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Starhill Phase I Virtual Topping Off Ceremony

Photo: S:US and Bronx Pro Group.

On September 28, we held a virtual topping off ceremony to celebrate the completion of the structural phase for Starhill. There were over 100 participants, which included Bronx Pro Group, construction partners, funders, community members and Services for the UnderServed (S:US) board members and staff.

Starhill Phase I will create 325 units of supportive and affordable housing at 1600 Grand Avenue in the Morris Heights section of the Bronx. 

Renderings of the Starhill building and reception area. Renderings by Marvel Architects.

Arlo Chase, Senior Vice President of Real Estate & Property Development at S:US, kicked off the event by talking about the history of the Starhill site. “This is a fascinating piece of New York City history. It goes back to 1912 to the first terminal care center for patients with cancer, which operated until the 1960s. Crucial life-saving work was happening at this site. In 1979, the city took over the land and gave it to Palladia, a nonprofit working with people facing addiction challenges,” said Arlo. 

When S:US acquired Starhill in 2014, the building had been deteriorating for many years. The treatment approach for people with substance use disorders has also changed over time. The current preferred treatment is short-term detoxification and stabilization (30-60 days), followed by placement into permanent housing or reunification with family. This led to S:US’ decision to redevelop Starhill to create more affordable and supportive housing for vulnerable New Yorkers.

Justin Stein, Senior Vice President at Bronx Pro Group and Lauren LaMack, Deputy Director of Housing Development at S:US were onsite at Starhill to give the virtual group a tour. They started with an overview of the building. 

Starhill will include more than 600 units of housing, a 10,000 square-foot park, community facility space (a primary healthcare clinic), and recreational space for tenants.

The site is approximately 2 acres and was occupied by the former hospital building that had to be torn down. One of the challenges the crew experienced was the extensive rock removal required for building the foundation. Starhill is a 14-story building with a section on the left that is seven stories (from adjacent land S:US bought that they merged with the main project, which added 25 units there).

The tour started outside the building, looking up at the crane placing the last planks on the roof. Then we moved into the lobby to see the future program space and amenity bar that will include space for staff, a community room, laundry room, and gym.

Starhill Phase I supports economic diversity in the Bronx by providing desperately needed high quality housing for households earning a range of incomes between 40% and 80% of Area Median Income (AMI). Of the total 325 units in the development, 200 will be supportive housing units set aside for formerly homeless individuals with substance use disorders.

Justin and Lauren walked us through a typical unit, which has two bedrooms, a kitchen along the back wall, a living room, and a bathroom. 

Interior and exterior images of Starhill construction. Photos by S:US and Bronx Pro Group.

One of the guests asked about the sustainability features. Starhill will have two large solar arrays on the roof. It’s an extremely well-insulated building (above code) and has high-efficiency windows. There will also be LED light fixtures and low-flow plumbing features.

Justin talked about technical details of the building in response to a guest’s question. The building is block and plank construction. In front of the block walls, we could see on the tour, they will add insulation, then brick. 

Justin also shared that we have local hiring and development goals for this project. All of our projects conduct local hiring through Hire NYC. We’ve also partnered with nonprofit Building Skills to help advertise construction jobs for this project and we are offering free Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) training to people so they can have the proper licenses to work safely on our job site. Bronx Pro Group has local internships on both the building and property management sides. S:US hosts job fairs for construction and property management roles. We also work with minority contractors and women-owned businesses. “We do as much as we can to offer opportunities for everyone,” said Justin.

One of the meeting guests expressed his gratitude. “I feel proud when I walk by. The employees are diverse.”

The Starhill neighborhood is an important community for S:US. We operate supportive housing programs nearby. The Starhill project will provide essential affordable housing while dramatically improving the streetscape by reimagining the street wall to bring the site into the neighborhood from a planning perspective, activating the streets that run alongside it.

“The public park is important – there is not a lot of green space in this neighborhood,” said Samantha Magistro, CEO of Bronx Pro Group. 

At the end of the building tour, Lauren showed the group the crane laying some of the final planks. The topping off with the last planks was done by the end of the day.

Participants in the ceremony appreciated the tour of the site and expressed their pride and gratitude via chat messages.

Arlo wrapped up the celebration by thanking everyone. “Thanks to Justin and Lauren for braving the cold. Thanks again to Community Board 5, Council Member Sanchez, Bronx Borough President Gibson, HPD and HPC (the main funders for phases 1 and 2), and OASAS (who will provide services for the supportive housing). Thanks to everyone for joining us. See you again soon for the ribbon cutting!”

Starhill Phase II will start next June. Completion of Starhill is expected in 2027.

Starhill is a joint project between S:US and Bronx Pro Group. Starhill Phase I is financed through HFA tax-exempt bonds and subsidy, HPD financing through the Supportive Housing Loan Program (SHLP), tax credit equity syndicated by Enterprise, a construction loan provided by JP Morgan Chase and a $1M in Reso A funds. The architect is Marvel Architects, and the General Contractor is Home Builders.

As Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson said at the Starhill groundbreaking, “These projects remind New Yorkers that all hope is never lost. Safe, quality, affordable housing and services is a fundamental human and basic right.”

We’re grateful to Bronx Pro Group and to our funders for building life-changing opportunities for New York City families. In a city that’s becoming more expensive to live in every day, we’re committed to creating affordable housing for New Yorkers in need.

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