New York–The United States Green Building Council (USGBC) has awarded LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) Stage II Silver Certification to the South Bronx neighborhood of Melrose Commons. The award recognizes the sustainable design and redevelopment of a large portion of the Melrose Commons Urban Renewal Area, the first such certification in New York State.
Devastated from years of neglect, Melrose Commons lay in shambles by the early 1990s, with vacant lots, abandoned buildings, and one of the highest poverty rates in the U.S. In response to the City’s redevelopment plan, which would have resulted in the displacement of residents, a community development organization, Nos Quedamos/We Stay, was formed. Nos Quedamos joined forces in 1992 with Magnusson Architecture and Planning PC (MAP), which provided urban planning and design that enabled the grass roots group to create and propose an alternative to the City’s plan. This plan allowed existing residents to stay and also preserved viable buildings. Working cooperatively with New York City’s Departments of City Planning and Housing Preservation & Development, as well as the Bronx Borough President’s Office, Nos Quedamos was able to get the Melrose Commons Urban Renewal Plan signed into law in early 1994.
“Though the Melrose Commons Urban Renewal Plan was groundbreaking in many respects, we’re especially proud that the LEED-ND Silver Stage II Certification recognizes the project for its commitment to sustainable development,” says Petr Stand, MAP’s Principal in Charge of Planning. Melrose Commons is one of only six projects in the entire State of New York selected to participate in the LEED for Neighborhood Development Pilot Program, and the first to be certified at the Stage II level. “This sets a new standard for the redevelopment of our inner cities,” adds Stand.
The Melrose Commons Plan is comprised of multiple scattered sites within a larger neighborhood, rather than a continuous development on a single parcel of land. Christine Hunter, a Principal at MAP, explains, “However, we felt strongly that Melrose Commons should be certified because, from the start, the neighborhood-based team was committed to a pedestrian-oriented mixed-use, mixed-income development, maintaining open space and incorporating sustainable design and construction techniques. Nos Quedamos was particularly concerned about the creation of healthy indoor and outdoor environments in an area plagued by pollution and high asthma rates.”
MAP documented the Melrose Commons LEED application in conjunction with Nos Quedamos and Jocelyn Chait, community planner. The firm also recently completed El Jardin de Selene, a mixed-use, affordable housing development located on the corner of Melrose Avenue and East 158th St., which will achieve a LEED Gold rating as well as being NYSERDA Energy Star certified and Enterprise Green Communities compliant.