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Demand soars for Grant Ave. co-ops

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Grand Concourse resident Beverly Beja thought she’d be “dead and buried under Joyce Kilmer Park” sooner than she’d see her neighborhood reborn. But the Lorlei Fountain has been restored, there are three busy supermarkets on E. 167th Street and 153 of 160 co-op apartments were sold when dignitaries opened The Solara on Friday, October 30.

“We want housing for everyone,” Beja said. “We want a mix. We want low-income housing but we also want housing for teachers and nurses in the neighborhood.”

The Solara, a $50 million building developed by Briarwood Organization and funded by the city Housing Development Corporation, the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), the state Affordable Housing Corporation, the Housing Partnership Development Corporation and Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., sits opposite a row of new townhouses on Grant Avenue between E. 167th and E. 169th streets in the south Bronx. Both sides of Grant Avenue were vacant a decade ago.

At ten stories, The Solara is the first mid-rise co-op built in the neighborhood in 40 years, HPD Bronx planner Ted Weinstein said. The building boasts a gym, in-house laundry, a recreation center, a video-intercom, a courtyard garden and on-site parking. Each unit features ceramic baths, oak cabinets and granite countertops – what ads describe as “affordable luxury.”

There are one-bedroom apartments for households that earn up to $59,904/year, two-bedroom apartments for those that earn up to $60,672/year, two-bedroom apartments for those that earn $61,450/year and three-bedroom units for those that earn up to $78,336/year. Lincoln Hospital worker Denise Mariso, a Staten Island resident born and raised in the Bronx, has qualified for a co-op at The Solara. The single mother hopes to move in before Thanksgiving.

“Ever since I was a teen, I dreamed of my own home,” Mariso said.

There are plenty of ads for new affordable apartments in the Bronx but most are reserved for low-income residents, Mariso explained. Weinstein thinks The Solara could become a model for co-ops in the neighborhood. Mariso was one of 4,516 people to enter a lottery for The Solara. The co-ops are listed from $108,815 to $202,217.

The land use review process for The Solara took years because banks balked at the idea of new south Bronx co-ops. Banks like to compare potential investments to prior investments but there were no other new co-ops in the neighborhood, Weinstein said.

Diaz Jr. asked bankers to support The Solara in the form of mortgages for co-op buyers.

“At the 1977 World Series, Howard Cosell told the world, ‘The Bronx is burning!’ and a panorama showed the Bronx on fire,” the borough president said. “The Yankees are in the World Series again…and the Bronx is building.”

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