Announcement | October 15, 2008

Melrose Commons Takes the LEED in Green Urban Design


The South Bronx community of Melrose Commons has been honored for its pioneering role in the sustainable design and redevelopment of urban neighborhoods.  Recently selected as a member of the Focus Group for the new LEED for Neighborhood Development Pilot Program (LEED-ND), Melrose Commons was also presented as a case-study at the September 2008 World Sustainable Building Conference in Melbourne, Australia.


Devastated from years of neglect, Melrose Commons lay 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 / We Stay, was formed.  Nos Quedamos joined forces in 1992 with Magnusson Architecture and Planning, PC (MAP), who provided urban planning advice that enabled the grass roots group to create and propose a viable alternative to the City’s urban renewal plan. Through their 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.


Though the Melrose Commons Urban Renewal Plan was groundbreaking in many respects, it is being recognized today for its commitment to sustainable development.  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.


“We’re especially excited about being selected because Melrose Commons is one of the only low-income urban renewal areas in the entire Pilot, which includes more than 200 projects across the country,” explains Christine Hunter, a Principal at MAP. “We are confident that Melrose Commons will be certified because, from the start, the Urban Renewal Plan was committed to 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.”


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. This conference, held every three years, is the peak gathering of the world’s leading technical experts and researchers on sustainable building. Damian Possidente, an Associate at MAP, presented a case study on Melrose Commons. One of only 80 projects selected from around the world, Melrose Commons represented the attainability and importance of sustainable design in low-income, urban neighborhoods.


“Long before Green Design was a hot topic in the industry, we recognized its importance to the life of our community. My mother, Yolanda Garcia, founder of Nos Quedamos, fought tirelessly to see sustainable design incorporated into the Urban Renewal Plan as well as the development of each new project in the neighborhood,” says Yolanda Gonzalez, Executive Director of Nos Quedamos. “To be recognized for our dedication to the cause, against great odds, is unbelievably rewarding.  We hope to set an example for many communities like ours across the country and around the world.”


MAP is documenting the Melrose Commons LEED application in conjunction with Nos Quedamos and Jocelyn Chait, Planner.  The firm is also currently designing El Jardin de Selene, a mixed-use, affordable housing development located in Melrose Commons on the corner of Melrose Avenue and East 158th Street. The El Jardin project will achieve a LEED-Silver rating, as well as being NYSERDA Energy Star certified and Enterprise Green Communities compliant.


MAP has been designing innovative community-based projects since 1995. Current projects include:  several new housing and mixed-use developments throughout the boroughs of New York City, as well as developments in the Hudson Valley, Long Island and New Jersey.  Other current and past MAP clients include: Phipps Houses, Volunteers of America, the Jewish Board of Children and Family Services, CPC Resources, Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council, Inc., L&M Equities, Fifth Avenue Committee, and BFC Construction.