Manhattan firm design honors memory of beloved church building

Exterior view of the Pope Francis apartments designed by RKTB Architects. Photo courtesy RKTB Architects

RKTB Architects’ design for a new sustainable supportive housing project for homeless and low-income seniors pays homage to the former site of the beloved Our Lady of Loreto Catholic Church in Brooklyn, New York.

RKTB Architects, PC, partnered with non-profit developer-operator Catholic Charities of Brooklyn & Queens to create the 7,710 m2 (83,000 sq. ft.) eight-story energy-efficient and eco-friendly multi-family residence, named Pope Francis Apartments.

The residence’s green design strategies include a rooftop solar power installation to reduce reliance on grid electricity, a high performance building envelope aligned with thermal efficiency goals, energy saving light fixtures and LED lights, as well as low and zero VOC materials and finishes. . This makes it compliant with the criteria for Corporate Green Communities, a comprehensive green building framework specifically designed for affordable housing.

The project team also endeavored to treat the site with sensitivity for the community, which deeply felt the loss of the locally beloved church. In doing so, RKTB has worked closely with Catholic Charities of Brooklyn & Queens to be sensitive to a sacred site and bring and highlight the elements that serve and strengthen the community.

“After the Brooklyn Diocese closed the church in 2009, people rallied around various efforts to save it,” said Nelson Vega, associate director of RKTB and one of the project leaders. “We considered it part of our mission to redevelop the site in a way that would help heal the community.”

To meet the wishes of the diocese, the ground floor includes two community rooms, one for the residents of the building and another for the greater community. The design also features aesthetic choices intended to restore and enhance neighborhood pride. The building’s facade is articulated in segments referencing the adjacent Baretta apartments (also designed by RKTB), creating coherence by using a similar material palette to blend into the architectural context of the block. Mural photographs of Our Lady of Loreto adorn the side of the building at street level as well as in the lobby, while the large statue of “Our Lady” which previously stood at the entrance to the church has been retained and reinstalled on the site.

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