Creating urban, affordable, and energyconscious developments is not just a career for Jonathan F.P. Rose, it's a lifelong passion.
“Since I was a child, I've been interested in bringing together community, affordability, and environment—both buildings and neighborhoods,” he says. “It's been a very long-term interest.”
President of namesake firm Jonathan Rose Cos., founded in 1989, Rose has been a pioneer in creating housing models that bridge the gap between the environmental, economic, and social health of residents and communities.
“Dating back to the early 1990s, Jonathan has been passionately involved in trying to help development in this country to become more socially and environmentally responsible,” says Chuck Perry, managing partner of Perry Rose, LLC, a Jonathan Rose Cos. affiliate in Denver.
Perry points to the Denver Dry Goods Building as an example of Rose's pioneering leadership in the sustainable movement and in bringing income mixes together.
The redevelopment of the 100-year-old Denver Dry Goods Building was one of the first mixed-use, mixed-income projects to be done in downtown Denver. The lack of case studies meant a long time line. The development—a partnership between the New York City-based company and the Denver Urban Renewal Authority—took about seven years to complete.
The project combined affordable and marketrate rental housing, market-rate condos, offices, and retail in a walkable and transit-oriented location. It also featured insulated glass and large windows to bring in natural light, energy-efficient evaporative cooling, and other energy-saving elements.
Denver Dry Goods also inspired more than 20 other similar historic buildings to be redeveloped for mixed use in the Denver area.
Linking affordable and green
According to Rose, there are three specific components that make green building so important to affordable housing: green location, energy savings, and low toxicity.
“A green building has to start in a green location,” Rose says.
In low-income housing, the cost of transportation can be a huge percentage of residents' budgets, sometimes 30 percent, he says. “If it's located next to transit, walking locations, a downtown, it's not only healthier for the residents and the earth, but it's a also a big budget reducer.”
Rose also notes that walkable locations increase the opportunity for residents' children to have access to afterschool programs and supplemental education to help them prosper.
Another area of savings for both the company as well as the resident is the focus on a more energy-efficient building.
A typical 50- or 60-unit affordable housing development may have positive cash of $35,000 to $50,000 a year, so $3,500 in energy savings can boost the owner's bottom line by 10 percent. But it also benefits the resident's bottom line. “If one can significantly cut utility costs, that improves their ability to pay for education, healthier food, and health care,” Rose says.
And the third component focuses on creating healthier environments. To design healthier affordable housing, Rose says it's all about selecting the right materials, like paints, carpets, and glues that don't off-put gases, and kitchen cabinets that don't off-put formaldehyde.
After the completion of the Metro Green Apartments, a transit-oriented development in Stamford, Conn., Rose spent some time talking with residents. A mother of a young child with asthma told Rose that after moving in, the child's symptoms improved and the child no longer needed as much medication. “Those are benefits to society, too, if hospitals are having fewer hospital visits,” he adds.
The costs of green
Jonathan Rose Cos.' developments are targeted to achieve at a minimum Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) silver certification or Enterprise's Green Communities certification.
But achieving those goals doesn't have to include a heavy financial burden. It's not about adding extra bells and whistles, Rose says, but about building smarter at the base.
Rose says the firm's construction cost on a green development runs on average about 1 percent higher than a nongreen project. Since budgets are tight and green financing programs are scant, the company's goal is to find ways that it can make buildings greener without costing more.
One approach is integrated design. The company is putting gas-fired boilers on the roof because they run more effi- ciently than in the basement where they have to heat the flue gases. The elimination of the flues can save $10,000 per floor and increases the amount of residential space. This in turn provides a lower operating cost and saves on capital costs, plus the savings can be put toward other green design features.
Raising the bar
A new model for green building will be the 222-unit Via Verde in the South Bronx, which Jonathan Rose Cos. is developing with New York City-based nonprofi t Phipps Houses.
“Via Verde sets the standard for a 21st century way of designing and building affordable housing—competitively awarded and community driven—that has become a model for innovative federal housing policy under President Obama's leadership,” said Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan at the groundbreaking ceremony in early May. “Via Verde reflects a commitment to a new kind of sustainability—not just the environmental sustainability of green roofs and compact fluorescents, but also the social and economic sustainability that can only result from housing with a mix of incomes and uses.”
Via Verde, which is expected to be completed in 2012, continues to build on the company's principles that went into the Denver Dry Goods Building in the 1990s as well as its other developments.
According to Rose, the project will be a mixture of homeownership and rental, and the income mix will span from the very low to 110 percent of the area median income.
Paul Freitag, director of development, says because of the narrow site, the development will be a series of buildings that step from south to north, starting with a three-story building and ending with a 20-story building.
The project will integrate nature into this city block with community gardens where residents can grow fruits and vegetables, and green rooftops where the residents can embrace the open space.
It also will have a strong focus on healthy living, with plans for a health education and wellness center, a fitness center, and bicycle storage areas.
Via Verde is expected to exceed LEED gold standards. It will feature solar shading, photovoltaic panels, energyeffi cient appliances, and high-efficiency mechanical systems. The green rooftops also will be used to harvest rainwater.
“Via Verde has it all,” Rose says. “It will be a great model for the next generation of development of affordable housing.”
Preserving affordable housing
In addition to new construction, Jonathan Rose Cos. purchases existing buildings to preserve as affordable housing and to make them greener.
“If we're going to make a real difference in climate change, we feel it's tackling the issue of greening existing buildings,” says Freitag.
The company received the first grant through HUD's Green Retrofit Program for Multifamily Housing, which was created under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, for its West 135th Street Apartments.
The Rose Smart Growth Investment Fund I, L.P., acquired the 10 six-story buildings with 198 units in Harlem in December 2008 and worked with HUD in mid-2009 to obtain a 15-year contract renewal to preserve the project's affordability for the long term.
In addition to the $3.6 million pilot grant from HUD, the project received funds from the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development.
A lot of the solutions to greening these buildings are practical, Freitag says. The biggest impact will be replacing the 32 old boilers with 10 high-effi ciency boilers. A rooftop photovoltaic solar array will generate electricity in the common areas, and Energy Star appliances, low-e windows, and low-flow showerheads and toilets will help make the project more energy- and water-efficient for residents. The retrofit is expected to be completed by the end of 2010.
“It's not as sexy as new development, but it has potential lessons for tens of thousands of buildings in New York,” says Freitag.
Rose adds, “We preserved affordability, extended life of Sec. 8 housing, and made it greener. It's great for residents and lowering long-term operating costs.”
For each development, Jonathan Rose Cos. has a green manual for residents and provides a gift basket of green cleaning supplies at move-in.
“A lot of energy use or waste is really a result of human behavior,” Rose says. “We try to help our residents make proenvironmental behavioral decisions that don't have negative impacts.”
An example of how residents are embracing the sustainable elements is at David and Joyce Dinkins Gardens in Harlem, co-developed with Harlem Congregations for Community Improvement, Inc., which was completed in 2008.
“The coolest thing for me is how the community garden has taken off and how the people have taken it over,” says Whitney Foutz, a project manager. She says that last summer every single plot was used and filled with vegetables, such as chard, tomatoes, green beans, and peppers.
What the company provides for residents and the environment is rewarding for many of its employees.
“I'm enormously proud of the projects we've done,” says Foutz. “I think personally we all practice what we preach.”
Freitag adds that the company culture is all about learning. The company regularly has sessions with outside speakers and fosters the furthering of employees' education on real estate and green building.
“It's extremely satisfying,” Rose says. “It's a wonderful way to be spending our work life.”
Advice from the Pros
Jonathan Rose Cos. executives offered the following tips for developers who are thinking of taking the plunge into the sea of green:
President Jonathan F.P. Rose suggests starting out by visiting a few green projects and talking with other developers and owners to see how they do it. He adds, “Be sure to hire architects and engineers that have designed green projects because if the client doesn't know how and the architects and engineers haven't [done a green project before], then you're likely to make a mistake.”
Chuck Perry, managing partner of Perry Rose, LLC, in Denver says, “Start from the outset,” adding that the company usually starts with a green charrette to decide what sustainable elements will go into the project and to decide whether it will be certified as a green building or not. “We try in the beginning to put together a set of criteria that we're trying to meet. Because if you've got a checklist and you know what you're shooting for, you can monitor and move forward,” he says. “Don't give up, keep being innovative in ways to meet the checklist.”
Paul Freitag, director of development for Jonathan Rose Cos., says the one thing he thinks is particularly important for affordable housing is that you get the base components, such as walls, roofs, boilers, and windows, right. “We really sincerely believe that you can have a building that runs much better at no additional cost if you're committed and thoughtful to picking those things.”
Projects of Note
Jonathan Rose Cos. plans to complete construction and lease-up on more than 500 units and begin construction on 270 units this year. Here are some noteworthy projects in the pipeline:
Silver Gardens Apartments in Albuquerque, N.M.
The 66-unit Silver Gardens, which is codeveloped by the Supportive Housing Coalition of New Mexico, is the first affordable housing development in the nation to conduct a carbon offset transaction; it sold 330 tons of additional carbon emissions reductions to Enterprise Green Communities Offset Fund for $6,600.
The project, which was completed this spring, had another funding boost from Los Alamos National Bank. Recognizing the value of green assets, the bank provided the construction loan a half of point cheaper and waived the closing fee, says Homer Robinson, senior project manager of Jonathan Rose Cos.' New Mexico-based affiliate Romero Rose.
The company teamed with The Fortune Society, Inc., to create 114 units of affordable housing, including 50 studios for formerly incarcerated residents, adjacent to the Fortune Academy or “The Castle,” a nationally recognized residence for homeless individuals with a history of incarceration. The development, which will open this summer, features multiple greenroof terraces, rainwater harvesting, and a rubberized play area for children.
YWCA Residences for Women in White Plains,N.Y.
In partnership with the YWCA of White Plains and Central Westchester, 185 units will be renovated, eight new units of affordable housing will be added, as well as the addition of space for supportive services. This gut rehab will make two existing buildings built in 1920 and 1970 state of the art. It also was one of the company's four projects that closed on Tax Credit Assistance Program funds. The project is expected to be completed in 2011.