Schoolhouse Terrace: Revitalizing Yonkers

Words: Megan Rajner

Words: Megan Rajner  
Photos: Magnusson Architecture and Planning  

 Fit for the Job 

For over thirty years, Magnusson Architecture & Planning, or MAP, has been a pioneer in reshaping the urban fabrics of New York City and highlights the importance of designing for the community. The firm says they invest in creating positive outcomes. 

We walk the streets that residents walk, talking with them and listening to their ideas. By interacting directly with the users of our buildings and neighborhoods, we learn about the context and culture of their communities. In the 2010s, a project came along that was just the right fit for MAP, allowing them to tackle these specific design challenges.  

On September 24th, 2013 MAP broke ground on Schoolhouse Terrace at Croton Heights, a 172,000 sq. ft. mixed-income development. Located at 43 Ashburton Avenue in Yonkers, it was the first phase of a multi-phase master plan to redevelop the adjacent Cottage Gardens Public Housing site and reintegrate it into the surrounding neighborhood. It would replace outdated public housing in the city.  

According to Multi-Housing news, The Community Builders Inc. commissioned the project in partnership with the Municipal Housing Authority for the City of Yonkers, and the $63 million development was financed with an array of federal and state financing programs. The mixed-income project was a priority for the Governor’s Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council and received $29.6 million, the largest Mid-Hudson Region award, as part of Round I of the competitive statewide awards process. 

 Project Overview 

As described by the New York Housing Conference, the project consists of a pair of new buildings, one with 51 units for seniors and the other 70 apartments for families. Residents enjoy large windows that maximize natural light and offer views of the Hudson River and the Palisades beyond. The new street and sidewalks, green roofing, street trees, public benches, and lighting connect them to their neighborhood. Terraces located at the north end of each building provide residents with a pleasant landscape where they can enjoy the outdoors, and the project achieves LEED-Silver certification. 

The two-corner lot structures reflect the style and scale of the community. With 19th-century masonry buildings surrounding the site, the brick facades embrace the area’s established aesthetic and visually tie it through the material to the public school that it sadly replaces, due to structural damage forcing the city to demolish the school. However, its original arched entryway has been incorporated into the new buildings to create a monumental senior lobby. 

 Masonry as History 

A Yonkers Daily Voice article from December 11, 2012, mentions the demolition of the once existing school. Built-in 1889 and designed by Yonkers architect C.C. Chipman, the stone building that once housed School 6 has been vacant since the school closed, falling into a state of disrepair too severe for preservation, city officials said. 

According to Hudson Valley Ruins by Rob, it closed in 1986 after the City of Yonkers was found guilty of segregating its public schools by clustering low-income housing in one part of the city. Students from southwest Yonkers were then to be bussed to other schools throughout the city in a plan to rework the school system. School 6 was declared to be “located on a difficult site, is antiquated (in part) beyond cost-effective rehabilitation, and the need to acquire adjacent sites poses likely time and cost constraints.” Thus it was not be part of the new plan and it closed. 


“The old school was in ruins, but we used a large stone arch that was an entrance to the school and used it as the main entrance on this project,” Magnusson says. “It was a school the community was fond of so we thought it would be a way to salvage a little of the history of the site.” 


 Community Impact 

These first two buildings, Schoolhouse Terrace at Croton Heights, set the tone for Phases Two-Six in a Master Plan that will ultimately add density and improved community conditions for the residents of Yonkers. Schoolhouse Terrace revitalized this area of Yonkers provides enhanced housing opportunities for public housing and low-income area residents. Because the site is within walking distance to mass transit, including the Yonkers Metro North and Amtrak train stops, it is more accessible to nearby neighborhoods. It’s also near numerous neighborhood retail buildings, making the area feel more walkable. 


The buildings fit into the broader Ashburton Avenue Master Plan for the neighborhood, and extends years of investment in the Ashburton corridor further west toward the Hudson River. Recognizing the importance of this targeted investment, MHACY and TCB were awarded a $300,000 Choice Neighborhoods planning grant by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to create the blueprint for redeveloping the adjacent Cottage Place Gardens complex. 


The second phase of the development was the construction of 188 Warburton Apartments, a $27 million affordable housing development. A year later in December of 2014, Cuomo made an announcement about the significance of the revitalization of Yonkers, and how the master plan for the Cottage Gardens Public Housing complex would bring us there.  


“Increasing affordable housing options in New York is a top priority of our administration, and this project will provide more Yonkers residents with a place to live while helping revitalize the surrounding neighborhood,” Governor Cuomo said. “Helping vulnerable New Yorkers find safe, affordable places to call home is critical for community success and economic growth, and I am proud this project is continuing to move forward.” 


With many voices chiming in on this movement of revival, Holly Leicht, HUD Regional Administrator for New York and New Jersey, said, “HUD launched Choice Neighborhoods in recognition that it isn’t enough just to replace public housing with new housing; we have to transform distressed neighborhoods into inclusive communities that connect residents to opportunity. Warburton Avenue is the spine of a comprehensive Choice Neighborhoods vision for revitalizing the Croton Heights neighborhood, and we are proud to join with our State and local partners to fund the first project in this phase of the plan with a $3 million federal investment.” 


John B. Rhodes, President and CEO, NYSERDA Multifamily Performance Program Standards said, “This green affordable housing complex will be among the most energy efficient buildings in the State, including technologies and design components that will reduce energy use and provide a more comfortable environment for residents. Energy efficiency in buildings is a critical component to Governor Cuomo’s energy vision for a resilient, reliable, affordable and clean energy infrastructure in the State. Congratulations to all involved.” 


The endeavor continues with phase three, the current phase of the six-phase master plan. As told by luhud in September of 2018, demolition crews brought down the former townhouse complex at 209 Warburton Ave. on Aug. 28 and 29 to make way for the Villas at the Ridgeway, the third phase of the Cottage Place Gardens revitalization. 


The New York Housing Conference says this project will create four new, four-story, rowhouse-style walkup apartment buildings containing 70 units of mixed-income housing for families earning less than 30% AMI, less than 50% AMI, less than 60% AMI, and without income restrictions.  


The buildings will have green/high-performance features in compliance with NYSERDA Multifamily program and LEED for Homes and will serve to re-invigorate pedestrian activity along Warburton Avenue and Willow Place by providing new sidewalks, street trees, and site lighting. The New Little Branches Day Care center improvements will include structural repairs, roof replacement, upgrades, new finishes, and new mechanical and electrical equipment to supplant the outmoded systems in place today. 


The $41.9 million project will also replace 56 units of housing in three buildings at 8 Cottage Place Gardens, which date to the 1940s. The work includes the rehabilitation of the New Little Branches/Lanza Learning Center at 150 Woodworth Ave. and environmental clean-up of contaminated land,” writes Earnie Garcia from luhud 


According to city property records, the 21-unit townhouses at 209 Warburton date to the early 1970s and they were originally built under the Mitchell-Lama program, a state initiative launched in 1955 to create affordable rental and cooperative housing for moderate- to middle-income families. 


 The Complex Today 


The third phase of the Cottage Place Gardens overhaul is a separate initiative from a massive makeover of most of the housing authority's units, which is ongoing. Now called The Ridgeway, this affordable housing community is advertised as affordable apartments stylishly designed to fit any lifestyle, where you’ll appreciate on-site entertainment that provides the perfect retreat from the busy world while enjoying our community room where you can spend time with fellow residents. 


Community amenities include energy-star rated efficient homes, LEED Certified Silver homes, terraced decks, on-site parking, management and maintenance, laundry facilities, an educational partnership with New Rochelle College, green space and play areas, and access to public transit. Individual apartment amenities include electronic thermostats, wheelchair accessibility, in-home laundry, energy-efficient appliances, “luxury” vinyl plank wood flooring, and spacious closets for storage. 


Available on The Ridgeway website is most recent news about their next project phase coming soon to The Ridgeway Communities is The Villas at the Ridgeway! Comprised of market-rate and affordable two, three and four-bedroom townhomes and flats, The Villas adds to their continued effort to provide a modern and sustainable living, steps from the Hudson River and minutes to downtown, Yonkers riverfront attractions and eateries. 


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