With the final funding in place, Agrihood’s urban farm housing project in Santa Clara can move forward after years of planning.
Receiving a state grant of $50 million in tax-exempt bonds from the California Debt Limit Allocation Committee on Sept. 16 put the project on track for a March or April groundbreaking, officials said. Occupancy is projected for spring 2023.
In addition to the bond award and tax credits, Jonathan Veach, housing division manager for Santa Clara, said a partnership with the county’s Office of Supportive Housing and the Measure A contribution of roughly $25 million made this project financially viable.
Agrihood will be on N. Winchester Blvd. across from Westfield Valley Fair at the former site of a UC Davis research facility. Although other urban farm communities exist, such as Patterson Ranch in Fremont, Agrihood’s will have the highest density.
The farm-friendly housing project will provide 361 homes, with 181 at below-market rates. Of the latter, 165 will be set aside for low-income seniors.
“With the bonding award and tax credits, we’re now in the position to start construction next year. It’s a huge milestone,” said Vince Cantore, vice president of development of Core Companies, the real estate development and construction firm building the project.
Cantore said the bond award meant more to him than any other professional milestone he’s achieved in his career and validates all of his efforts.
“I’ve worked on this project to build consensus with city decisionmakers and the community to provide an award-winning design; one that balances many competing interests,” Cantore said. “To know this project will provide a stable living environment to the seniors and senior veterans of our community in one of the most expensive housing markets in the nation makes me proud.”
Veach said Agrihood accounts for roughly 10% of Santa Clara’s low- income housing target, which is a “significant accomplishment.”
The location is within walking distance of a grocery store and retail shopping, which is helpful for seniors who may no longer be driving.
“I hear heartbreaking stories about seniors having to make choices between paying for rent and paying for healthy produce,” Cantore said. “This community is stressing the health and wellness of its residents, not only with physical nourishment but also with social services … and a strong sense of community. I hope it becomes the model for affordable housing development in the future.”
Farmscape, which has created urban farms across California, will help design and manage the 7,500-square-foot farm, as well as planter boxes for residents.
“The farm will be planted and looking great for opening,” said Lara Hermanson, Farmscape cofounder.
Through volunteering at the farm, residents and community members can reconnect with the natural world and gain access to freshly harvested produce, Hermanson said. Individuals will be given tasks suited to their abilities, from cleaning and washing fruit to running the farm stand and harvesting.
“For people who have the willingness and interest, it’s an amazing amenity,” Hermanson said. “They get to have all the fun of having a farm, but none of the responsibility.”
Hermanson said the farm can also accommodate kids who want to plant sweet peas for their science class and other projects. “Much of the farm’s activity will be driven by the users. I’ll be in the background growing food and making sure the irrigation is right,” she said.
In addition to the farm, Agrihood’s design includes a café, community room, learning shed and produce stand. The learning shed, which includes refrigeration and washing stations, will be used to teach school groups about agriculture and volunteers about farm safety.
In what they called “an extensive process,” Core Companies reached out to the public to incorporate their ideas in the project’s design.
Preserving its agricultural history was important to community members, Cantore said. Although some wanted mostly farm space, others wanted high-density housing with high-rise buildings. Cantore said Core Companies did its best to strike a balance, including the needs of the neighborhood’s single-family residents.
In addition to gathering community input, Core Companies had to obtain approval from the City Council, complete the design and compete in the state funding process.
As Agrihood will harvest rainwater to irrigate the farm, a water tower is part of its final design.
Community activities such as musical events, food trucks, harvest and spring fairs, artists events and a speaker series are also possibilities at the farm, Cantore said.
“We’re looking forward to seeing the amenity this site represents not only to the residents but to the community as well,” Cantore said. “The high-density nature of Agrihood, coupled with rainwater harvesting and the focus on multigenerational, multiethnic programming … creates a unique experience for this part of Santa Clara.”
Contact Lorraine Gabbert at [email protected]