Project DescriptionFROM THE ARCHITECT:
The newly opened Wales Avenue Residence in New York’s South Bronx was designed by Gran Kriegel Associates for the Greater New York affiliate of Volunteers of America with funding provided in part by the New York State Office of Mental Health. Gran Kriegel is a New York–based architectural firm specializing in supportive housing, educational facilities, and public projects rooted in growing and maintaining the civic good. This new building with stepped massing echoing the two populations housed within, is a seven story masonry bearing wall construction featuring a sophisticated gray brick façade accented with lively blue glazed brick, metal panels, and large windows in each unit. The property also features a landscaped yard and roof terraces shared by the residents.
Wales Avenue Residence serves as a supportive housing facility for two distinct populations in need: young adults living with behavioral health issues who are aging out of foster care and at risk of homelessness, and chronically homeless adults struggling with mental illness or substance use issues. The 47 efficiency apartments and 10 two-bedroom units can accommodate a total of 67 individuals who will also have on-site access to social services geared toward improving residents’ quality of life. The facility also provides lounge areas for residents, common dining rooms, a teaching kitchen, computer classroom, counseling rooms, administrative offices, a recreation room, laundry facilities, and two roof terraces.
Following a model proposed by the New York State Office of Mental Health, the building is organized as two distinct facilities under one roof – one to serve each resident population. A daylight-filled lobby welcomes residents and directs each to his or her respective wing, served by separate elevators. Each group has access to lounge areas with floor-to-ceiling windows, and apartments are also separated by group-specific floors to best serve the unique needs of each population.
Color both inside and out creates a vibrant atmosphere throughout the building: a blue glazed brick features prominently on the builder’s exterior, accent tiles breathe life into the floors and walls of the corridors, and resident lounges are brightly painted. Within the individual apartments a more restrained palette comes into play, with sophisticated dark wood floors and cabinetry, neutral tile, and paint tones more reminiscent of market-rate than supportive housing. The units are designed to feel spacious and peaceful, with open kitchens and large windows. Volunteers of America furnishes each unit and equips it with linens, cooking and cleaning supplies for the residents.
A landscaped rear yard offers space for relaxation for both resident groups and raised planting beds to accommodate community gardening. The roof terraces provide additional space for socialization.
Volunteers of America is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that helps over 2 million people from vulnerable groups each year, including veterans, at-risk youth, frail elderly, men and women returning from prison, homeless individuals and families, people with disabilities, and those recovering from addictions. Gran Kriegel Associates is a full-service architecture and planning firm founded in New York City in 1965.
The general contractor on the project was Sisca Northeast. Subconsultants included: Silman (structural engineering); Dagher Engineering (MEP); Elizabeth Kennedy Landscape Architecture; Michael Wein, PE (civil engineering); and Skolodz & Associates (food services).