Faced with high land prices, developers are turning to oddly-shaped lots across the city

But the sites can be difficult and expensive to build on, and demand is increasing

321 East 60th Street (Credit: Google Maps)
321 East 60th Street (Credit: Google Maps)

The future of affordable housing in the city might look a little…funny.

Developers looking for new opportunities are building on lots previously ignored because they were too small, too narrow, or just too weirdly-shaped, according to the New York Times.

There are 10,516 acres of vacant land with residential zoning scattered across the city, although only a fraction of them can realistically be built on. But developers and architects are finding inventive ways to build on overlooked spaces.

One example is Dunn Development’s Parkside Terrace in the Bronx. The site — which the developers bought for around $45 a square foot, while nearby lots were selling for closer to $60 a square foot — contained a large rock outcropping. Instead of removing the rock, architects built an 80-unit rental building above and around it.

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The cheaper land, coupled with state subsidies, resulted in a mix of below-market-rate apartments.

“We’re considering sites that, 10 years ago, we wouldn’t even have looked at,” said Martin Dunn, president of Dunn Development.

At 321 East 60th Street in Lenox Hill, Azimuth Development Group and Aufgang Architects built a 21-unit affordable rental building on a curved lot that was previously a parking lot.

The lot’s shape and proximity to the Queensboro Bridge and the Roosevelt Island Tramway created construction challenges. Instead of using a crane, Azimuth parked a cement truck on a nearby sidewalk and poured cement through a hose, finishing one floor every 10 days. The process took as long as steel-frame construction, but was about 20 percent more expensive. [NYT] – Decca Muldowney