Dan Bigelow Photography

Jonathan F.P. Rose builds inspiring communities.

His affordable and mixed-income developments stand tall as models for green design and uplifting residents and their neighborhoods.

“In the early days, I had an aspiration for what we now call building communities of opportunity, figuring out how do you use affordable housing as a platform to help people improve their lives,” he says. “We’re now getting better and better, and we know more about how to do that.”

Rose followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, who were both real estate developers. In the early 1960s, the family took on the development of housing in the Bronx under the state Mitchell-Lama program for lower middle-income residents.

“I felt so connected to the building of Evergreen Gardens,” recalls Rose, who watched the development of the building from beginning to end. “I remember when it was done going to the leasing office one weekend. There were all these families lined up with clipboards with their leasing applications, and I remember the look on their faces, their desire, their anxiety. Were they going to get an affordable apartment?”

At the same time, the Rose family was building a prestigious office building on New York City’s famed Park Avenue, and, when it was done, a big event was held. A young Rose insisted that a celebration also be held when Evergreen Gardens was completed.

Growing up, he also witnessed his mother take part in the civil rights movement through voter rights and inner-city education efforts.

“At a young age, I wanted to figure out how could I put real estate development, social justice, and environmental preservation together,” Rose says. “A lot of the search of my younger years was to try to figure that out. The birth of the Jonathan Rose Cos. emerged from trying to find a solution to the conjunction of those three things.”

Rose would go on to join the family business, Rose Associates, but then left amicably in 1989 to start his own firm that would focus more on affordable housing. Shortly before then, he became involved in the Social Venture Network, an organization led by innovative social entrepreneurs and company builders, including the leaders of Ben & Jerry’s, The Body Shop, and Whole Foods.

“I was inspired by them, and I realized that there’s a place for somebody to try to be as transformational in the field of real estate,” Rose says. “That gave me the final push of encouragement to go out on my own.”

Jonathan Rose Cos. has become a force in creating housing with the goal of being as green as possible. It also has been active in preserving properties.

One of his notable projects is the award-winning Via Verde, an ambitious mixed-income development with 151 affordable apartments and 71 co-ops affordable to middle-income households in New York City’s South Bronx. A dynamic garden serves as the organizing architectural element of the community, which meets LEED Gold New Construction standards for environmental responsibility and energy-efficient design. In addition, amenities that contribute to the project’s theme of healthy living include open air courtyards, a health education and wellness center, and a fitness center.

“So much about it was innovative, including its beautiful aesthetic that shines even nearly two decades later,” says Adam Weinstein, president and CEO of Phipps Houses, a nonprofit that co-developed the project. “But it also pushed the envelope on sustainable, resilient, and active design, which were newer concepts in 2005 and 2006.”

The property also incorporated a classic building amenity—a doorman/concierge, common to market-rate housing but unheard of in multifamily affordable projects at the time, giving residents someone to take packages, work orders, provide security, and just build community by welcoming residents home.

“Interestingly, this amenity also has proven a meaningful cost control, as repair and operating cost increases for Via Verde have been significantly below trend,” Weinstein says. “Beautiful and high-amenity can also make sound economic sense.”

Rose continues to stand out for his relentless creativity and commitment to sustainable, healthy, and resilient design, according to Weinstein.

Over the years, Rose’s firm has grown to own more than 19,000 units in 100 properties, serving approximately 30,000 residents. It has about 500 employees and operates in 14 states. But more than size, it’s the company’s impact that matters most.

One of the firm’s goals has been to develop “communities of opportunities,” places that can transform the lives of its residents and neighbors. A recent example of that is Sendero Verde in New York City’s East Harlem neighborhood.

Developed in collaboration with L+M Development Partners and Acacia Network, the project is one of the largest passive house structures in the world. The first phase includes 361 units serving residents at seven different income levels. The development also features a charter school operated by the Harlem Children’s Zone.

Looking back at his career so far, Rose says he’s proud of creating his company.

“It’s not me anymore,” he says. “It’s having created an organism almost, this organism of the residents, the buildings, the investors, and the people who work for Jonathan Rose Cos. It’s that integration of all of them. It’s that ecology of it that I’m most pleased with.”