A controversial site in Santa Clara, California looks like it is close to becoming a reality as a mixed-income, agricultural-based seniors housing development. Very California. Agrihoods have typically been built in suburban or rural areas over hundreds of acres, replicating golf course communities that were so popular in the 1980’s and 90’s. This of course still propagates sprawl and is focused towards car-centric communities, something that cities and planners continue to try and pull-back on.
This Agrihood is being built in a dense urban neighbourhood of Santa Clara, on a 6-acre parcel that once was used by the University of California as an agricultural test and research garden. The project site is located across the street from Westfield’s Valley Fair Mall (recently renovated) and a five-minute walk from Santana Row. The project is currently in the entitlements process, although planning has been ongoing for 13 years due to many starts and stops. Various neighbourhood objections and policy changes created challenges in preparing a project that would makes sense for the development team, the city, as well as the local community. The project calls for 361 seniors housing units with a mixture of affordable rental, mixed-income, and for-sale townhome product.
The agricultural portion will consist of 1.5 acres of agricultural uses including an orchard and gardening plots for seniors living in the complex. Seniors will be able to grow their own produce in the gardening plots and will have assistance from professional growers to ensure they are maintained. The developer is also in talks with local agricultural partners to manage the production farm.
San Jose-based developer “Core” has managed to figure out the financial viability of the site, partnering with the City of Santa Clara to provide much-needed seniors and mixed-income housing in a region that struggles with housing affordability. The addition of the agricultural components pays homage to the history of the site and satisfies the communities wants and needs. It is always hard to balance outside interests while developing a financially viable project that is an unproven concept. If this development (which should be complete in about 3 years time) is a success, it can be a model that is used across California and elsewhere to integrate seniors housing and agriculture.
The synergy between the two uses are excellent, as seniors value green spaces and parks. The ability to grow produce is an added benefit that increases social connections and physical activity on a daily basis. Add in proximity to two major shopper areas and this type of product will be in high-demand as it nears completion.