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707 Willow Avenue, Hoboken

This building is located on the east side of Willow Avenue, just north of 8th Street. The site had been occupied since 1898 by a catholic church which had seen its congregations fall over recent decades and had sadly fallen into grave disrepair. The property was purchased with the intent of adaptive reuse into a multi-family residential building but a structural analysis showed the need for substantial demolition. Coincidentally, the one element that could be saved was also the one element that the neighborhood and design team felt should be saved – The front façade. It could be saved because it had originally been constructed so much thicker than the rest of the envelope. It should be saved because of its historical importance and much valued presence in the streetscape. It was never the biggest or grandest church but it was an important part in the fabric of the neighborhood.


So, how to introduce a new building behind the old façade? Rather than just ‘stick’ the new on to the back of it, which would certainly have been easier, we decided to set the new building back, separated from the church façade, so that each, old and new, could have their own distinct identity. This separation also allowed us to create of an outdoor foyer, a kind of an anti-chamber, that served as a sheltered transition space between the public realm of the street and the private interior of the building.


The brief was to design a multi-family residential building with spacious units and outdoor spaces for each unit. The maximum permitted lot coverage was 60% and height was 5 stories. Our response was to proposed 5 large family sized units, one per floor, with the lowest residential level raised up above the street and out of the flood plain. Each unit has 4 bedrooms. 3 face west towards the street with the 4th bedroom and open plan living area facing east, opening out to private deck spaces at the rear.


We felt strongly that this new building, inserted behind the old street wall, should be true to its time and to itself. The facade should be an outward expression of the interior spaces and so, when you look at the completed building, you see a series of stacked and staggered boxes that project at varying depths. These boxes are literally the interior rooms and that movement allows us to provide bays and balconies and overhangs for shading. The ornate styling of the church is contrasted by the honest massing behind. The classic and the contemporary. The floor to ceiling glazing allows an abundance of natural light into the units but also creates a beautiful lantern effect at night when the church façade is backlit and appears in silhouette.

Status : Complete

Unit count : 4 Residential Units


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