275 SOUTH STREET – Affordable Housing in Manhattan, NY

275 South Street was ORE’s 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.

The building base prior to ORE’s renovation had anonymous blank walls and small dark entryways at the ground floor. ORE opened up non-structural walls to bring communal spaces to the sidewalk.

ORE made the ground level feel more welcoming by removing the existing high output flood lighting and created continuous, illuminated seating areas around the building to increase the feeling of safety and inclusiveness.

 

New Building Base vs. Existing Conditions:

 

ORE designed a new community room, gym, and lobby to open up the ground floor with more transparency.   Five local street artists were commissioned to create unique pieces to activate each new communal tenant amenity.

The approach to the ground level landscaping was also to further introduce communal areas for the residents by providing continuous concrete benches, native plantings, and indirect lighting to limit glare and light pollution, while increasing the amount of light at the pedestrian level.

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.

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

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 ORE to design what they felt was a true luxury building amenity: a forest of 80 mature aspen trees, framing views of the city through trees from community gathering spaces carved into the forest floor.

 

New Rooftop:

Seeing further design potential in the existing building features, ORE chose to emphasize the existing 260 cantilevered concrete balconies hanging off the building façade by, painting them matte black to match the new base and roof features, then adding a 4’ strip light underneath each balcony.  This had the dual purpose of first: utility by creating a light for the tenants and second: to give the building a distinctive character at night from the surrounding neighborhood and from the adjacent FDR.  The lights are arrayed to depict a twisting, fluvial, abstraction of east river tidal maps.  As the east river estuary’s current flows in two directions based on tied, the illuminated “current map” flows to the north and then to the south on the respective sides of the building.

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