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Affordable Housing Will Replace Notorious Bronx Juvenile Detention Center

By Eddie Small | October 27, 2016 1:52pm
 The city plans to transform the Spofford Juvenile Detention Center into an affordable housing complex.
Plans for Spofford Juvenile Detention Center
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HUNTS POINT — A notorious juvenile detention center in the South Bronx is set to transform into a massive affordable housing complex over the next eight years, according to city agencies.

The New York City Economic Development Corporation had been seeking ideas for how to develop the former Spofford Juvenile Detention Center in the South Bronx for more than a year, and the agency has now selected a plan that will turn the site into a project that includes 740 affordable housing units, a new public plaza and 21,000 square feet of ground floor commercial space.

Units would be available for households making between 30 and 90 percent of Area Median Income, according to the EDC, and Councilman Rafael Salamanca said he hopes to secure up to 70 percent of them for local Bronx residents.

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The $300 million project will likely include a workspace for artists as well, and it should create 177 new permanent jobs and more than 1,600 temporary construction jobs, according to the EDC.

The winning idea was submitted by Gilbane Development Company, Mutual Housing Association of New York and Hudson Companies, and Salamanca said he was thrilled that a longstanding eyesore in Hunts Point was about to undergo such a dramatic transformation.

"For years, as a member of the community board and now as a council member, we fought hard to really see what we could do with this building, [which] has been a negative place in our community for far too long," Salamanca said. "I’m so happy that finally, EDC has finally made a decision on choosing a developer."

The infamous Spofford Juvenile Detention Center was open for more than 50 years before shutting down in 2011 following a movement by criminal justice reform and community activists, and it would be demolished to make way for the new project, called The Peninsula.

The complex would consist of five buildings and include a health center, as well as job training and education programs.

Companies including Il Forno Bakery, Bascom Catering, Hunts Point Brewing Company, Lightbox New York film studio, Soul Snacks and Mass Ideation are expected to fill out the commercial space, and there is room for a 15,000 square foot supermarket as well, according to the EDC.

The project would also expand an on-site Head Start facility and add a playground.

Phase one of the project should be completed by 2021; phase two should be finished in 2022; and phase three—the final phase—should be done by 2024, city officials said.

Salamanca stressed that The Peninsula was still very early on in its planning stages, and he pledged to seek public input into the project to see if they should make any changes to it.

"I want to hear what everyone has to say," he said, "and if we need to change this project around so that we can fit the needs of the community, we’ll do so."

EDC President Maria Torres-Springer said she hopes to have the project enter land use review proceedings by the fall of 2017 and be ready to start demolishing the building by spring 2018.

She referred to The Peninsula as a chance to turn the former detention center from "a place of incarceration to a place of opportunity."

"What we are trying to do here is erase the painful memory of this facility and really move forward together with the community," she said.