Arbor House

Arbor House Ribbon Cutting Celebrates Healthy Affordable Housing

February 21, 2013 marked the ribbon cutting celebration for Arbor House, an eco-friendly and health-promoting residential building in the South Bronx. Built as part of Mayor Bloomberg’s New Housing Marketplace Plan and developed by Blue Sea Development, Arbor House stands as an example to which future housing projects, both market-rate and low-income, can aspire. The 120,000 square foot building provides 124 units of affordable housing for families earning 60% of the area medium income. Twenty-five percent of the units will give preference to New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) residents and those on NYCHA’s waitlist.

Located in a neighborhood with a disproportionately high number of low-income New Yorkers fighting obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and asthma, Arbor House incorporates a variety of Active Design strategies to combat these issues by promoting a healthy lifestyle. Inspired by discussions with the NYC active design team, the building has inviting, accessible indoor and outdoor fitness areas that encourage active recreation options for people of all ages. Stairs are directly visible from the building’s main entrance and act as an attractive option for vertical circulation. The entry doors of the stairs are made of glass on every floor, allowing increased visibility and lighting into the stairway. The interior walls of the stairway are filled with beautifully painted artwork and music, while the exterior walls showcase motivational stair prompt signage that encourages residents to take the stairs. It is by using these strategies that the Arbor House project was able to apply for the LEED Innovation Credit: Design for Health through Increased Physical Activity.

Perhaps the most innovative and visually striking element of Arbor House is the hydroponic farm located on the roof. Encompassing 10,000 square feet, the hydroponic farm will function as a community supported agriculture (CSA) arrangement, in which Arbor House residents can purchase shares of healthy food produced by the farm. Nutritious and chemical-free herbs, fruits, and vegetables will be available year-round. About 40% of the produce will be made available to the local community through outreach to nearby schools, hospitals, and markets.

Arbor House is designed to provide a high level of air quality to its residents. The building has a smoke-free policy and has used low VOC paints and materials. The lobby features a living green wall installation that will help circulate fresh air. It is hoped that these features, along with the rooftop farm, may have an effect on reducing resident asthma rates, which tend to be high in the South Bronx. Mount Sinai Hospital will conduct a formal evaluation to assess this and other resident health indicators that are anticipated to improve due to the development’s emphasis on healthy living.

Overall, Arbor House serves as a national model for healthy affordable housing, and exemplifies the potential of public/private collaboration to produce outstanding housing options. Developer Les Bluestone and his team at Blue Sea Development will continue to innovate in other projects, using Active Design to promote health and sustainability in underserved neighborhoods.

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    Les Bluestone & David Burney at the opening of Arbor House.
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    Produce growing in the rooftop hydroponic farm at Arbor House.
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    Stair prompt signage near stair entry points at Arbor House.