Compendium

Melrose Commons

Melrose Commons, located in the Bronx, New York City, is one of the first LEED-ND certified eco-neighborhoods in the United States.

The specificity of this project is that it relied on the various district stakeholders, and more particularly its inhabitants, for its development. The LEED-ND certification was also used as a design and communication tool. 

The main urban designer, as well as the residents of the association Nos Quedamos/We stay, used the pilot version of the LEED-ND rating tool to promote their project which was mostly socially and economically oriented, at a time when sustainable urban planning was still in its early stages in the United States.

Dates of completion1994 – today
No planned delivery date due to a desire for continuous improvement of the project
Surface area29.5 ha
LocalizationParis, France
Project descriptionDense urban renewal project.
– 3,000 affordable housing units (thanks to subsidies from New York City)
– 16,260 m² of retail and office space
– 18,580 m² of community infrastructure: school, daycare, community center
– 16,600 m² of public space: squares and playgrounds.
Certification LEED-ND v1 (pilote) certification Silver (2010), score of 57 points out of 106.

Context

From the 1960s onwards, the Melrose district began to decline, reaching a critical state of poverty at the end of the 1970s. The owners of the buildings in the neighbourhood were no longer able to collect rents from very low-income households, and started to burn their properties to recover insurance money. It is in this context that the city released, in the early 1990s, the first studies, as well as a master plan for the urban renewal of the district. At a public meeting, the master plan was strongly rejected by the residents of Melrose. Yolanda Garcia, a local resident, then founded the citizen association “Nos Quedamos / We stay” to resist the project, and collaborated with the urban designers of MAP architects to think about a new project. It was finally adopted by the city council in 1994. 

Stakeholders

Government bodies: Department of City Planning, Department of Housing Preservation and Development, and the Bronx Borrow President. 

Designers and developers: MAP Architects (Lead designers), Weintraub & diDomenico, Marvel Architects or Danish Architects associated with developers such as MJM Construction Inc, L + M Development Partners, Procida Realty & Construction Corp.  

Technical design firm: Ettinger engineering LLC, William Atlas Associates. 

Association Nos Quedamos/We stay 

Sustainable Development

At the scale of the whole project, the environmental approach is initially not very developed. However, the project did focus on reducing water consumption and reusing it in the various community shared gardens. While the Melrose Commons project does not present a specific strategy at the neighborhood level, a few buildings are LEED BD + C and Energy Star are certified. The neighborhood has not been the subject of specific developments or infrastructure constructions regarding recycling and waste management. Nonetheless , the 8 community gardens located in the district have composting areas and residents are invited to drop off their organic waste. Finally, the Melrose Commons project devotes little attention to biodiversity management strategies because of the low proportion of green spaces opened to the public, given residents’ fears about the risks of drug trafficking. 

The social aspects are relatively well taken into account. The project is the result of a strong civic involvement on the part of the Latino American community living on the site, which has initiated numerous public meetings and co-design workshops. To date, within the scope of the operation, nearly 2,400 units have received government subsidies and are considered affordable. Many community infrastructures, such as shared gardens, playgrounds and a community center, have been built to encourage interactions among the population. Numerous bus lines, a metro station and Melrose railway station provide access to public transport. 

Researchers working on this project

Claire Doussard