Sunday, January 20, 2013

NYC 'Micro-Apartments' to Be Built With Modular Blocks

New York City’s first “micro-unit” building will have apartments as small as 250 square feet with pantries that pull out from the wall, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced this week. The “My Micro NY” building, a conversion of a city-owned property at 335 East 27th Street, will be the first multi-unit building in Manhattan developed using modular construction, with the modules prefabricated locally by Capsys at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. 

Monadnock Development, the project’s developer, won the adAPT NYC competition, which sought proposals for space-optimizing units.

“The growth rate for one- and two-person households greatly exceeds that of households with three or more people, and addressing that housing challenge requires us to think creatively and beyond our current regulations,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced.

The 55 apartments in the building will have ceilings 9 feet to 10 feet high with balconies and loft space overhead, according to the mayor. The building’s apartments will range in size from 250 square feet to 370 square feet, with 40 percent of them designated affordable units renting for below-market rates.

Each unit’s kitchen will include a full-height refrigerator, range and space for a convection microwave oven. The building, in the Kips Bay neighborhood, is designed with public spaces, such as a rooftop garden, porch with picnic tables and a lounge that can seat 20 for dinner or accommodate 40 for standing-room events, according to Bloomberg’s statement.

Construction Cost

The developer paid the city $500,000 for the land, and the cost of construction will be about $15 million, according to Nicholas Lembo, president of Monadnock Development.

Skilled workers will prefabricate the building modules at Capsys’s indoor facility in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Capsys is the first NYC-approved manufacturer of prefabricated modules. After site work, foundations, utilities, and the construction of the ground floor is completed using traditional methods, the modules would arrive on the site with fixtures and finishes already installed. The modules would be hoisted into place in approximately two weeks and the brick facades would be built onsite. Residents are expected to move in by September 2015.

Of the 55 units, 22 will be rent-restricted depending on tenants’ incomes, and 33 will rent at market rates. The restricted rents would range from $939 a month for those who earn less than $55,000 annually for a couple, to $1,873 for those earning less than $106,640 for a couple, according to the mayor’s office.

The city’s housing codes do not currently allow for an entire building of micro-units. Under the pilot program, the city will waive zoning regulations at 335 East 27th Street to test the market for micro-units.

Appealing Idea

Micro-units may be an appealing idea for developers, who prefer building studios and one-bedrooms and find doing so a challenge because they need larger apartments to cover the cost of construction in the city.

“I believe there’s a market for this, but at what rent? What will it cost to build and to carry the units, and will the market rent that can attract people cover the costs? That’s the real question,” said Steven Spinola, president of the Real Estate Board of New York.

Manhattan rental prices have climbed in the past year across all apartment sizes, as demand has escalated.

The average monthly rent for a studio increased to $3,012, up 3.2 percent from a year earlier, while rates for one-bedroom units rose 5.1 percent to $3,794, according to reports.

A two-bedroom apartment in Manhattan commanded an average of $4,909 a month, up 4.8 percent.

The city’s request for proposals for the pilot project resulted in 33 submissions - the largest response ever to a request by the city’s Department of Housing Preservation & Development.