Via Verde, one of the most highly anticipated affordable housing developments in recent years, celebrated its grand opening in the south Bronx.

Featuring 151 units of affordable rental housing and 71 moderate-income co-op units, the stylish Via Verde first gained attention five years ago as the winning concept in New York City’s first juried design competition for affordable and sustainable housing.

Developed by for-profit Jonathan Rose Cos. and nonprofit Phipps Houses Group, the approximately $99 million complex includes three different building types. There’s a 20-story tower at one end, six- to 12-story mid-rises in the middle, and then three- and four-story townhomes on the other end.

The rental units are in the tower and the mid-rise section. Co-op units are in the townhomes as well as the mid-rise. The rental apartments drew 7,000 applicants.

Designed by Dattner Architects and Grimshaw Architects, Via Verde was built to achieve LEED-Gold certification.

The development is distinguished by a series of gardens that begin in a courtyard and then spiral up through different green roofs and south-facing solar panels. The gardens dissipate heat and absorb rainwater runoff using a system that recycles water for irrigation and creates prime opportunities for gardening and social gathering.

 “Twenty years ago, it was inconceivable that the future of this neighborhood would look as bright as it does today,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “No one would have predicted that today there would one day be one of the most innovative, exciting, environmentally sustainable affordable housing developments in the nation–if not the world.”

Bloomberg was joined by Shaun Donovan, secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and other officials at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Before becoming the nation’s top housing official in 2009, Donovan led the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD).

“Via Verde is a model for what affordable housing ought to be–a platform for opportunity, a source of stability, a building block with which we forge neighborhoods, put down roots, and build the communities that are the engines of our nation’s economic growth,” Donovan said.

In another show of the project’s emphasis on health and sustainability, Montefiore Medical Center is set to open a comprehensive family practice in the building in the fall. Via Verde will also be part of a study funded by the National Institutes of Health and the MacArthur Foundation that will examine the health benefits of newly constructed housing financed under Bloomberg’s New Housing Marketplace Plan, an initiative to finance 165,000 affordable housing units by the end of fiscal 2014.

Via Verde is built on a 1.5-acre site that was conveyed by the HPD to the development team at a nominal cost to help subsidize the affordability of the project.

The project won the New Housing New York Legacy competition, sponsored by HPD, the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, and the Enterprise Foundation. The competition aimed to promote affordable, sustainable, and mixed-income housing by using innovative design on a site that had proved difficult to develop.

Via Verde was then financed with low-income housing tax credits, HOME funds, and various city and state programs. JPMorgan Chase was the only private lender and investor in this project, providing a total of $76.5 million in construction loans and equity through the purchase of federal and state tax credits.