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New Affordable, Veterans Housing Buildings Slated for Melrose by 2017

By Eddie Small | December 11, 2014 8:53am
 A rendering of the proposed new housing at 161st Street and Elton Avenue.
A rendering of the proposed new housing at 161st Street and Elton Avenue.
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Magnusson Architects and Planners

MELROSE — A supportive housing building for homeless veterans with mental health issues and a new affordable housing building for families is slated for the South Bronx by the summer of 2017.

The buildings would be located adjacent to each other at 161st Street and Elton Avenue on a largely vacant site known as the Melrose Commons.

The Bridge, a supportive housing group, would run the building for veterans, which would be nine stories tall and consist of 58 studio apartments.

Planned on-site amenities include a peer counselor, job training services, a computer lab and some type of rooftop gardening program that will provide tenants with access to free vegetables, according to Carole Gordon, senior vice president for housing development at The Bridge.

"We’ll be doing a horticultural training program with the Horticultural Society of New York, which is something we’ve been doing for a number of years," she said. "Behind several of our residential buildings, we develop gardens and farms. The idea of providing vocational training is key."

Gordon described finding jobs for veterans as a very challenging endeavor.

"They’re coming out of the armed forces with a set of problems that are difficult," she said, "and there are just not enough jobs."

Veterans will pay 30 percent of their income in rent and be referred to the building through NYCHA, the Department of Homeless Services or other outreach organizations, Gordon said.

This will not be The Bridge's first experience housing veterans, as the group opened up a building earlier this year at 183rd Street and Bathgate Avenue that houses 17 formerly homeless vets.

Although DHS estimates that there are 1,300 homeless veterans currently living in New York City, Gordon said she was very pleased with what the city had done to attempt reducing this number.

"Trying to find veterans to fill the beds will be a major challenge," she said. "I know that that sounds ridiculous, but as I said, there has been a huge push, especially in New York City, to provide housing for homeless veterans."

The affordable housing complex, a project of Phipps Houses, The Briarwood Organization and CPC Resources, would be a 12-story building with seven studio apartments, 87 one-bedrooms, 97 two-bedrooms and 11 three-bedrooms, as well as 8,000 square feet of retail or community space on the ground floor.

Michael Wadman, vice president of real estate development at Phipps, said members were still trying to figure out what type of shop would be best.

"Certainly a pharmacy type of store would be welcome, or [a] restaurant," he said. "We look for as high quality tenants as we can find, so hopefully we’ll find someone good."

Proposed rents range from $491 for a studio to $1,566 for a three-bedroom—although these numbers may change before the building opens—and maximum annual incomes range from $23,492 to $87,256.

Tenants would be selected through a lottery administered by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, Wadman said.

The building would cost roughly $75 million, and leaders on both projects anticipate starting construction this summer and finishing roughly two years later.

"It will be great additional housing," Wadman said. "The block is pretty desolate now."