Revealed: Thessalonia Manor, Affordable Church Redevelopment at 960 Prospect Avenue in Morrisania

thessalonia manor 960 prospect avenue960 Prospect Avenue, rendering by James McCullar Architecture via CMC Development

The South Bronx neighborhood of Morrisania is finally experiencing some new economic development, propped up on the foundations of small market-rate projects and larger affordable developments like this one, a 120-unit complex planned on vacant land next to Thessalonia Baptist Church.

YIMBY has the first renderings for the project, which will rise on an L-shaped lot at 960 Prospect Avenue and 961 Reverend James A. Polite Avenue. James McCullar Architecture is designing it, and Belmont-based CMC Development and Urban Builders Collaborative are co-developing the two buildings on church property.

The century-old red brick church, converted from a synagogue in the ’40s, will be joined by two seven- and eight-story apartment buildings. Their brick facades and masonry bases will match the church, though they will sport unattractive PTACs below the windows of every apartment.

The 120 affordable rentals will break down into 38 one-bedrooms, 76 two-bedrooms, 6 three-bedrooms, all set aside for families making 60% of the Area Median Income.

And the cellar and first floor will have 73 parking spots, as the site’s current zoning requires. But low-income tenants probably won’t use that parking, which costs developers up to $50,000 per space to build, as City Planning officials have said while arguing for fewer parking requirements for affordable housing developments.

CMC Development is still working on financing for the project, but principal Sean Belle told us he aims to line up loans from the city by the end of the year. It’ll be financed through the HDC LAMP Tax Exempt Bond program, and with HPD Subordinate debt loans and City Capital Assistance grants from Borough President and Council Reso A funds.

Belle said he’s trying to convince more investors to sign onto projects that started out as affordable, but could become market-rate with enough private financing. 

“We have a couple sites in the Bronx that we’re considering doing market rate housing, but we just have to convince our investors that it’s a good return on investment,” he said. “There’s always going to be some pioneers.”

Ultimately, it comes down to convincing investors who are unfamiliar with the Bronx—or only know it from the arson-scarred “Bronx is Burning” era—that market-rate is not only possible but potentially quite profitable.

“We’re beginning to see a lot of changes with investors and developers coming in who are looking to get involved in more unsubsidized housing. I believe there’s a significant pentup demand in the Bronx, especially as new projects like the Gateway Mall and more services come on line.”

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