PS 90 Harlem
New York City
130,000 square feet
After standing vacant for almost 40 years, PS 90, a once-proud public school in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood, has reemerged as a vibrant residential project. L+M Development Partners acquired the site in 2008 from the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development and spent two years transforming the H-shaped schoolhouse, which now holds 75 apartments, 20 of which are allocated as affordable-housing units while the rest are sold at market rate.
“L+M Development Partners had already developed 200 units on this block over the past decade, and we’d had our eye on PS 90 for a long time,” CEO Ron Moelis says. “It was the only unrenovated building on a block in a neighborhood that has seen a huge positive transformation over the years.”
The development team reconfigured the interior of the school, converting classrooms, offices, the cafeteria, and the gymnasium into large apartments with 12-foot ceilings. The building, originally designed by Charles B.J. Snyder, the chief architect for New York’s public schools at the turn of the 20th century, featured expansive windows, and these were upgraded but kept in order to maintain views of the landscaped courtyards and allow extensive daylighting. The development received an award from the New York Landmarks Conservancy for its respectful renovation.
Additionally, the school’s former auditorium was retrofitted to become the first permanent home of the National Dance Institute, a nonprofit organization that brings dance into schools. Residents enjoy a community media lounge and a workroom for craft projects. “It’s not a loft, but the building feels like that interesting space,” Moelis says. “The exterior of the building really honors the history, but the interior is totally new.”
Ongoing in phases
517 units in multiple buildings
When Hurricane Katrina devastated a number of public-housing complexes in New Orleans, L+M Development Partners felt the need to get involved. In 2008, the company joined with affiliates Enterprise Community Partners, Inc. and Providence Community Housing to bring back the former Faubourg Lafitte development better than ever. The first phase, which includes 134 units situated in a new 27.5-acre mixed-income community, was completed at the end of 2010. An additional 142 units are expected to be completed by the end of the year.
“After Katrina, we wanted to help with the recovery of the city,” Gomez says. “Our work in New York had given us some strong financial relationships we were able to leverage.” L+M Development Partners worked with its affiliates and local, state, and federal officials to extend the tax-credit deadline and secure financing amid an extremely volatile economic climate.
Redevelopment of the former barracks-style housing meant demolishing the majority of the outdated facilities, which had been damaged by storm. “Lafitte has gone from barracks-style housing to more appropriate architecture,” Gomez says. “It’s now beautiful cottages and duplexes and smaller buildings.”
Gomez says L+M Development Partners hopes to begin construction on for-sale units in 2012, and they should appeal to both low- and moderate-income families. “I think people are really proud of Lafitte and are glad to be back in modern, reasonable housing,” she says. ABQ