Mega-housing project for Melrose

The borough’s new refrain —the Bronx is building —has sung one last tune in Mayor Bloomberg’s final hour.

Officials have chosen a team of developers to transform the last large city-owned vacant South Bronx lot into a five-building complex that will create nearly a thousand low- and middle-income housing units.

Provided the city works out the financial details with the developers on schedule, officials plan to break ground sometime in 2015 on “La Central,” a mixed-use 184,000 square-foot megaproject that will rise in what is now an empty patch bordered by Bergen and Brook avenues and E. 149th Street in Melrose.

Plans for the project call for more than just housing: a new YMCA branch, a 10,000 square foot veterans mental health clinic and a rooftop astronomy center are all on the agenda, as well as 72,000 square feet of new retail space.

But the project’s cornerstones are its 985 apartments. Ninety-six of those housing units are set aside for supportive housing for formerly homeless veterans and New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS. Officials have earmarked the rest for “affordable” housing, depending on the neighborhood’s average median income.

“This project has it all. Middle-income, low-income and those with special needs will be able to enjoy all of the amenities this development has to offer,” crowed Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr..

Exact costs for the apartments will not be finalized until at least after construction begins, said a spokesman for the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

Officials cannot break ground until a deal is struck with the project’s laundry list of developers: BRP Development Corporation, Hudson Companies Inc., Common Ground, Comunilife, The Kretchmer Companies, ELH Mgmt LLC, and the YMCA.

The city hopes to roll out “La Central” in two phases, the first involving three buildings:

•A 211-apartment complex with a 48,000 square foot YMCA-community facility at ground level, as well as a rooftop farm and a Montefiore diabetes prevention center

•A 279-apartment building with retail space and a 138-seat parking garage in the basement

•A 160- apartment complex with the mental health clinic, to be run by Comunilife

The project’s second stage includes a community recording studio, and a rooftop telescope that will be used by the Bronx High School of Science.

Those interested can apply in the city’s housing lottery by opening an account at

“La Central” is the latest in a series of subsidized housing developments changing the face of the South Bronx, known for decades as an area of urban plight, where buildings were more likely to decay and be abandoned than built anew.

“Growing up here was growing up in ruins,” said Kenny Agusto, a South Bronx local who serves as treasurer of Nos Quedamos, a group that aims to better South Bronx living.

In November, officials broke ground on the $46.9 million Soundview Family Housing project, which is expected to bring 206 low-income apartments to a site overlooking Soundview Park.

In 2012, the splashy 222-unit Via Verde complex opened a few blocks north of the HUB, on E. 156th Street and Brook Avenue.

It’s all part of the large-scale plan to revitalize the area.

“Even in the face of a national recession, we made investments in an ambitious affordable housing plan, the largest any U.S. city has ever seen,” Bloomberg said in a statement, “that will keep Bronx neighborhoods moving forward and lead to a brighter future for the entire city.”

Ben Kochman can be reached via e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at (718) 742–3394

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