Strategy of the Month: Healthy Living at Via Verde

October 2011


An architectural rendering of the Via Verde development in the city of New York. Credit: Phipps, Rose, Dattner, Grimshaw
An architectural rendering of the Via Verde development in the city of New York. Image Credit: Phipps, Rose, Dattner, Grimshaw

Set for a late 2012 completion, a new development in the Melrose neighborhood of the South
Bronx — situated on formerly contaminated land in a historically distressed neighborhood — is a prime example of quality affordable, sustainable, and mixed-income housing. Known as Via Verde, the project was the winning entry of the New Housing New York (NHNY) Design Ideas Competition of 2004, sponsored by the New York chapter of the American Institute of Architects and the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development. Designers were challenged to create affordable, sustainable, and mixed-income housing through innovative design. Phipps Houses and Jonathan Rose Companies, together with Dattner Architects and Grimshaw, was the development team responsible for the Via Verde project; the team was awarded first place out of 32 entries. To translate the concept design into a built project, the NHNY Legacy Project was established in 2006 — awarding the development team a 40,000 square-foot, vacant city-owned lot for a nominal fee and a $145,000 New York State Department of Environmental Conservation environmental remediation grant. The project broke ground on May 3, 2010.

Via Verde (The Green Way) is a 221-unit project that includes townhouses, live-work units, and duplex apartments in a 300,000 square foot mixed-use complex. Seventy-one units will be homeownership co-op units, aimed at households earning 110 percent of the area median income (AMI), while 150 units will be rental units for low- and moderate-income households earning between 30 and 90 percent of AMI.

What sets Via Verde apart from other affordable developments is its focus on green and healthy living. The project is a pilot for New York City’s Active Design Guidelines, which seeks to alleviate obesity through physical activity while also supporting the goal of sustainability. Physical activities are encouraged through its design and amenities; the property is located near mass transit, staircases are lit with natural light and placed ahead of elevators to encourage walking, and the fitness room overlooks views of the terraced roof to encourage its use. Via Verde will also include a farmer’s market on the ground floor and a health education and wellness center, to promote a healthy life style. Via Verde’s sustainable features include rooftop gardens, which serve a multitude of purposes — onsite community gardening, increased energy efficiency from an added layer of insulation, and storm water management achieved through rainwater retention. According to Via Verde Homes, LLC, Via Verde is designed to achieve Gold LEED certification, as well as to exceed environmental responsibility guidelines established by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and Enterprise Green Communities. The building is estimated to be 30 percent more energy efficient than a standard building.

The Via Verde project rethinks public housing as a mix of public and private spaces near mass transit, aimed at addressing health concerns such as obesity, while providing access to healthy food and opportunities for physically activity.

For additional details and a link to the project, please click here

We hope this information will assist communities as they continue to look for ways to promote sustainable affordable housing. If you have successfully implemented affordable housing programs of any kind, would like to share resources, or require assistance in identifying additional policy tools, research, or strategies available through our searchable online Clearinghouse database, email us at rbcsumbit@huduser.org, call us at 1-800-245-2691 (option 4), or visit our website at www.regbarriers.org.