By Diana Mosher, Editorial Director
New York—The up-and-coming Melrose section of the Bronx has changed dramatically since arson ravaged much of the original housing stock in the late 1960s and 1970s. In fact, the urban renewal that began in the late 1990s has been called a full-fledged “green” construction boom, and Melrose now leads the borough with the largest number of LEED-certified apartment communities. Just a few express stops from Manhattan, Melrose continues to capture the attention of multifamily developers—they are also keeping an eye on the Grand Concourse section of the Bronx.
On June 18 a number of VIPs were on hand to celebrate the opening of Via Verde, the newest poster child for green affordable development to join the Melrose section’s LEED line-up. The ribbon-cutting ceremony was attended by New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan, JPMorgan Chase Chief Administrative Officer and CEO of Mortgage Banking Frank Bisignano, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., United States Congressman Rep. Jose E. Serrano, Commissioner and CEO of NYS Homes and Community Renewal Darryl C. Towns, Commissioner NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development Mathew Wambua, President NYC Housing Development Corporation Marc Jahr, New York City Council Member Maria del Carmen Arroyo, and Executive Director of AIA New York Rick Bell.
Via Verde co-developers Phipps Houses and Jonathan Rose Companies, in partnership with Dattner Architects and Grimshaw, have created an impressive green living template that raises the bar for multifamily architecture and development. Via Verde is designed to exceed LEED Gold standards by utilizing low-tech strategies such as solar shading, cross ventilation, photovoltaic panels and high-efficiency mechanical systems. These strategies have been quicker to gain acceptance by affordable developers; now market rate needs to pick up its pace.
Via Verde’s graceful stepped form—which combines low-rise, mid-rise and high-rise architecture—was inspired by “the integration of nature and city.” The centerpiece of the project is a garden that the architects describe as the “organizing element and spiritual identity for the community.” Located on the connected green rooftops of Via Verde, the garden space is used to grow fruits and vegetables, harvest rainwater and provide residents with outdoor areas.
This mixed-use project (Montefiore Medical Center will be the first commercial tenant) was designed for a range of income levels by providing 151 rental apartments for low-income households and 71 co-op units for middle-income households. Layouts include simplex or duplex units as well as live-work units. All apartments feature Energy Star appliances, energy-efficient lighting, panoramic (high-efficiency operable) windows, low off-gassing materials and non-toxic paint, super-sealed insulation and water-conserving fixtures.