Pict0141.jpg (121448 bytes) New York Architecture Images-Brooklyn Bedford-Stuyvesant

Renaissance Apartments 


Montrose W. Morris


488 Nostrand Ave., SW cor. and 140-144 Hancock St.  








Apartment Building


Cylindrical, conically capped towers, borrowed from Loire Valley chateaux, anchor a grand apartment house.

The Renaissance, built in 1892, is a distinguished example of the lavish Chateau Norman Renaissance style that characterizes the work of noted Brooklyn architect Montrose W. Morris. Its prominent circular towers capped by conical slate-covered roofs, richly detailed dormers and hipped center pavilion are reminiscent of the style's decorative tradition. Prior to its rehabilitation, the Renaissance had been vacant for twelve years and was a major source of neighborhood blight. The original metal work had been stripped from the facade and the chimneys were cut to stumps. The interior was garbage-filled and severely deteriorated.

Following years of community advocacy and several unsuccessfiil rehabilitation attempts, the Renaissance was awarded to Anderson Associates pursuant to a competitive process by the N.Y. Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) in late 1993. Financing was provided by: (1) HPD; (2) equity generated by the syndication of both Federal low income housing tax credits and historic tax credits; (3) Community Preservation Corporation; and (4) New York City Housing Development Corporation. The project was completed ahead of schedule and was 100% occupied within weeks of completion.

The building required substantial rehabilitation of the entire structure, which was completed in strict conformance with requirements presented by the Secretary of the Interior, the N.Y. Landmarks Preservation Commission and HPD.

An innovative technique for replacing missing architectural elements with cast fiberglass reinforced concrete was successfully executed. Mechanical and electrical elements were replaced. A unique, high-efficiency, modular hydro-thermic boiler system that accommodates module servicing without system shutdown was installed. Each unit was equipped with recessed, commercial grade steel convector heating cabinets to withstand decades of residential use.

Flooring throughout the apartments is new 3/4" tongue and groove oak. Bathrooms have mudset tile floors with tile wainscoting on wet walls and full tiling on all bath enclosures. All interior doors are wood veneer and kitchen cabinets are of exceptionally durable, solid wood construction. Countertops are solid wood with high-impact laminate finish.

Montrose W. Morris
Montrose W. Morris, the architect of the Renaissance, was active in Brooklyn's late 1800's real estate boom. When Morris opened his office in 1883, his advertising technique was to design and build his own residence in Brooklyn and open it to the public. One of the visitors was developer Louis F. Seitz who commissioned an apartment house on property Seitz owned on Nostrand Avenue. Known as the Alhambra, the new building so pleased Seitz that he commissioned Morris to design two additional apartment houses, the Renaissance and the Imperial. These three apartment buildings were among the most prestigious and impressive multiple-family residences in Brooklyn.

The Alhambra, located one block from the Renaissance is in the pre-construction phase of a major rehabilitation by Anderson Associates. The Alhambra has been abandoned since it was fire damaged in 1994. Its successflil renovation, when combined with the hallmark work completed on the Renaissance, will preserve a culturally and historically significant building type for New York's posterity while providing critically-needed affordable housing in this burgeoning Brooklyn community.

The Renaissance Story
The Renaissance was built in 1892 as one of the earliest apartment houses in Brooklyn. Designed by the noted Brooklyn architect, Montrose Morris, it was inspired by the 16th century chateaux of France's Loire valley.

Over the years, the building has echoed the changing needs of the community it served. In the 1930's, as the population increased, it was divided into smaller apartments. During the housing shortage of World War II, it was converted to a rooming house, before returning to a crowded apartment house in the 1950's.

After years of active community effort to lobby for its restoration, the building, which had long since been taken over by the City of New York was designated to participate in HPD's Vacant Building Program. Thomas Anderson, President of Anderson Associates Architects, was designated developer through the RFP process in the fall of 1993. Tom and his partner, architect Elissa Winzelberg immediately commenced the lengthy process of obtaining National Landmarks designation and the approval for the restoration.

A complex financial package was assembled, utilizing both Historic and Affordable Housing Tax credits on the Federal level with a low interest loan and grant through HPD. Finally the Community Preservation Corporation, a non-profit banking institution, provided the balance of the necessary funds and administered the loan.

The building will be placed in service on November 1, 1995 and should be fully occupied within a month. It is an outstanding example of the collaboration of private and public resources to serve the housing needs of the community.

1,500 resident applications in eight weeks and was fully occupied within six seeks of certificate of occupancy. Marketing was predictable success.

The Restoration
Landmarked by the City in 1986, the building stood vacant for many years before participating in the New York City HPD Vacant Building Program. All of the original metal work that adorned the bay windows had been stripped from the facade and the chimneys were cut to stumps. The interior was thoroughly trashed and filled with garbage. Fortunately, the buff colored Roman brick, much of it patterned and decorative, was in good condition.