As cities grow, so does the need for public housing. However, much of the current and aging public housing in the United States is based on decades-old design principles and located in areas unequipped for the latest economic and cultural evolution. How do we maintain public housing without pushing other residents away?
Dattner Architects’ Principal John Woelfling AIA, LEED AP, CPHT explored this topic at the “Reinvesting in Public Housing” panel (SA414) on June 8, 2019. Held at the Las Vegas Convention, as part of the AIA Conference on Architecture 2019, John was joined by Dylan Salmons (Senior Developer, Pennrose Properties) and Dwan Stark (Senior Project Manager, NYCHA). These three experts, each with different perspectives – Architect, Private Developer, Public Agency – presented case studies of reinvestment in public housing that successfully utilizes contemporary urban planning principles that can be implemented and tailored to locations, user needs, and stakeholder requirements.
One such case study is Prospect Plaza. Designed by Dattner Architects, Prospect Plaza is a mixed-use affordable housing redevelopment project encompassing five buildings and three blocks in Brownsville, Brooklyn. It was developed by NYC Housing Authority (NYCHA) and NYC Housing Preservation and Development (NYC HPD), alongside Pennrose Properties, Blue Sea Development, Duvernay + Brooks, and Rosenberg Housing Group working together as Oceanhill II LLC.
Constructed in three phrases, the full development replaces former NYCHA apartment blocks housing 1,200 people, which were emptied in 2000, with a promise to families they could move back following renovations. For over a decade the buildings sat empty and deteriorating. Perseverance, creativity, and commitment led to the successful public-private redevelopment of the site. Prospect Plaza now adds much needed affordable housing, a new supermarket with healthy food choices, active design elements to benefit the entire neighborhood, an integrated community center, and a new public park. The new park is a partnership with the NYC Parks Department and incorporates multi-generational uses with active and passive recreation areas, including play areas for children, a basketball court, game tables, seating, landscaped walkways, and open areas. The project’s partnership with NYCHA helps to ensure that the next generation of New Yorkers will have access to safe, sustainable, and well-designed public housing within this affordable housing development.
Reinvestment in public housing is a commitment from public and private entities, designers, and the community. John, Dylan, and Dwan helped attendees understand how to effectively work with stakeholders to achieve their vision of a successful development and learn how to articulate the importance of design in creating healthy, affordable, and vibrant communities.