The 12-story building at 491 Gerard Avenue in the South Bronx’s Mott Haven section has reached the vertical halfway point. The project will include 136 rental apartments, averaging 962 square feet apiece, spanning a total 130,880 square feet. Signature Urban Properties LLC and Monadnock Construction are collaborating with Dattner Architects on the development and two more projects in progress next door, which are part of a larger construction boom sweeping northwest Mott Haven.
The rapidly developing block is situated between Gerard Avenue to the east, East 146th Street to the south, East 149th Street to the north, and the Major Deegan Expressway to the west. When New York City annexed the surrounding area in 1873, the area along the east bank of the Harlem River consisted of farmland, suburban estates and stately mansions such as the Colonial-style Stephens House, constructed in 1832 on the opposite side of Gerard Avenue.
At the start of the 20th century, the area transformed into a busy hub anchored by an industrial riverfront and housing for workers. After World War II, a steady exodus of local industry, massive urban renewal, and rapid depopulation put the South Bronx through an extended period of hardship. The four-block swath of northwest Mott Haven stagnated for several decades, isolated by the Metro-North railroad to the east and the elevated expressway to the west, built in 1956 along the river.
In recent years, the long-neglected district has become an attractive place for new development. The Lower Concourse Rezoning and the 161st Street/River Avenue Rezoning, both passed in 2009, allowed developers to tap into the neighborhood’s potential. The area benefits from its adjacency to both Manhattan and the Grand Concourse, with its notable collection of Art Deco housing. Parks, borough administrative buildings, Yankee Stadium, and institutions such as Hostos Community College are also nearby. Transit options include the 149th Street – Grand Concourse station of the 4 train and crosstown buses to Upper Manhattan.
A 13-story, 66-unit rental building was recently completed at 477 Gerard Avenue, located on the southwest corner of the block. Next door to 491 Gerard Avenue, Signature Urban Properties LLC and Monadnock Construction are building the 13-story, 157-unit 530 Exterior Street immediately west, and the 10-story, 152-room Hampton Inn Hotel at 110 East 149th Street to the north.
A 26,000-square-foot, single-story warehouse stretched across all three properties until it was torn down around 2015. The construction permit for 491 Gerard Avenue was filed in July of that year. Site preparation and groundwork commenced in late 2016. At this point, 530 Exterior Street appears almost entirely complete. If 491 Gerard Avenue progresses at the same pace, a topping out by fall could be expected.
The two buildings would share a 60-foot-wide landscaped rear yard with outdoor parking. Unlike 530 Exterior Street, 491 Gerard Avenue is underbuilt for its zoning envelope. The 150,011-square-foot building consists of a nine-story, 83-foot-tall south section aligned with the street, and a 12-story, 111-foot-tall segment to the north, which angles slightly as it follows the alignment of its counterpart. The narrow 10-story section at the center provides a focal point and aligns with with the main entrance. The three building segments have distinct facades that visually reduce the bulk of the 270-foot-long structure.
Rooftop bulkheads bring the structural height close to 120 feet, lending it enough prominence to allow for unobstructed vistas to the east from the upper floors. The building provides a smooth scale transition between the low- and mid-rise neighborhood to the east and its slightly taller neighbors to the west. The emerging cluster would form a common skyline with the towers proposed in the Special Harlem River Waterfront District across the highway, connecting the neighborhoods with the waterfront through a series of green spaces and promenades.