A 'green walk' to the SEPTA station

Nilda Ruiz, president of a nonprofit community organization that helped develop the Paseo Verde project, at the ribbon-cutting. Some tenants have already moved in.
Nilda Ruiz, president of a nonprofit community organization that helped develop the Paseo Verde project, at the ribbon-cutting. Some tenants have already moved in. (CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer)
Posted: December 05, 2013

PHILADELPHIA Aiming to turn a part of North Philadelphia into a "community of opportunity," city leaders announced the opening Tuesday of a 120-unit housing complex that has earned a national honor for energy efficiency and environmental sustainability.

At Ninth and Berks Streets, next to SEPTA's Temple University Regional Rail station, Mayor Nutter and other officials cut the ribbon on Paseo Verde, a "transportation-oriented" development.

The three-story complex, whose name translates to "green walk," runs along Ninth from Berks to Norris Street.

The $42 million complex offers affordable and market-rate apartments in a joint venture developed by the city, the nonprofit community organization Asociacion Puertorriquenos en Marcha (APM), and Jonathan Rose Companies.

"This is so exciting, because it connects the community to the region," said Nilda Ruiz, president and chief executive of APM. "So the community can walk out and take the train to the suburbs, where many of the jobs are."

Officials said Paseo Verde is the first development in the country - and only the second in the world - to earn "platinum" status in "Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design - Neighborhood Development" from the U.S. Green Building Council, a nationwide coalition of 13,000 groups and businesses.

Ruiz noted that many residents of Latino and African American communities suffer from health conditions such as diabetes, asthma, and high blood pressure.

She said Paseo Verde's connection to the rail station and to environmental sustainability "allows people to think healthy, to walk more, use better products and things that are less toxic."

The project's environmentally friendly aspects, along with its proximity to what SEPTA officials describe as the fourth busiest stop in the Regional Rail system, would help residents cut their costs, Ruiz said.

"What was important to us is that when you are low-income, there is one of two ways: You can either increase income or reduce expenses," she said. "We looked at how can we get people to let go of their cars, because a car today is like another mortgage."

Before the ribbon-cutting, officials including Nutter and City Council President Darrell L. Clarke spoke to about 150 people in a white tent across the street from the complex.

Jonathan F.P. Rose, head of companies that helped develop the complex, described the gray brick building with bright yellow and orange trim as "a blueprint for developing communities of opportunity." He said that with on-site health and family services, the complex "provides a complete community platform for its residents to thrive."

The ribbon-cutting was strictly ceremonial - some people already live in Paseo Verde.

Jo Ann Rivera, 33, an APM employee who has lived there since October, said she liked the building because of its design and easy access to transportation.

"Because I don't have a car yet, it is very convenient for me," Rivera said.

Nutter said Paseo Verde "is absolutely a model for what we can do across the city and . . . across the nation."

Ruiz said APM, a Latino-based health, human-services, and community-development organization founded in 1970, has built more than 300 units of affordable housing in the community over the years, including many market-rate houses. She said the focus is on the residents.

"It's not about the brick and mortar, it's about the people," Ruiz said. "Our mission is very simple. It is to help families to achieve their highest potential. Anything we do is toward that goal."


vclark@phillynews.com.

215-854-5717

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