From urban devastation to thriving community – in 20 years or less

Located in the South Bronx, Melrose was one of the first sections of the Bronx to be settled in the mid 1800’s, and by the 1940’s it was a thriving neighborhood of Italian, German and Irish immigrants.  During the 1960’s and 1970’s Melrose declined, with the culmination in the late 70’s early 80’s of the burning down of most of the neighborhood through arson leaving a devastated and mostly abandoned, rubble strewn area to fend for itself.


In the early 90s, residents of Melrose Commons, a 30 block area in the South Bronx and in one of the nation’s poorest congressional districts, fought against a redevelopment plan for the area which would displace them completely. Magnusson Architecture and Planning (MAP) was involved from the beginning in helping a grassroots community group, Nos Quedamos/We Stay, generate a redevelopment plan that included area residents staying instead of displacing them, a plan that MAP then helped to usher through New York City’s government approval process. With the establishment of the Melrose Commons Urban Renewal Area in 1993, Nos Quedamos and MAP set a new precedent for urban community planning and design, forcing cities to include residents in the planning process instead of excluding them and establishing an innovative master plan for a new sustainable community.


Since then MAP has continued to work with Nos Quedamos in the planning and design of specific sites in Melrose Commons for new residential and mixed-use developments representing over 1000 apartments either built or in design.  Our work in Melrose continues to this day with the recently announced award by the City of New York of a new large scale mixed-use MAP designed development project on 161st Street in Melrose Commons.


Today Melrose has become a model community of sustainable urban revitalization.  New models of housing, for a range of income levels and special needs, is being developed. As stated in the conclusion of a study of the Melrose area by the New York City Economic Development Corporation, “with an increased housing supply, growing population, and improving quality of life, Melrose and it’s vicinity will be experiencing countless changes throughout the coming years.  New commercial and retail destinations are being developed and demand for goods and services is on the rise.  Improved access via public transportation will facilitate the increasing population density and a growing Hispanic influence will play a large role in the identity of the area.”