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February 1, 2005 > BRIDGE Housing Funding Approved by Ccity Council

BRIDGE Housing Funding Approved by Ccity Council

An "Acquisition and Development Loan," not to exceed $9,175,000, was approved by unanimous consent at the January 25 meeting of the Fremont City Council. This is one of the final actions necessary for construction of the BRIDGE Housing Corporation's Irvington Family Apartments on a portion of the Patio World site on Grimmer Boulevard in Fremont. BRIDGE is working in cooperation with Regis Homes of Northern California, Inc. who will be constructing "for sale" units (Irvington Village) on a contiguous parcel also at the Patio World site.

TCV asked Tom Earley, Project Manager of BRIDGE Housing about the progress of the new development.

TCV: Where does the project stand at this time?

Earley: All our entitlements are in place. Tentatively, the existing building [Patio World] and the parking lot will be demolished in late spring or early summer. Work on the site such as grading, road work, building pads, emergency vehicle access, shared roadways, etc. will probably begin sometime in mid to late fall. Both BRIDGES and Regis buildings will start construction soon after. There will be a lot of activity on the site in the late fall months.

TCV: How will demolition and construction be coordinated between both developers?

Earley: Demolition will be done by a single general contractor. The bulk of the site improvements are on the portion of the property that Regis Homes of Northern California owns. Each company is financed independently and has their own building permit review cycle but our goal is to start both projects at the same time.

Regis Homes will build in overlapping phases while we have one building to construct. The construction of our building will take about eighteen months. The total construction of the Regis Homes development will probably take a little bit longer. We will be occupying our building and some homeowners in adjacent Regis phases will be living on site, but some Regis units will still be coming on line.

TCV: Any design changes since visiting the Planning Commission last year?

Earley: No. There have been no changes since showing the model and plans to the Planning Commission in October 2004. From March through October last year, the concept was refined through community meetings and city staff involvement.

TCV: Is there any retail space facing Grimmer in the project?

Earley: One 750 square foot space will be available. We are trying to find something that is complimentary to existing businesses - a service or business that would not only serve the residents of the two new projects but the greater community as well. Now that our approvals are in place, we will be spending time talking about what type of business will fit. There is parking associated with that space. [Those who would like to explore the possibility of locating in this space are encouraged to call Tom Earley (415) 989-1111]

TCV: What does the city approval of funding mean to BRIDGE?

Earley: This is a big milestone for us since it not only gives funding for the project, but it also demonstrates to the state which allocates funding - both state and federal - which makes up the bulk of the financing that the city wants to see this happen. This step is critical to compete at the state level for funds.

TCV: Does this mean that state funding has not been secured?

Earley: This spring, March through May, we will be submitting several applications for funding. Those will be bolstered by the commitment by the city and that entitlements are in place. Once these are in place and approved, our financing will be rounded out. We feel confident about receiving funding due to project design and its location near existing services and transportation.

TCV: Since BRIDGE is providing affordable housing, Regis Homes in this instance will not have an affordable housing requirement for their project.

Earley: Yes. A portion of our building has been indirectly attributed to Regis and satisfies their affordable housing obligation. This is a powerful tool since by combining the two projects for affordable housing purposes, there is much more benefit in the number of units and the affordability of those units. We have used this in a number of communities in California.

TCV: Has BRIDGE worked with Regis Homes before?

Earley: Yes. We are currently working on several projects with them and previously did a project in Foster City. Our part is called Metro Center and their townhouses are called City Park Townhomes. That was done in the late '90's. Our project was for senior housing and theirs was similar to what is being proposed here. We also redeveloped an existing city park. This was a very successful endeavor.

TCV: How do you address the fears that people have when they hear the term "Affordable Housing," especially when asked to buy expensive homes next to your development?

Earley: We have found that Regis, building "for sale, market rate" housing next door, is confident in BRIDGE and how we manage our properties. They understand who we serve and, of course, have a stake in the viability of joint developments. Beyond that, it is important for us to illustrate the income levels of our communities and how that translates into people.

The industry is jargon-laden with discussions of percentages of AMI (Average Median Income) but when you get right down to it, we are talking about people who may work for the police department, fire department, teachers, restaurant employees, etc. Not only does affordable housing provide benefits for them, but it frees up their time and energy to become more active participants in the community. We try to help surrounding communities understand that the people living in our developments are just like you or I except they may have a lower income.

We not only own the buildings, but we have our own management company. We are on site every day and some of our management staff lives on site. BRIDGE is not an absentee landlord. We are committed to our residents and to how our communities fit in with the neighborhood.

TCV: How will resident parking be handled?

Earley: There are 93 parking spaces in the parking garage which is set about half-way below ground level. In addition there is surface parking. This allows the building height to be lower. It also provides direct access to the street from the building entrances. We did not want to build a gated community, rather to encourage residents to have easy pedestrian access everything going on in Irvington. This had a cost impact, but we think it is well worth it. Our project is about the same height that Regis is developing so there will be a consistent scale for both developments.

TCV: How many units will be in the BRIDGE development and what is the estimate of occupancy?

Earley: We have 100 units; 26 one-bedroom, 34 two-bedroom, 40 three-bedroom. Looking at existing family properties and the average was about 2.14 persons per unit. That means about 214 people. There are different metrics for this and some financing standards use bedroom count plus one. In this scenario, a one-bedroom would be counted as two. The count will depend on many factors, so occupancy may be 214 using one method and 314 using another.

We have spent a considerable amount of time trying to engage the Irvington community in this project. There has been a lot of interest and education both ways - about our development and for us to learn about Irvington. Through open community meetings and focus groups with Irvington Neighborhood Network, Irvington Business Association and the Bay Street Steering Committee and CORE. We are happy about how engaged the community has been. City staff has been a big help. After going through this process, we feel accepted by the community. BRIDGE is a long-term owner and operator of our properties and wants to be part of and contribute to the community. This has been a good process.

In a follow-up call with Jeff Smith, Project Manager for Regis Homes, builder of Irvington Village also slated for the Patio World site, he indicated that the two organizations will work closely to coordinate the project as best they can although, "Their permit plan check process will be tracking through one process and ours through another." BRIDGE Housing will be constructing a below grade parking garage which will take some time so Smith indicated that the Regis Homes construction of lower density, wood frame units may progress through approvals a bit quicker. However, because Regis Homes will be building more units and handling a sales operation, Smith commented, "In the end, we [BRIDGE and Regis] will probably be very close to completion at the same time." He added, "There will be a lot of coordination between the two contractors."

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