Blending the Old with the New

Metro 510, a 120-unit workforce housing property in downtown, has made its debut, blending the contemporary with the historic.

Photo by George Cott, Chroma Inc.

Tampa, Fla.—Metro 510, a 120-unit workforce housing property in downtown Tampa, Fla., has made its debut, flaunting a design by Urban Studio Architects that successfully blends the contemporary with the historic.

A $25 million development and rehabilitation project developed by Sage Partners, Metro 510 sits at 510 E. Harrison St., adjacent to a transit hub. Urban Studio was charged with designing a residential structure that would sit right beside—and visually incorporate—-the 98-year-old former St. Paul A.M.E. Church, a vacated 14,000-square-foot brick structure designed in the Gothic Revival style. In the end, 2011 meets 1914, successfully; white stucco abuts red brick with aesthetically pleasing results—a feat not achieved with ease.

“It being an urban site … it evolved that the church was going to be the indoor play space for the children because it’s a workforce housing project and we really didn’t have room for the children in the families to play,” Richard Zingale, a founding partner of Urban Studio, tells MHN. “So the site limitations helped open up all the opportunities and the possibility for the church to be used as an indoor playground, as well as the typical fitness center, office and meeting room.”

The decision to make the former house of worship the location of the amenities center was one thing, but bringing the concept together visually was another. But Urban Studio did not want to imitate the structure’s design; they wanted to enhance it. “As we studied the site and the integration of the church we had to make a decision early on what we wanted to feature and it became clear that featuring the church was a very exciting direction,” Zingale explains. “So the contemporary is a rather minimal aspect of the architecture and really reinforces the detail of the church construction.”

The architects also wanted to blend the background of the church, outside of its design, into the project. To that end, they created the Walk of Legends, a walkway with pavers engraved with the names of all the former pastors of St. Paul’s and the names of prominent people who visited the church over the years. “There was quite an homage to the church, quite a sensitivity by the developers to respect the history of the church and to honor it,” Brian Hammond, also a founding partner of Urban Studio, tells MHN.

In addition to respecting the prominence of the church structure and history, Urban Studio had another factor to consider when designing Metro 510. The architecture is also pretty reflective of a very competitive construction budget, Richard notes. Budgets for any workforce housing project are religiously kept to a minimum. Despite the still-challenging credit market, Sage Partners was able to cull the funds for the project from various sources. The developer relied on low-income housing tax credits that utilized 9 percent LIHTC equity, Section 1602 exchange funds and federal stimulus funds. Additionally, the private sector participated in bringing the project to fruition; Bank of America and Merrill Lynch provided a first mortgage.

Urban Studio, observant of the relatively limited design dollars, had to be creative in its quest to make Metro 510 a feast for the eyes, as well as a top-notch living environment for its residents. “We were able to focus the more costly materials at the ground level, where people would actually be circulating, and minimalize the shell architecture,” Zingale notes. “It’s contemporary, minimal, crisp—but definitely featuring the church. And the whole interest in trying to be very efficient with the construction dollar on the exterior is what allowed us to really upgrade some of the finishes of the interior of the units.” With granite kitchen countertops and subway tile backsplashes, Metro 510 is not your typical workforce housing property. Instead, it is chock full of details—inside and out—that resemble those found in market-rate condominiums. The apartment destination reflects a new era in affordable housing.