Spotlight on Community Design: Schoolhouse Terrace

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Photography by Ari Burling

Schoolhouse Terrace is the first phase of a master plan to redevelop the outdated Cottage Gardens Public Housing in Yonkers, N.Y, situated in two of the City of Yonkers’ Urban Renewal Areas: the Ravine Avenue Urban Renewal Area and the Ashburton Avenue Urban Renewal Area. The project is a two-building senior housing development which incorporates part of a long-vacant, and mostly demolished, school building owned by the city and a family housing building. The site has been transformed into affordable housing for seniors (51-unit building) and families (70-unit building) with ample public space, computer lab, green roofs, and new streets.

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The $63 million development was designed and planned in close collaboration with residents and neighborhood stakeholders, in an area targeted for investment by the City of Yonkers. The visioning process began in 2010 and continued through a series of public meetings to discuss building typology and amenities that would meet the community’s needs and address its challenges. Since occupancy, development partners are helping residents set up a tenant association for future independent stewardship.

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The two structures reflect the style and scale of the community. Brick facades on the Ashburton Avenue frontage embrace the area’s established vernacular and aesthetically acknowledge the preserved public school whose original arched entryway is incorporated into the new construction. Bridging past and present, the archway maintains a sense of place within Schoolhouse Terrace. A new, small drive aisle and roundabout divides the site adding a comfortable break in the street wall and avoiding a potential superblock. Taking advantage of the steep downward slope of the site, the larger and taller building is situated on the lower part of the site and set back from the main street. These design decisions enhance the pedestrian experience and help to maintain the view corridor west to the Hudson River.

Schoolhouse Terrace reinvigorates pedestrian activity along Ashburton Avenue with new, at grade community spaces, landscaped terraces, street trees, public benches, new lighting and finished sidewalks. Schoolhouse Terrace is targeted for LEED Gold for homes and took advantage of NYSERDA’s Multifamily Performance Program. Incorporating original architectural elements brings an authenticity to new development and ensures its place in the neighborhood. The development provides well designed, high-quality affordable housing for families of extremely-low to moderate incomes in a high-rent city.

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