Stackable apartments indicate future for city living

January 30, 2013

The hunt for an affordable, off-campus apartment may be a bit easier by fall 2015.

As part of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s New Housing Marketplace Plan, a pilot project created to solve some of the city’s housing shortages, a new building featuring 55 micro-apartments will be constructed in the Kips Bay area within the next few years.

The Department of Housing Preservation and Development commissioned adAPT NYC, a competition among architectural firms to design an efficient micro-apartment. The DHPD received proposals from many architectural firms.

A team composed of Monadnock Development, Actors Fund Housing Development Corporation and nARCHITECTS won the competition with their “My Micro NY” proposal, which includes apartment designs for one-person and two-person households.

“The remarkable number of high-quality responses to the adAPT NYC [request for proposals] validates the position that developing micro-unit living is both financially and physically feasible in the New York City landscape,” said Matthew M. Wambua, commissioner of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, in a press statement.

“It’s about creating choice for people,” George Tsiatis, a spokesman for Monadnock Development said of the design. “It’s also about creating a dialogue about how space is used and how to deal with growing population density in New York City.”

Of the 55 units constructed, 40 percent will be affordably priced, with rents beginning at $940 per month. Each will measure between 250 and 370 square feet. Normal zoning regulations requiring apartments to be at least 400 square feet will be waived for this pilot project.

“We were working with constraints given to us by the city. These units are per code and per [the Americans with Disability Act] code as well,” said Ammr Vandal, a project architect at nARCHITECTS who worked on the design. “But the design feature that we were quite interested in is that we, as New Yorkers, understand the need for storage, so there is 16-foot linear overhead storage in apartments.”

The design concept features two parts: the box, which contains the bathroom, kitchen, storage and living essentials and the canvas, or main living space. Each unit features nine to 10-foot ceilings and a large window, which can form a Juliet balcony.

In addition to the micro-apartments, the Kips Bay building will include community spaces such as a sky-lit gymnasium, a rooftop garden, a full-service laundry room and a flexible space for performances and rehearsals. Tsiatis said these amenities are intended to open a discussion about turning New Yorkers’ focuses on community spaces.

“Many people, especially when they first come to New York or they’re straight out of college, find that they don’t actually spend a lot of time at home,” Tsiatis said. “The amount of space that they need for those parts of their lives that are intensely personal and behind the doors of their home is not as much as they thought they needed.”

If the building model is replicated in the future, it could be a source of off-campus housing for NYU students.

“I think the new apartments will provide a great alternative for students seeking an affordable and year-round alternative to NYU housing while still being able to live in a safe area of Manhattan,” CAS freshman Laura Adkins said.

“I think the [‘My Micro NY’] design is really good,” said Steve Spett, co-owner of Resource Furniture, a furniture showroom in Midtown. “It’s an interesting concept in a building because it’s a prefab building so most of it is assembled off-site and then brought in to place.”

Models of the winning design are currently on display at the Museum of the City of New York on 103rd St., located at 1220 Fifth Ave.

A version of this article appeared in the Jan. 30 print edition. Emily Bell is deputy city/state editor. Email her at ebell@nyunews.com.

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