The site of a one-time architectural marvel at 425 Grand Concourse is about to become instead the site of some of the most energy-efficient housing in the city, Bronx and city officials announced yesterday.
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that a 24-story tower with 241 apartments will be built to replace the defunct P.S. 31, less prosaically known as the Castle on the Concourse, which was reduced to rubble last year after two decades of neglect. Over the years, many of the school’s alum, including Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., resisted the city’s call to raze the old school, but when city engineers said the building was too dangerous to stand and too expensive to renovate, the wrecking ball was summoned.
All of the apartments in the new development across the Concourse from Hostos Community College, will fall within the city’s affordable to low- and moderate-income rates for families. The complex will use 70% less energy than conventional buildings, the mayor said. It will house commercial and community facilities on the first three floors; an 11,000 square-foot supermarket on the Concourse; a charter school on the second floor; a 1,500 square-foot cultural space; and a social services facility.
Building amenities will include a laundry room on each floor and a community room with direct access to the 23rd floor landscaped roof terrace and green roof. Apartment features include individual energy controls and energy-efficient appliances.
The plan also calls for re-opening long-unused Garrison Playground. City Councilman Rafael Salamanca Jr. said he is working with the parks department “to revamp the nearby Garrison Playground as well as with Hostos College on their priorities to ensure that we keep moving this neighborhood forward for Bronx families.”
The playground will undergo a full rehabilitation that will include construction of a walkway connecting it with the new building, the Concourse and Walton Avenue.
Diaz recalled his school days when the building was known for its architectural splendor, and for the education it offered children, but said there was a silver lining despite its absence.
“As a proud graduate of P.S. 31, I was sorry to see my beloved school building fall into such disrepair, and even sorrier to see it demolished,” said Diaz, but he praised the city’s work to bring “new affordable housing units, commercial activity and a reinvigorated Garrison Playground to the Lower Concourse neighborhood,” in an “environmentally-friendly development.”
To allow for the increased number of residents the 300,000 square-foot development will bring, the block will be rezoned, in compliance with the mayor’s new Mandatory Inclusionary Housing program, which requires at least a quarter of the apartments be deemed affordable.
For those who mourn the disappearance of the Castle on the Concourse, architects have left features of the old school in the design, including terra cotta gargoyles and the engraved P.S. 31 sign.