In the final weeks of the Bloomberg Administration, FXFOWLE was selected to design a one-million-square-foot, mixed-income, mixed-use complex in the South Bronx. A few months later, the firm is finalizing plans for La Central, a project it hopes will build on the successes of Via Verde, a similar affordable development built nearby. It is an ambitious undertaking for FXFOWLE. The firm is not just designing a building, it is attempting to create a neighborhood.
“Via Verde is at the large end of a singular building and we’re at the small end of building a whole neighborhood,” said Dan Kaplan, a senior partner at FXFOWLE. The $345-million project includes 985 units of mixed-income affordable housing, 40,000 square feet of retail, a 50,000-square-foot YMCA, a skate park, green roofs, and a recording studio. The tallest tower also includes a telescope for Bronx High School of Science students.
Kaplan described the firm’s design for La Central as a London terrace that has been broken apart. “We took the super-block and sort of wrapped it in a masonry jacket,” he explained. “Then cut holes in it and revealed a sort of lighter, more luminous inside.” La Central’s interior courtyards will be wrapped in metal panels and Future Green Studio will design the interior landscaping.
The building’s brick exterior is punctuated by vegetated highlights at different elevations: green-screens rise at the street level and trees grow out of rooftop terraces.
Wile the design for La Central is not as colorful as Via Verde, the new project borrows—and builds upon—its predecessor’s programming, which promotes green and healthy lifestyles. All five of La Central’s buildings are topped with photovoltaic panels and green roofs that are accessible to tenants. The project also features an outdoor play area for children and a massive south-facing deck where GROW NY will teach community members about urban agriculture. Kaplan said the site’s programming is intended for both the tenants of the property as well as the surrounding community.
In terms of housing, La Central is geared toward families: nearly 50 percent of the affordable units will have at least two bedrooms. But unlike Via Verde, individuals at La Central will not have the opportunity to buy their homes—all of the nearly 1,000 affordable apartments are slated to be rentals. Kaplan said this could possibly change down the road.
La Central consists of two-phases. Construction is expected to start in the latter half of 2015.