AIA New Jersey Central Section’s Architect’s Housing: Serving the Community for 38 Years

May 15, 2018

Photo of Architect’s Housing Courtesy of Michael Slack Photography

Architect’s Housing: Serving the Community for 38 Years

by John Clarke, FAIA

Early in 1974, John Zvosec, AIA, a principal in the Princeton firm of Mahony & Zvosec, had seen a report about a New York state chapter of the AIA that had sponsored the design and construction of a highly successful senior citizen project in Utica.  Zvosec believed that the Central Section of the New Jersey Society of Architects could make a significant social contribution by sponsoring a similar project in New Jersey, based on the Utica example. At the time, John Clarke, FAIA, was the Director of Planning and Development for the City of Trenton, which included responsibility for all redevelopment projects. John Zvosec brought his concept of an AIA sponsored housing development to John Clarke and these two architects agreed to join forces to get the project implemented. Zvosec took the lead in convincing the Central Section of AIANJ about the merits of the project. Clarke proposed the project to be built on a City-owned redevelopment site adjoining Douglas Square in Trenton’s historic Mill Hill neighborhood. The City’s willingness to provide the Mill Hill housing site for a dollar convinced William Johnson, Director of the New Jersey Housing Finance Agency (NJHFA), of the project’s financial viability.

 

Photo of Architect’s Housing Courtesy of Michael Slack Photography

With John Zvosec’s agreement, John Clarke and the Trenton Department of Planning and Development organized a design competition for the proposed 122 unit senior citizen project. Entry into the design competition was restricted to members of the Central section of AIANJ. In July 1975, the 3 member’s of the jury, Theodore Leibman, FAIA, Samuel M. Brody, FAIA, and David F.M. Todd, FAIA, gathered in Trenton to review 27 anonymous design submissions. The jury unanimously selected a proposal from Geddes Brecher Qualls Cunningham of Princeton.

 

“The first prize winner has an excellent site plan with clear and strong relationships to the water and Douglas Square,” wrote the jury. “The architect has a clear understanding of urban development patterns and has designed a logical sequence of development activities for the total site.”

 

Photo of Architect’s Housing Courtesy of Michael Slack Photography

Subsequent to the selection of Robert Geddes, FAIA, of GBQC as the architect for the project, the Board of Directors of the Architect’s Housing Corporation was formally constituted, with each Board member also being a member of the Central Section of AIANJ. The original board members included Charles Agle, John Borakos, Leonard DiDonato, Jules Gregory, Philetus Holt, Elizabeth Moynahan, Robert Yeager, John Witlock and Joseph Wirth.

 

Photo of Architect’s Housing Courtesy of Michael Slack Photography

The Architect’s Housing opened in 1980 and for 38 years it has provided first class apartments at below-market rents in a highly desirable historic community. The building has been the home to more than 600 senior citizens who have benefited greatly from the hard work and dedication of the members of Central Section of AIANJ including the current board members, Robert Russell, AIA, Laura Citron, AIA, Glenn Claypool, AIA, Robert Cerutti, AIA, and John Clarke, FAIA.

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