New York Brownstone Development & Design

Project: Manhattan Remodel and Cape Cod Affordable, Episode 1, Part 1

Bob is on Manhattan's Upper West Side to renew a 2,000-square-foot Brownstone apartment. First, he looks at what made Brownstones significant, including their details and fa├žades.

Inside the building, Bob shows how the space was cut up in the 1940s to make a warren of rooms. These walls and finishes will be removed as the space is gutted to prepare for new studs, walls, plumbing, and finishes.

Pieces will be salvaged for architectural resale, including the pink sink from the bathroom and the retro cabinets in the kitchen, but everything else will go. Bob also visits Central Park, its caretakers, trees, and monuments.
Part 1: New York Brownstone Development & Design
Bob introduces an 1890s Brownstone on New York City's Upper West Side. Brownstones were built on the sidestreets off Central Park West for wealthy New Yorkers who wanted large family homes with proximity to the city. These row houses were made of Brownstone quarried in Connecticut and carved with high-quality Victorian detailing. Much detailing still remains on the facade of the project building, including the wrought iron window grilles, the original entry doors, and the carving.

Other details have been removed, like the stoop that once led to the main floor, which became the second floor with the conversion to apartments in the 1940s. Additions from the 40s conversion, and later updates, have left aluminum railings, steel staircases, and iron casement windows as glaring examples of practical remodeling executed with no attention to the character or history of a building.

Bob enters the Brownstone apartment to find more evidence of 1940s updates in this turn-of-the-century row house. Curved ceiling shapes, a built-in bar, and chopped-up space show layers that were added during the conversion of the original building.

Bob meets up with his son, Chris Vila, and reviews the preparations for demolition, which include permits, shutoffs for all the gas, water, and electricity, and removal of moldings and fixtures from the walls. Chris shows Bob the hardwood floors buried beneath layers of vinyl and linoleum. The goal will be to peel back the layers of this 2,000-square-foot apartment until just the original shell and structure remain.

In the pink kitchen, 50s cabinets with interior lighting are marked for architectural salvage. They continue to the front of the apartment where a pink-tiled bathroom with an elegant, vintage sink on tapered legs will also be marked for salvage.

Bob and Chris Vila look at the windows that will be removed and replaced once they receive the Landmarks Preservation Commission's approval.
Part 2: Reviewing the Architectural Floor Plans for the Brownstone Remodel
Part 3: Touring Central Park in New York City
This project deals with two very different notions of home. Bob begins on New York City's Upper West Side, where an 1890s Brownstone is revitalized through high-quality craftsmanship and sensitive design. New York's past meets its present, as the entire floor is recaptured and refurbished to create a spacious urban apartment on the doorstep of Central Park.

At the same time, Bob works with a Cape Cod developer to apply Massachusetts land use statute 40B to create affordable housing, and a neighborhood of homes in Mashpee, MA. These Energy Star certified homes show how quality building practices and reasonable asking prices can work together to provide livable, affordable homes and neighborhoods to those who work in our communities.

Also from Manhattan Remodel and Cape Cod Affordable

  • Episode 2 - Demolition in the Manhattan Brownstone


    The big story is the cornice molding found in tact when the drop ceiling came down. The molding will set a tone for the main living space, where the bricks have been removed to install a flue liner and drafting fireplace. All of the 40s wall, surface, and ceiling treatments are gone, along with the lath and plaster, leaving the bare brick and exposed joists from the original construction. Remodels have cut into the joist work or damaged it, so some reworking will be necessary to build up for the floors and ceilings. The floor joists are sistered to make a level, solid footing for the Georgia-Pacific Plytanium subflooring that goes under the wood floor. Laser levels allow the carpenters to set level lines throughout the apartment horizontally for the floor and vertically for the new steel studs they are installing. Finally, a flexible flue liner is run through the wall, and up the chimney for the new fireplace.
  • Episode 3 - Building Affordable Homes on Cape Cod


    Affordable housing is the story in this project as Bob heads to Mashpee, Massachusetts on Cape Cod, where a state law is helping put higher density, affordable housing in place for four families who live and work in the community. Bob meets Pat Fiero of the Housing Assistance Corporation who explains the hurdles faced by families needing to live near their workplaces in a town where the average home price is $450,000. Bob visits Mashpee Commons and looks at mixed-use development that is providing a town center, housing, commercial property, recreational space, and a new church as a start to this new town development. Bob also meets the developer, Joe Valle, who explains the challenges in developing affordable housing and how this project was made possible by invoking Massachusetts? 40B land use and development law. On site, Bob Bevilaqua moves the earth to prepare the sites, shows the tie-offs for electrical and phone lines, and explains the drainage plan.
  • Episode 4 - Falmouth's Model for Quality Affordable Housing


    Bob visits with John Druley of Quaker Homes in Falmouth, Massachusetts. Druley is developing a parcel of land in Falmouth that will have eight homes, two of them affordable for families earing a modest income. Bob and Druley discuss the reality of housing in Falmouth, where one-acre building lots are required for new housing. A lot, Druley explains, will sell for around $300,000 with no construction. For this development, Druley has invoked Massachusetts' Act 40B to gain relief from zoning restrictions such as the one-acre minimum lot size. In return, Druley must make 20 percent of the homes available as affordable homes, for those earning up to 80 percent of the area's median income. The lots are 10,000 sqaure feet with a 40-foot setback from the road, 10-foot sidelines, and a 45 to 50-foot backyard. The homes are 1,800-square-foot Capes with attached garages, clad in white cedar shingles, with skylights, architectural-style roof shingles, and no-maintenance, energy-efficient vinyl windows. Druley explains that the affordable and market-priced homes must be indistinguisable in design, materials, and layout. The state assigns a 40B auditor to monitor the project and assure that no corners are cut on the affordable homes, and that the developer earns no more than 20 percent profit from the development. Druley explains that the market-priced homes in the neighborhood will sell for between $375,000 and $400,000, which will help offset the $119,900 selling price for the affordable homes.
  • Episode 8 - Installing Drop Ceilings, Custom Windows, and Mechanicals

  • Episode 9 - Paneling the Kitchen, Installing Hot Water, and Hanging Doors

  • Episode 10 - Cladding, Insulating, and Zoning for an Affordable Home

  • Episode 13 - Installing Pre-Hung Doors, Hardwood Floors, and Gutters

  • Episode 14 - Affordable HVAC, Painting, Kitchen Cabinets and Counters

  • Episode 15 - Installing Glazed Wall Tile and a Pedestal Sink

  • Episode 16 - Refurbishing Wrought Iron, Custom Kitchen Cabinets, Profile Molding

  • Episode 17 - Kitchens, Feng Shui, and Energy Star Homes

  • Episode 18 - Finishing Details in the Manhattan Brownstone



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