Just in time for the New Year, residents have moved into 36 high-quality affordable apartments in Bronx, New York, in The Allerton, a for-profit development featuring street-level retail, community spaces and a sustainable, healthy design by a powerhouse team of experts from RKTB Architects.

Located just steps from the subway and two blocks from Bronx Park, The Allerton provides much-needed studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units for qualifying New Yorkers and their families. Notably, the project surmounts a number of challenges to successful, profitable development – including a small, tight site practically adjacent to an elevated subway platform, among other obstacles – for developer-builder Volmar Construction.

“The Williamsbridge neighborhood is otherwise ideal for building this kind of housing since market-rate units here are renting at rates only marginally higher than those earmarked as affordable,” said Alex Brito, AIA, principal with RKTB.

RKTB New York Affordable Housing Picture 2

Photo courtesy of RKTB Architects

Brito notes that incentives from New York’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development in the form of low-income housing tax credits helped to make The Allerton financially viable. But above and beyond crunching numbers, the project team’s priority was to make the building sustainable, healthy and comfortable for residents, a challenge the architects at RKTB are always keen to take on.

Specializing in housing for New York City and other medium- and high-density urban areas since the 1970s, RKTB has emerged as a team of thought leaders and innovators in producing high-quality residential buildings for developers of luxury, market-rate and affordable rentals – especially the latter. To meet the significant challenges facing The Allerton, design principal Carmi Bee, FAIA, took on the unique façade design task; managing principal Peter Bafitis, AIA, focused on interior architecture for the 35,000-square-foot building; and Brito led the team, with junior architect Giuseppe Spiotta serving as project manager.

RKTB New York Affordable Housing Picture 3

Photo courtesy of RKTB Architects

Designing to meet challenges

The primary impediment to successful development at 683 Thwaites Place is the small site (under 4,000 square feet) directly facing an elevated platform serving the Numbers 2 and 5 subway trains. This presented a construction challenge by making the typical block-and-plank technique a nonstarter (a metal “deep deck” system was used instead) and a design challenge for reducing the levels of noise from passing trains inside the apartments.

“The proximity to the train automatically required a thorough process of review from structural engineers who specialize in work that impacts the MTA,” Brito said. “They consulted on all construction plans, from digging the foundation to everything going up from there. We also worked closely with specialty consultants for noise mitigation, whose work is ensuring the health and wellness of the occupants. There were many levels of review and approval before construction could commence, including an entire report just about noise.”

Photo courtesy of RKTB Architects

Bee’s façade design tackled the noise issue by minimizing window openings on the side facing the train and elevating them to almost a clerestory height, compensated for by openings to bring in light and air on other sides. “All windows are specified for both thermal performance and noise mitigation,” Brito says. Complementing this strategy, Bafitis located only the bathroom and kitchen of a single unit along that wall on each floor, keeping decibel levels well below the prescribed limits across bedrooms and living areas building-wide.

The design achievements go well beyond meeting baseline requirements. The sustainably designed building incorporates rooftop solar panels and a high-performance thermal envelope as strategies for reducing energy costs. The brick veneer and fiber cement forming the rainscreen façade create an aesthetic that harmonizes with the neighborhood, while the units enjoy durable, high-quality finishes like quartz countertops and engineered wood flooring for a “market-rate feel” – a strategy RKTB employs to instill residents with a sense of pride in their home, and by extension, their community more broadly.

With retail tenants likely to occupy the ground floor spaces early next year, adding amenities to the neighborhood as well as apartments, The Allerton is being greeted by Bronx residents as a welcome addition to the neighborhood.