275 South Street was our first opportunity to work within affordable housing and challenge some issues we feel are endemic to many current public housing projects.

275 South Street was originally designed and commissioned in the 1970’s as a Mitchell Lama 50/50 building. The 50/50 model, where units are split evenly between market rate and affordable housing, was developed to incentivize developers to provide additional amenities that would benefit all residents within those properties and thereby provide better living conditions for the affordable units. Continuing that spirit, L&M Development, who acquired the property in 2014, reached out to ORE to design new amenities for the building.

We designed a new community room, gym, and lobby to enhance the ground floor. 5 local street artists were commissioned to create unique pieces for each new communal element that reflect the local neighborhood people and geography. The approach to landscaping was also to further introduce communal areas for the residents by providing continuous concrete benches, lush native plantings, and indirect lighting to illuminate the space and make it more inviting and secure.

The existing building when we began had anonymous blank walls and small dark entryways at the ground floor. We opened up non-structural walls to bring communal spaces to the sidewalk.

We made the ground level feel more welcoming by removing the existing high output flood lighting but maintained a feeling of safety with illuminated seating areas and picture windows looking into community rooms.

The existing roof became a particular area of focus for us due to the potential we saw as a tenant amenity.  The combination of the existing building’s extremely high capacity to bear weight and the need to build up above the existing concrete parapet walls to take advantage of the views of Brooklyn inspired us to design what we felt was true luxury, a forest of 80 aspen trees with community gathering spaces carved into the forest floor, framing views of the city with trees.


ORE saw the potential to develop something truly unique in Manhattan: providing an affordable housing project with its own rooftop forest.


Continuing to design with the existing structure as a strength ORE chose to emphasize the existing 260 cantilevered concrete balconies hanging off the building façade by adding lights underneath each balcony.  This had the dual purpose of the utility creating a light for the tenants and a public art piece depicting an abstraction of east river tidal maps when viewed from the street.

Client: L + M Development Partners / Nelson Management
Program: Residential
Location: Lower East Side, NY
Area:  262,000 sf
Status: Complete 2018