Launched in 2003, New York-based The Domain Cos. sought to solve some of the country’s most beguiling development challenges. Right off the bat, the firm found itself looking at redeveloping a Staten Island, N.Y., site that once housed the now-abandoned Sea View Hospital. The 19th century tuberculosis hospital is located in the 2,200-acre Staten Island Green Belt—the highest point in New York City and a protected “special natural district” where five other redevelopment attempts had hopelessly foundered.
“It really fit what we were looking to do perfectly,” recalls Domain’s principal Matthew Schwartz. “It was a project that the city had already tried to get off the ground several times where developers had failed because of a number of challenges that were construction- and finance-related, but that we felt could be met with a little creativity.”
Approaching the development site alone was challenging, with woods and weeds overgrowing many of the original structures. During redevelopment, the Domain team found turn-of-the-century medical equipment in dilapidated rooms that used to house both patients and nurses until the facility found the cure to TB and fell into disuse. The team was assisted by intense public interest in the project, however, and was further buoyed by a market devoid of affordable senior housing and the tax credit equity that could accompany that type of development. The project has even ignited interest in the 20 buildings still neglected elsewhere across the sprawling Sea View Campus.
Backed by six layers of primary financing, including historic and low-income tax credit equity, soft monies, and deferred development fees, the $29.6 million redevelopment now includes 104 one- and two-bedroom apartments for seniors earning 60 percent to 180 percent of the area median income.
Perhaps best of all is an amenity-rich quality of life that boasts a library, fitness center, chef’s kitchen, and even two resident vegetable and herb gardens, not to mention extensive activities programming.
“From the moment residents wake up until late at night, there is something going on, and people just love it,” Schwartz says. “We already have an endless waiting list.”
Compare that to the prior reason for residing at Sea View, and you’ve got an adaptive reuse that nobody can cough at.