Via Verde, Green Affordable Housing Complex in Melrose, Has Grand Opening

By Patrick Wall on June 19, 2012 11:17am 

Via Verde is a new affordable housing complex located at 700 Brook Avenue. It combines sustainable design elements with features that promote healthy living.
Via Verde is a new affordable housing complex located at 700 Brook Avenue. It combines sustainable design elements with features that promote healthy living.
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Esto/David Sundberg

MELROSE — Dozens of officials and future tenants celebrated the grand opening Monday of Via Verde, an eye-catching apartment complex that grew out of a competition to design healthy, eco-friendly affordable housing.

The crowd gathered on the grassy courtyard of the 222-unit, mixed-income development, whose rooftop gardens, elevated orchard, solar panels, panoramic windows and in-house health clinic have attracted national attention.

“Twenty years ago, it would have been almost inconceivable that the future of this neighborhood would look as bright as it does today,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Monday at the development at East 156th Street and Brook Avenue.

The new complex, Bloomberg added, “has forever raised the bar for green affordable housing.”

Some 7,000 applicants entered a lottery for the building’s 151 rental apartments, which were reserved for families earning about $46,000 or less and have all been leased.

Families earning up to $134,400 were eligible to buy the complex’s co-op apartments, which cost about $146,000, plus maintenance fees, for a two-bedroom unit. More than three-quarters of the 71 co-op apartments have been sold.

The building rises to 20 stories at one end, then steps down to three-story townhouses at the other, on a long-abandoned site once home to a rail yard and gas station. Its aluminum and cement façade is spattered with red, yellow and orange wood panels.

In addition to motion-triggered lights and energy-efficient appliances, the building features some low-tech green designs, such as natural cross ventilation in some apartments and windowed stairwells to reduce elevator use and encourage exercise.

“Via Verde is a model for what affordable housing ought to be,” said Shaun Donovan, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, who conceived of the design competition several years ago when he was commissioner of the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

London-based Grimshaw Architects and New York-based Dattner Architects designed the apartments. The $99 million complex, developed by Jonathan Rose Companies and Phipps Houses, received city and federal funding and tax credits.

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