and 60 percent of the area median income. In practical terms, this means household incomes will top out in the $50,000s for families of four (at least on the date they sign the lease), with most units renting to couples and individuals making much less.
Despite the low incomes, the zoning code will require the non-profit developer to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on garage parking.
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