Helpern Architects

Taystee Bakery

New York, New York

Harmony Group – developers known for reclaiming distressed or underutilized historic industrial properties – had its eye on the former Taystee Bakery site in Harlem that NYC Economic Development Corporation had put out for bid. They asked Helpern Architects to envision a possible development for the triangular site between way-West 125th and 126th Streets.

The RFP required a detailed response, including concept, design drawings, understanding of the new Upper West Side Zoning District, forecast of employment opportunities and tax revenue, development costs and tax-credit funding options, method for working productively with the agency, and sustainability goals [we added resilience, since the site is atop a fault line].

Our as-of-right scheme, which the developer called “Harlem Harmony,” forecast a viable complex with multiple commercial and community occupancies that would provide a suitable return and create “tangible and intangible value.” Providing what was not available in the neighborhood, our four-story-and-basement building included a fresh-food grocer geared to small vendors and farms, office suites and a business incubator, after-school study center, and, at the top floors, a 66,000-sf hotel.

Harmony Group expected to finance an estimated $83-million investment by an array of tax credits and grants [39%], and the rest by private equity and loans, though none of it at the expense of New York City. Though the project eluded the developers, the NYC EDC selection committee praised the design and preparations.