The Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) will soon review proposals to construct a new nine-story residential building on the campus of St. James Church Fordham in The Bronx. The scope of work also includes the restoration of the church’s aging façade and modifications to the building’s internal organization.
The Episcopal St. James Church Fordham and its Parish House are located at 2500 Jerome Avenue in Fordham. The structure was originally completed around 1892 and was officially designated a New York City landmark in 1980. In 1982, the church was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Proposals submitted to the LPC specify three distinct programmes, most likely phases, of development. Phase one focuses on renovating the primary church building. This includes rebuilding the south entry vestibule and roof, restoration of the belfry, upgrades to the building’s foundation and general structure, and modifications to the building’s interior layout to improve accessibility.
For this phase, the project team also intends to clean and restore the church’s masonry façade. This includes a partial replacement and refurbishment of the existing Gothic windows to match the originally intended design. The wooden door of the church will also be replaced with a door of similar size but upgraded with glass panels.
Phase two of the development includes demolition of the adjacent Fellowship Hall constructed in 1959. The existing fellowship hall serving as a gathering place, food pantry, and community kitchen will be expanded in phase three.
This final phase focuses on the construction of a nine-story mixed-income residential building. Beginning at the ground floor, the Fellowship Hall will now comprise over 5,000 square feet and will be able to accommodate seating for up to 100 people. Community facility space will also be activated with a Federal Credit Union offering financial wellness seminars, community organizing space, after-school programs for children, and meeting space for Community Board 7.
The residential component will support a mix of studios, one-, and two-bedroom apartments. These apartments will include a range of affordable and income-restricted rental units.
Residential amenity spaces will include a library, a multi-purpose room, a fitness center, laundry facilities, bike storage, and a computer room. Residents will also have access to a large lower-level terrace adjacent to the community facility space, and a roof terrace above the residential volume.
To complement the historic church, the building’s façade will comprise a mix of gray and tan rusticated brick.
To complete the project, the church has partnered with Concern Housing Partners, a non-profit agency registered in the State of New York under the Concern for Independent Living umbrella. The design team includes Dattner Architects, Barry Donaldson Architects, Starr Whitehouse Landscape Architects, and preservation experts Higgins Quasebarth & Partners.
In September, Local Community Board 7 expressed discontent for the proposals in fear that the new residential building will cast large shadows on St. James Park. The board’s solution was to reduce the height of the new building to below the peak of the historic church. In that scenario, the residential building would top out at 58 feet above ground which would significantly reduce the number of much-needed affordable housing units.
Current proposals indicate an 87-foot-tall structure.
The LPC is scheduled to review this iteration of proposals at a public hearing on Tuesday, October 6.