A Former New York City Public School Building Is Transformed into Housing and Community Space for Local Artists

Retrofit Team

The large steeple was actually lifted off the top of the approximately 100-foot-tall gabled roof, shipped to Boston for restoration and then lifted back onto the roof in one piece. PHOTO: James Shanks

The large steeple was actually lifted off the top of the approximately 100-foot-tall gabled roof, shipped to Boston for restoration and then lifted back onto the roof in one piece. PHOTO: James Shanks


Owner/Developer: Artspace Projects Inc., Minneapolis
Co-owner: El Barrio’s Operation Fightback, New York
Project Architect: HHL Architects, Buffalo, N.Y.
Associate Architect: Victor Morales Architect, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Structural Engineer: Robert Silman Associates, New York
M/E/P/F/P Engineer: Lakhani & Jordan Engineers, New York
Interior Designer: Roche & Co. Ltd., Buffalo
Terra-cotta Advisor: Jablonski Building Conservation, New York
General Contractor: Monadnock Construction, Brooklyn
Masonry Restoration: Smith Restoration, Brooklyn
Windows & Glass: Diversified Glass & Storefront, Bronx, N.Y.
Roofing & Copper: Yankee Steeplejack Co., Boston

Materials

Premium Mature Moso Bamboo Flooring: US Floors
Custom Terrazzo Flooring: Imperial Flooring Systems
Fire-rated Glass Walls: Technical Glass Products
Kitchen Cabinets: Armstrong
Kitchen Appliances: General Electric
Light Sticks: Sleek Plus T5 from Jesco Lighting
Paint: Benjamin Moore
Terra-cotta Fabrications: Boston Valley Terra Cotta
Steel Fire-rated Windows: Optimum Window
Wood Windows: Custom Wood Reproductions

El Barrio’s Artspace PS109 Awards

  • Preservation’s Best Of 2015: awarded by National Trust for Historic Preservation/National Trust Community Investment Corp.
  • Excellence in Historic Preservation: awarded by National Housing & Rehabilitation Association 11th Annual J. Timothy Anderson Awards
  • 2015 Preservation Award: awarded by The Victorian Society of New York
  • 2015 Preservation Award: awarded by The Preservation League of New York
  • 2015 The Lucy G. Moses Preservation Award: awarded by The New York Landmarks Conservancy
  • 2015 Renaissance Award: awarded by FRIENDS of the Upper East Side Historic Districts
  • 2014 State Preservation Award: NYS Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation
Original 14- to 15-foot-tall ceiling heights were re-established by removing non-original soffits and suspended grids. PHOTO: James Shanks

Original 14- to 15-foot-tall ceiling heights were re-established by removing non-original soffits and suspended grids. PHOTO: James Shanks

ONLINE EXCLUSIVE

Goals and Challenges for El Barrio’s Artspace PS109

The goal of this project was to create a new dynamic urban residential setting within this historic former public school for the local El Barrio and for New York’s creative individuals to affordably thrive and grow within this vital East Harlem neighborhood. There were a variety of difficulties, challenges and obstacles to achieving this goal which demanded a special level of commitment and creativity.

The challenges included the following:

  • An activated community prepared to challenge gentrification of this proud neighborhood. Minneapolis-based Artspace Projects Inc. resolved this by engaging the community in the design and development process to ensure the majority of the neighborhood interests were considered and addressed. This effort was led by El Barrio’s Operation Fightback and New York City Councilwoman (now Council Speaker) Melissa Mark-Viverito.
  • A deteriorating abandoned building, left fallow for more than a decade was a challenge. Buffalo, N.Y.-based HHL Architects resolved this through a deliberate process of building evaluation, analysis and testing followed by creative repair solutions. This effort was led by a team of design professionals whose expertise is rehabilitating and restoring buildings.
  • A land-locked site bound by one street (E. 99th), former E. 100th and the other two former building walls. Artspace resolved this by teaming with the neighboring properties (NYC Housing Authority and NYC Parks) to gain access to their properties on the three sides of the building throughout construction, ultimately establishing a lasting relationship to foster improvement in the site’s surrounding area.
  • Another challenge was complying with the challenging preservation standards, particularly elevated based on the National Register of Historic Places’ nomination language and the developer’s pursuit of incentives. HHL resolved this through an iterative, charrette-like process of historic analysis and research followed by creative adaptive-reuse design solutions, led by a team of design professionals expert in their understanding of the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties.
  • Following the restrictive public housing design standards was challenging. HHL resolved this by collaborating with the NYC Housing Preservation & Development department to evaluate the many restrictive conditions of meeting historic standards while achieving new affordable apartments compliant with the quality housing standards the agency is charged to enforce.
  • Ensuring the completed project was affordable to maintain and operate also was a challenge. Although Artspace was not required to comply with energy codes and standards, HHL elected to comply with the Green Communities Criteria set forth by Enterprise Communities Partners Inc., a national Section 501(c)(3) charitable organization that provides expertise for affordable housing and sustainable communities. The design team utilized systems and materials that were energy-efficient, recycled, sustainable and cost-effective to operate. A project is required to achieve a minimum of 35 points for Green Communities certification. HHL designed the project to achieve 56 points. Final grading and certification confirmed the project actually achieved 76 points!

About the Author

Matthew W. Meier, AIA
Matthew W. Meier, AIA, is a New York State Registered Architect and partner at HHL Architects, Buffalo, N.Y. HHL is best known for its successful adaptive reuse, historic preservation, renovation and restoration.

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