A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending the 425 Grand Concourse ribbon cutting ceremony. The ceremony celebrated an incredible achievement the 425 team accomplished. It’s the tallest and largest Phius certified project in the world – and came in at only a 2% incremental cost! It also won the Best Overall Project award at the 2022 Phius Passive Project Design Competition.

The project is a 26-story high rise with 277 affordable apartments and shared amenities including a new education facility, health clinic, and supermarket that will serve the Bronx community. 

The ceremony was held at the Evelina Antonetty Playground in the Bronx, a park that shares the lot just north of the building and was revitalized during 425’s construction. The park was named after a community organizer and activist who served as Executive Director of the United Bronx Parents organization, a grassroots organization that advocated for better education in public schools and social services for youth and adults. She also advocated for the creation of the Hostos Community College, a campus that now shares the same block as the park. They support the South Bronx by offering associate degree programs and certificate programs to facilitate easy transfer into The City University of New York (CUNY) 4-years college. 

I gained all of that background context that morning, and that’s when I fully realized we were celebrating much more than a building. Its impact spread well beyond the building to revitalize and empower the community. The development also honors the history of the site which was previously an old school, P.S. 31, that had been closed for years but a cornerstone monument of the community. The new lobby showcases some of the gothic decorative facade elements that were salvaged from the school, as well as work from a local artist.

The ceremony opened with a performance by a group of local musicians, ‘Alma Moyo’ who are committed to preserving Puerto Rico’s rich African musical and cultural tradition “la bomba.” It had to be a record-high sunny November morning, and the liveliness in the tent was palpable.  

Thomas Brown, President of Development at Trinity Financial (developer on the project) and emcee kicked off the program and kept the energy going. 

He was followed by important local figures - 

  • Jessica Katz – Chief Housing Officer for the City of New York
  • Adolfo Carrión Jr. – Commissioner, NYC Housing Preservation and Development
  • Eric Enderlin – President, NYC Housing Development Corporation
  • Derrick Lovett – President and CEO, MBD (Mid Bronx Desperados) Community Housing Corp.
  • Ritchie Torres – NYS Congressman, District #15
  • Rafael Salamanca, Jr. – NYC Council Member, District #17
  • Janet Peguero – Deputy Bronx Borough President
  • Dr. Cocco De Filippis – President, Hostos Community College
  • Peter A. Grisafi – President and CEO, Damian Family Care Center, Inc.
  • Christoph Stump, AIA – Vice President, Design & Construction, Trinity Financial
  • Emily Dean – Director of Market Development, NYSERDA
  • Jennifer Greenfeld – Deputy Commissioner for Environment and Planning, NYC Parks Dept.

Each speaker had a unique angle on the project, but all shared the same energy and excitement about its completion and their framework to continue replicating this housing model. They used words such as “exemplary,” “transformative,” “state-of-the-art,” “shining example” and “revitalization.” It was so evident that it was truly a valiant team effort. One thing that stuck out to me was how a few described how difficult it was to include a NYC Parks comfort station – an area that provides shelter and facilities for all – how important that was to the community and how hard the team fought to keep that in scope. Many of the speakers also shared what I’d call “Bronx-Pride” and were long term residents of the community.

The ceremony closed with two tenants of the building sharing remarks - Brandon and Chastity. Brandon was in awe of the quality of this affordable housing, and Chastity was a single mother with a young child waving at her right there in the front row. She shared that she never envisioned being able to afford a place like this and thanked Trinity for providing stability that she’d never had before.

After the ceremony, we gathered at the front of the building and cut the ribbon (I will say, I was picturing big scissors, but instead there were a bunch of little scissors. At least there was a big ribbon). 

This was followed by public tours of the building. I did see the building under construction about 1 year ago during the PhiusCon 2021 project tour, so it was really nice to see the final product. We visited a three-bedroom apartment on a lower floor of the building, the shared outdoor community space on the roof of the podium, as well as the penthouse community room, kitchen, and rooftop deck. You can’t ask for a better view! To further enhance affordability, the entire building is equipped with free WiFi.

And to close out the day, there was a well-earned sunny celebration on a nearby rooftop at the ‘Zona De Cuba’ restaurant down the street. 

We at Phius are so thrilled with the work this team has done and can already see the impact of trail-blazing projects like this on the growth of affordable passive building nationwide.

And lastly, I just want to give one more big shout-out & kudos to Christoph Stump of Trinity Financial for leading this effort and not backing down when obstacles arose. To achieve Phius certification for a building of this scale is no small feat. I vividly remember last year during the PhiusCon 2021 projects tour, we were on the 425 rooftop standing next to an ERV the size of a trailer. He was asked, "So, why did you choose passive house?" and his response was "Well, why not? It just makes sense.”

Read more detail in this Press Release by the NYC Housing Preservation & Development.