by Gary Axelbank
July 16, 2018
Tucked away on Creston Avenue in a tidy commmunity east of Jerome Avenue, the Bronx’ most remarkable housing project is taking shape with an innovative plan for future residents and the community and an inventive construction design.
Bedford Green House, which had its groundbreaking in November, is a supportive and affordable housing development for more than 300 occupants.
Its many incredible amenities, which include a rooftop aquaponics greenhouse, a living green façade, a colorful community playground, a library and tutoring center for children, custom artwork by Bronx artists, an extensively landscaped courtyard, healthy cooking classes, horticultural therapy, comprehensive services from on-site social workers, clinicians, and medical professionals, and an on-site medical clinic for the community, only tell part of this unique story.
The $120 million development, which will sit at 2865 Creston Avenue near 198th Street, is being built by Project Renewal atop and around an immense three-story boulder that was too big, too hard, and too expensive to remove. According to Bronx Borough Historian Lloyd Ultan the rock was formed about 375 million years ago and is part of the oldest bedrock in New York City.
It’s presence front and center of a forward-thinking project that’s designed to combat homlessness and provide vital affordability for Bronxites, only adds to the allure and wonder of what is going to be a special place to live in the Bronx.
“We think this is a compelling project for a lot of reasons,” said Jody Rudin, Interim President & CEO of Project Renewal. “It helps us fulfill our mission to end the cycle of homelessness. It also allows us to make real positive impact on the surrounding Bedford Park community with respect to healthy living, vertical farming, healthy eating, and health care opportunities.”
After a recent tour of the construction site, Senator Gustavo Rivera said he was impressed and Rachel Ferrari, his Director of Strategic Planning & Special Projects, said, “When developers come to us with other projects, this is the one we point to as what an ideal project would be like in the Bronx.”
The 1500 square-foot rooftop greenhouse will be filled with nutritious produce in a vertical farming system called aquaponic in which residents will raise delicious, nutritious fish and vegetables in a symbiotic ecosystem. Edible fish will live in large tanks connected to a bio-filter that breaks down fish waste and carries nutrients to the plant roots; meanwhile the plants will clean the water for the fish. Because the aquaponics growing platforms can be stacked vertically, produce yields per square foot will be many times higher than with traditional soil-based farming.
The roof will also have organic farming planter boxes to grow vegetables. Residents will work with Project Renewal’s horticultural therapist to grow their own food in the greenhouse and then work in the demonstration kitchen with healthy cooking classes taught by professional chefs from Project Renewal’s Culinary Arts Training Program.
Unlike other Bronx developers who get criticized for not listening to community concerns, Project Renewal and their consultants took the voices of local residents seriously as they developed the design.
“There’s a shortage of safe spaces in the neighborhood because the playgrounds get crowded,” said Samual Wells, CEO of Blue Sky Development Partners LLC, “and as soon as we heard it from the community, we agreed that we would make a little park in front of our building that will have slides and swings, cliimbing equipment and musical instruments that make peaceful sounds like a xylophone.”
Constructed with LEED Gold standards for energy efficiency, the Bedford Green House will feature an interior green wall in the lobby and an exterior living green façade at the building frontage with plants and vines cascading from planters that will help transform the visual character of the neighborhood and will reduce the building’s energy usage.
According to Bedford Green House developers, cost for Bronx land is continually rising, but the presence of the immovable, impenetrable rock that others didn’t want to deal with helped Project Renewal acquire the property and keep their original purchase costs down. Mr. Wells said it would have cost up to $4 million to remove it.
Rather than try and blast it out, he said, “we came up with a creative solution which is to stair step the building up and over the rock. That rock is one of the hardest ones that survived the last ice age and so that piece of bedrock has a lot of significance and we’ll preserve it.”
Professor Ultan said that dealing with rocks like this was not uncommon in the development of the west Bronx and that if you look closely at the rock you can likely see scratch marks made by the glaciers as they ultimately passed by.
“I think the solution that they came up with to actually incorporate that rock outcropping into development is extremely clever,” Ultan said.
According to Edison Buenaventura, Sr. Project Manager of Hollister Construction Services, the rock will provide a sense of nature and charm for the residents. “The design calls for the building to look like it’s growing from the rock. So literally from the third floor up, you’ll see a building that looks like it’s growing from the rock.”
RESIDENTS AND AFFORDABILITY
This exclusive video for thisistheBronX depicts the first phase of the planned development for the innovative Bedford Green House that’s being built on Creston Avenue in the Bronx.
The first phase of the Bedford Green House (shown in the video) will have 118 units and will open in late 2019. The second phase, beginning construction in 2020, will have 116 more units, bringing the total to 234 units. The total development cost will be about $120 million. Monthly rent is projected at $951 for a studio, $1,020 for one bedroom, and $1,224 for two bedrooms.
Starting in 2019, Project Renewal will work with a marketing consultant and with HPD to advertise the project in multiple languages in multiple publications. The advertisements will include the units available, the rent, tenant income requirements, and a procedure to submit the housing application through the Housing Portal website or via paper application delivered to a PO box. Anyone interested can look forward to those ads next year. As soon as it’s available, information will also be published here on thisistheBronX.
Homeless referrals will come from the NYC Department of Homeless Services (DHS).
We’re thrilled about this project,” Ms. Rudin said. ” It’s completely aligned with our mission around working with people to renew their lives through healthy homes and jobs and we’re just so excited about the impact that this is going to have on the residents in the building and within the broader community.”
Bedford Green House’s development team is led by Jody Rudin and Sam Wells at Project Renewal, and by Jonathan Rose and Dale White at The Jonathan Rose Companies. Hollister Construction Services is serving as the general contractor. Architectural design services are provided by Edelman Sultan Knox Wood Architects, with structural engineering by Robert Silman Associates, MEP engineering by Allen Rosenthal, geotechnical engineering by Mueser Rutledge, landscape design by Billie Cohen, Ltd., waterproofing and façade design by The Façade Group, lighting by Jim Conti, aquaponics by A&A Epiphany, LEED design by Steven Winter Associates, cost estimating by SBI Consultants, environmental consulting by The Hillmann Group, Sam Schwartz Engineering, Genesis Environmental, surveying by Montrose Surveying, title search by Chicago Title Company, and expediting by Design 2147.
The project’s funders and supporters include the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA), the New York City Housing Development Corporation (HDC), New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH), Bank of America, Deutsche Bank, and TD Bank.
Bedford Green House was financed under HDC’s Extremely Low- and Low-Income Affordability (ELLA) program and HPD’s Supportive Housing New Construction program. The total development cost for the project is over $58.8 million. HDC provided more than $28.2 million in tax-exempt volume cap bonds, $1.7 million in recycled tax-exempt bonds, and nearly $7 million in corporate reserves. HPD provided $8.85 million in City subsidy, inclusive of $2 million in HOME funds. HPD also provided an allocation of annual Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC), which generated nearly $24 million in tax credit equity. Bank of America served as tax credit investor and provided the construction letter of credit. NYS OTDA provided $6.22 million under the Homeless Housing and Assistance Program (HHAP). Additional grant funding was provided TD Bank and Deutsche Bank Foundation.
ABOUT PROJECT RENEWAL
Project Renewal is a New York City-based nonprofit organization that works to end the cycle of homelessness by empowering adults and children to renew their lives with health, homes and jobs. Project Renewal’s innovative programs are designed to end the revolving door of emergency rooms, jails, shelters and the streets. For 50 years, Project Renewal’s pioneering approach has created uniquely integrated and comprehensive programs that are replicated around the nation, helping even beyond the 16,000 homeless New Yorkers Project Renewal serves every year. www.projectrenewal.org