The lots in question with Via Verde in the background
Since this blog was started over 3 years ago, we have seen the nonstop rise of Melrose with thousands of apartments constructed in various developments of all shapes and sizes including, but not limited to, condominiums, townhouses, apartment buildings and a tower for a growing college campus. With that came thousands of new residents flooding, a once nearly abandoned neighborhood, with new life – families and professionals from a myriad of socioeconomic backgrounds woven back into the tapestry of our community. All this led to the area coming in as one of the fastest growing neighborhoods in New York City, coming in at #3, in the 2010 census.
Now within the last few weeks, the city has called for developers to “think big” on two of the largest remaining tracts of developable land in Melrose and indeed the South Bronx. And think big they will since the lots can accommodate over a million square feet. Think the Gateway Mall at The Bronx Terminal Market which has 1 million square feet of retail space. We have been used to all these requests in the neighborhood for well over a decade but what sets this apart from any other is that the city decided to give developers a free reign. They want to see what developers will come up with without the usual mandates from the Bloomberg administration of retail, commercial space, community space etc. The only mandatory element is that affordable housing must be included.
Am I the only one looking at this with excitement yet an eye on caution?
Developments in Melrose have long been built with the surrounding area in mind and mixing of incomes but will real estate developers give in to the temptation of creating an uber luxurious development on a lot so close to a subway station that can whisk you into midtown in 20 minutes or less?
Will the they perhaps think of tapping into the community on what we want and NEED on that site? The smart developer will think of listening to the people before committing pen to paper.
More than any moment in our history, we are in dire need of community spaces to house the groups that serve our needs yet are finding themselves thrown on the streets with nowhere to go – something that has been happening in an alarming rate. RebelDiaz, Urban Divers, Casa Atabex have been either evicted or in the process of eviction for no other reason than greed. With over a million square feet of space to play with, a small percentage of this development can be dedicated to such uses, perhaps even housing several of these organizations under one roof where they can share common areas for performances, workshops, classrooms and whatever else is needed.
Another critical component of any development should be to include the opportunity for homeownership with the majority of units for purchase for both middle and low income families and the remainder of the units for rental to the same demographic. Coops or Condos will offset the last minute change of such developments like La Terraza which went from coops to rentals due to the aftermath of the housing crash. An area cannot survive simply on rental stock. It needs to be diverse to create a stronger local economy.
Commercial, both retail and office space, should be a part of this so that it can connect nicely to the rest of the neighborhood as well as the almost adjacent Via Verde.
It will be interesting to see what developers will produce. They pushed the envelope and broke the expectations with Via Verde so they have no choice but to match, if not exceed that project.
We must remember that this is our community and we should be allowed to participate in the conversations that will shape its future.