Jared Della Valle

The “Alloy Block” is Jared Della Valle's most groundbreaking project to date.

Architect Jared Della Valle is Designing Change

Della Valle ’93, an architect and developer, strives to build innovative, sustainable buildings. An all-electric skyscraper in Brooklyn is his latest project.

Story by

Christina Tatu

Photography by

Benedict Evans

In a downtown Brooklyn neighborhood rises a new, forward-thinking development that includes an all-electric skyscraper and schools built for maximum energy efficiency. Jared Della Valle ´93 is designing and developing the Alloy Block, which, when completed, will have five buildings with combined office space for 1,000 people, 850 homes, two schools and cultural and retail spaces. The block is taking shape on Flatbush Avenue, adjacent to the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Barclay's Center and the Atlantic Terminal, New York City's second-largest transit hub.

Della Valle, who majored in architecture and urban studies at Lehigh, started his Brooklyn-based company Alloy Development 17 years ago in the borough’s DUMBO section—Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass—where he works to develop innovative, sustainable buildings with a reduced carbon footprint. His office building is only 200 yards from his home in a Brillo Warehouse that he converted into 10 luxury condominiums in 2013.

The “Alloy Block” is his most groundbreaking project to date.

“We’re making change here,” says Della Valle, who is both an architect and developer. “We’re making homes for people. We don’t make widgets. We make buildings, and those buildings take a massive amount of investment of time, energy and capital, and people experience them as either their home or in the context of our city.”

The company has a mission, which is to make Brooklyn beautiful, equitable and sustainable.

JARED DELLA VALLE ’93

JARED DELLA VALLE ’93

Jared Della Valle '93

His last five development projects have been within a block of Alloy’s office building and include the DUMBO Townhouses—five townhomes so efficient, they reduced the typical energy consumption by 90% per home. There’s also One John Street, a mix of 42 apartments, one commercial unit and an annex that Alloy donated to the Brooklyn Bridge Park with a no-cost lease for the Brooklyn Children’s Museum. The project, inside the park, is LEED Gold Certified, which means the building has attained environmentally friendly standards, such as using less energy and saving water.

“We aren’t a startup, but we have a startup mentality in that we are looking to solve problems in a different way,” Della Valle says. “We have the privilege of innovation. Part of being an architect is wanting to understand the right answer. Architects don’t get taught to build buildings, they learn how to solve problems.”

He also believes in repurposing Brooklyn’s historic, once industrial buildings into new uses with an eye toward sustainability instead of tearing them down.

“There’s an incredible amount of embedded carbon in these buildings that were built 100 years ago, and rather than demolishing them and starting fresh, we recycle them,” Della Valle says. “We make the joke that they are the largest objects we can recycle.”

Known for his laid-back demeanor and preference for blue jeans over suits and ties, Della Valle entered into real estate in 2006 as co-founder and CEO of Alloy Development while running a successful architecture firm. The company has 18 employees.

“The company has a mission, which is to make Brooklyn beautiful, equitable and sustainable,” he says. “When you participate in building in your own community, there’s a lot of privilege in that, but also a lot of responsibility and risk.”

Della Valle is particularly devoted to sustainability, gaining inspiration from his two teenage children who regularly attend climate marches, and who Della Valle says are part of the “Greta Thunberg generation,” named after the Swedish teen who gained worldwide recognition for challenging world leaders to take immediate action on climate change.

“I and my partners feel we have an obligation to lead,” Della Valle says. “One of the reasons I have such an obligation is because of my children. I come home every night, and I need to be responsible to them. It’s quite obvious the stressors my children face feeling the burden of the world that’s been handed to them.”

The view from the first tower that will be part of the Alloy Block.

The view from the first tower that will be part of the Alloy Block.

When designing the Alloy Block’s all-electric skyscraper, Della Valle thought about what was important to his children. “Where are they going to choose to rent in the future, and will they choose to rent based on a value set, or will they choose to rent based on an amenity?” he says. “Our proposition is that people will choose to rent and choose a home based on a value set rather than an amenity.”

He recalled designing the family’s country home overlooking the Hudson River Valley. It was most important to his children that the home be “off the grid.” He designed a concrete and wood minimalist home using some of the same passive design standards incorporated into the new Alloy Block school buildings. The home uses solar panels for year-round energy and features a well-insulated envelope to cut down on heating and cooling needs.

When it came to the Alloy Block, Della Valle and his colleagues wanted to design large-scale buildings that will continue to be sustainable well into the future, eventually becoming carbon neutral, which means they will not contribute to the emission of greenhouse gasses.

“We’ve pushed the bounds of sustainability, but we’ve never taken it to this place. … It’s always been in the background,” he says.

Della Valle thought of the project as a partnership with the community.

“We may not agree on what the future should look like, but the community offered constructive criticism and it had a positive influence on the outcome,” Della Valle says. “We made changes together and figured out how to make this the best that it can be. That process was successful. Although very enduring and difficult, we had a clear obligation to be reliable partners and to listen carefully.”

During the planning, he used the existing buildings on the site to create public programs, such as a block-long mural competition. One space was donated for use as a local artist-in-residence program. “We really tried to show this was different,” he says. “This was not going to be just another project.”

We made changes together and figured out how to make this the best that it can be. That process was successful. Although very enduring and difficult, we had a clear obligation to be reliable partners and to listen carefully.

JARED DELLA VALLE ’93

The first phase of the Alloy Block includes what he says is the city’s first all-electric tower. Functions typically powered by natural gas will be run off electricity instead, such as stove tops, dryers and hot water heaters. Under New York City’s renewable energy goals, 70% of electricity will come from renewable energy sources such as solar and wind by 2030 and 100% of electricity will come from renewable energy sources by 2040.

The 44-story, 480-foot electric skyscraper will include 440 rentable apartments and 30,000 square feet of retail. Though innovative, there will soon be others. In December 2021, New York City’s then-Mayor Bill de Blasio accelerated the construction of all-electric buildings when he signed into law a mandate phasing out the combustion of fossil fuels in new buildings, legislation which Della Valle says he supported.

“We have changed the way the city perceives the use of natural gas and fossil fuels, influenced the passage of legislation, influenced the industry to reconsider what types of fuel and assets they used,” Della Valle says. “This project is a test case for future facilities.”

The redesign of Khalil Gibran International Academy, an Arabic high school in a 150-year-old building, and construction of a new, public 500-seat elementary school will also be part of the first phase. They will be the city’s first “passive house” designed schools, which means they will have ultra-low energy needs and significantly cut down on greenhouse gasses.

The second phase will include another all-electric 840-foot-tall residential, office and retail tower with space for a cultural institution. In total, the project will include 1 million square feet of development, with the first phase to be completed in the summer of 2024 and the second phase to be done in 2028, Della Valle said. Of the 850 homes, 200 of them will be affordable housing units.

Della Valle is seeking to partner with a community-based solar developer to construct an off-site solar operation in New York City that will generate seven megawatts of energy, enough to power the first electric skyscraper.

That clean energy will be fed back to Consolidated Edison’s electricity grid, offsetting the skyscraper’s energy needs with a clean source.

Della Valle‘s Lehigh Experience

Growing up on Long Island, Della Valle worked in a furniture shop in high school, then framed houses as a carpenter. His father sold antique hunting and fishing collectibles, and his mother was an educator who encouraged Della Valle to take art lessons.

“I was introduced at a very early age to construction and really enjoyed the process of making space, making buildings and making things with my hands, so architecture was always the path,” he says.

Della Valle says it was never a question that he would go into development and architecture, and he credits Lehigh with developing his passion for the field. When he chose to go to Lehigh, Della Valle said he was looking for an architecture program not far from home on a campus small enough that he would feel comfortable interacting with faculty and staff.

Development can be a very risky endeavor, but he has managed to move up in scale from modest projects to his most current work.

CHRISTINE USSLER ’81

Christine Ussler ’81, a professor of practice in architecture at Lehigh and president/principal of Artefact, Inc., an architectural firm near Lehigh’s Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, campus, was among the professors who taught Della Valle and remembers him as a dedicated, driven student with a bold aesthetic. Della Valle is a unique architect who successfully shifted into real estate development, she said.

“Development can be a very risky endeavor, but he has managed to move up in scale from modest projects to his most current work,” Ussler says. “His other long-standing interest in sustainable design is also quite notable. … The Alloy Block will be a showcase of sustainable design for him.”

After earning his degree in architecture and urban studies at Lehigh, Della Valle earned a postgraduate degree from Washington University in St. Louis in architecture and construction management. Della Valle says his time at Lehigh shaped his career by contributing to his sense of curiosity about architecture and his entrepreneurial spirit.

He created the thesis for his business while in graduate school at Washington University.

“It’s always been on my mind that I’m interested in making buildings. What’s the best way for me to participate and engage in that?” Della Valle

says he asked himself. “I’ve always considered myself to be entrepreneurial, and [Lehigh] afforded me that entrepreneurial spirit and provided me access to people to have more complex conversations.”

Jared Della Valle as his country home

Della Valle designed a concrete and wood minimalist country home for his family in Hudson River Valley. It was most important to his children that the home be ‘off the grid.’

Della Valle continues to give back to his profession through teaching and lecturing engagements for the American Institute of Architects, and the architecture and development programs at institutions that include Harvard, Yale, Columbia and Syracuse universities. He has hired several Lehigh architecture graduates over the years.

A Changing Landscape

Della Valle is contributing to Brooklyn’s changing landscape–from a former gritty industrial center to a thriving neighborhood with tech jobs, high-end shops, restaurants and housing.

“We are proud of our work, and it’s work that’s enduring,” he says. “It has a 100-year-lifespan or more.”

Downtown Brooklyn is the third-largest business district in New York City. It is located in the Northwest section of the borough, an area along New York’s East River and bounded by Flatbush Avenue, Tillary Street, Camden Plaza and Atlantic Avenue.

The downtown is home to Borough Hall, the Brooklyn Municipal Building and several other civic offices, but its reputation for being all about business began to shift in 2004 when rezoning allowed for more residential construction. Those residents began seeking out more retail and restaurant options, along with schools and family-friendly activities. Over time, the downtown has transformed from its industrial past to a mixed-use area known for its upscale housing, restaurants and tech businesses.

According to the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, a nonprofit, more than 12,700 housing units have been added to the downtown between 2016 and 2022, and another 8,900 are planned for the future.

“I’ve seen a lot of high-rise developments, but I think this one is unique because of the tremendous mix of uses it includes,” says Regina Myer, president of the partnership.

One of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership’s goals is for the area to become much more pedestrian friendly. Della Valle’s latest project accomplishes just that, Myer says.

“There are several spaces where they will widen the sidewalks to provide more space for walking and a new plaza that is taking the place of a roadway,” she says. “Jared has an incredible vision for urban development, but he’s also a really great listener and is willing to be responsive to the community and other people’s ideas.”

Della Valle fell in love with the site for its proximity to a major transportation hub and entertainment centers.

“We were enamored, but it took us four to five years to assemble the entire block,” he says. “We weren’t originally anticipating that we would build a million square feet here.”

It Started With a School

Jennifer Maldonado, chief executive officer of New York City’s Educational Construction Fund, first met Della Valle in 2016 when her organization put out a request for bids to rebuild the Khalil Gibran International Academy and develop a mixed-use parcel including office space, retail and housing.

This was an opportunity we saw where we said, ‘There’s a building that needs to be replaced and a subset of kids who go to this school who really deserve a break and a better facility.

JENNIFER MALDONADO

At that point, Della Valle owned many of the adjacent parcels near the school. Maldonado says her organization felt comfortable going with Della Valle’s bid because it was the strongest, and he and his partners thoroughly understood how the development would impact the area.

A number of school buildings in New York City weren’t constructed to be schools, Maldonado says. Her organization is trying to find ways to modernize them. The Khalil Gibran school was used as a medical building and job center before becoming a school in 2007.

“This was an opportunity we saw where we said, ‘There’s a building that needs to be replaced and a subset of kids who go to this school who really deserve a break and a better facility,’” she says.

Maldonado expects the high school expansion will make room for an additional 100 students there. In addition, Alloy is constructing a new, 500-seat elementary school on the same block.

Della Valle helps students at Khalil Gibran International Academy add soil and plants to planters near a basketball court.

Della Valle helps students at Khalil Gibran International Academy add soil and plants to planters near a basketball court.

“I think a holistic approach to urban planning and development is super exciting,” Maldonado says. “It’s hard when you have a standalone building and nothing surrounding it because then it doesn’t work. I like the idea of everything being at your fingertips. … It offers the community the possibility of having schools, housing, office life and commercial.”

That’s what appeals to Della Valle, who made a business that didn’t exist–architect and developer. That allows him, he says, to have full agency over a project and decide what’s valuable.

“I have the ability to have a voice in a way that few of my peers are willing to do,” he says. “I don’t believe what I’m told by the rest of the industry, which is that you can’t do this or it’s not feasible.”

Story by

Christina Tatu

Photography by

Benedict Evans

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