- Jennifer Popovec
Dirty, environmentally contaminated sites don't usually appeal to Long Beach, Calif.-based Mac-Farlane Costa Housing Partners, but the 0.8-acre site in San Diego's Barrio Logan neighborhood offered too great of an opportunity to ignore. Land is hard to find in the area, which is part of downtown San Diego's ongoing revitalization effort. So when the city suggested transforming a brownfield site—formerly used for auto-wrecking and as a junkyard—into an affordable housing project, the firm willingly took on the challenge, says Michael Costa, president and CEO of MacFarlane Costa Housing Partners.
As part of the $1.5 million remediation process, the developer dug down 30 feet to eliminate surface contamination caused by oil and gasoline and trucked the soil to Arizona to a special landfill. However, environmental contamination wasn't the only challenge the site posed—it was also small and irregularly shaped with an easement across the top of the site, Costa notes.
Working with Solana Beach, Calif.-based Maple Dell + McClelland Architects, the developer created Gateway Apartments, a four-story, 42-unit project on top of a two-story parking structure with a separate two-story community center. It features a striking modern design, natural stone accents, and a warm color palette.
As the first housing to be built in the neighborhood in several years, Gateway Apartments offers large two-bedroom units and scarce three-bedroom apartment homes as large as 1,189 square feet. It also includes upper-level common-area balconies and an inviting central courtyard.
All apartments in the community are set aside for households earning a maximum of 30 percent to 60 percent of the area median income; rents start at only $498 per month. The project was financed through $8.6 million in federal low-income housing tax credits, $2.7 million in state tax credits, and a $3.6 million loan from the City of San Diego Redevelopment Agency. Within just four months, the project was 100 percent leased.
MacFarlane Costa Housing Partners also worked with the local arts council to bring the neighborhood's Latino culture to the project, commissioning well-known local artists to paint Latino-themed murals on the building's exterior.
Fast Facts Developer: MacFarlane Costa Housing Partners
Architect: Maple Dell + McClelland Architects
Opened: June 2008
No. of Units: 42
Unit Mix: Two- and three-bedroom apartments
Rents: $498 to $1,189
Judge's Verdict “THIS PROJECT, BUILT ON THE SITE OF A FORMER JUNKYARD, IS AFFORDABLE, YET IT SEEMS LIKE IT IS MARKET-RATE. THAT'S AN IMPRESSIVE ACCOMPLISHMENT.” —Dave Woodward, CEO and managing partner, Laramar Communities