Melrose Commons Takes the LEED in Green Urban Design

By Anuradha Kher, Online News EditorBronx, N.Y.–The South Bronx community of Melrose Commons was recently honored for its pioneering role in the sustainable design and redevelopment of urban neighborhoods. The project was selected as a member of the Focus Group for the new Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) pilot program. Devastated from years of neglect, Melrose Commons was in shambles by the early 1990s. In response to the city’s redevelopment plan, which would have resulted in the displacement of residents, a community development organization, Nos Quedamos, was formed. Nos Quedamos joined forces in 1992 with Magnusson Architecture and Planning, PC (MAP), which provided urban planning advice that enabled the grassroots group to create and propose a viable alternative to the city’s urban renewal plan. Through its work with MAP as well as the borough of the Bronx and the city and state of New York, Nos Quedamos was able to get the Melrose Commons Urban Renewal Plan signed into law in early 1994. 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. With 14 buildings and 250 townhomes spread across 17.2 acres of land in the Bronx, Melrose Commons features 1,379 units. When complete, approximately 4,000 to 6,000 people are expected to live in this community. “The project includes pedestrian-oriented mixed-use, mixed-income development, maintaining open space and incorporating sustainable design and construction techniques,” Christine Hunter, AIA, LEED AP of MAP, tells MHN. “Nos Quedamos was particularly concerned about the creation of healthy indoor and outdoor environments in an area plagued by pollution and high asthma rates.” Jocelyne Chait, planner, tells MHN about the hurdles faced in designing this project. “Challenges included the fact that there were several contaminated sites; a decision to not displace people in the neighborhood made it harder to plan and build; and there was a constant struggle to balance budgets.”In addition to its selection for the LEED-ND pilot program, Melrose Commons was featured at the September 2008 World Sustainable Building (SB) Conference in Melbourne, Australia.