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Affordable housing for families, seniors in Logan Heights

A rendering from Bridge Housing shows a plan for Comm22, a new apartment and retail complex on Commercial and 22nd streets in Logan Heights.

A mixed-use retail and affordable housing project in Logan Heights is regarded as a catalyst for positive change in the neighborhood.

Comm22, as it is referred to, is a transit-oriented, master planned community at Commercial and 22nd streets, on a 4-acre site that used to be a maintenance facility for the San Diego Unified School District. Construction began in the spring.

“It’s really a transformational project for this neighborhood. It used to be an eyesore in the community for 30 years,” said Kim McKay, executive vice president of Bridge Housing, the project co-developer.

The four-story project will have 130 apartments for low-income families. Those apartments are expected to be ready by the end of 2014. Construction will begin in October on 70 single-bedroom apartments for seniors. On the ground level, there will be day care facilities and commercial and retail space.

The rectangular block and the central building will house families; seniors will be in the triangular building to the right (in the artist’s rendering, pictured). A community center will be in the square building, although McKay said the developers have yet to secure a tenant.

The family-housing two-building complex will also have storage areas, laundry facilities and a conference/community room, and will include an outdoor plaza area with benches and raised planter beds, and a secured resident entrance.

Thirteen apartments are being set aside for underserved youths transitioning out of the foster care system who are eligible for supportive services under the Mental Health Services Act.

This program is part of a larger initiative by the county’s Behavioral Health Services Division to link people with mental illness who are homeless or at risk for homelessness to permanent housing and social services.

McKay said that one of the project’s distinguishing features is that it is right on the trolley line downtown, so the developer went after a significant amount of Proposition 1C affordable housing and community development money -- $28 million -- for building around the trolley and transit lines.

This involved ensuring that there were no problems with putting the parking lots underground -- a necessity to maximize above-ground space and create higher-density housing that could take advantage of the proximity to public transit.

“We also had to provide access for the public and residents living behind this project to Commercial Street,” McKay said, referring to the public access walkways between the buildings that lead to the street.

San Francisco-based Bridge Housing develops and manages affordable housing projects. It has an office in San Diego and has developed six other projects in the county.

Bridge Housing’s co-developer on the $85 million project is MAAC, in partnership with the school district. The family-housing portion of the project will cost $57.5 million.

McLarand Vasquez Emsiek & Partners are the housing architects, and Cannon Constructors is the contractor. Hazard Construction is the contractor for the infrastructure phase that began last summer.

The architecture firm won a smart growth award from the Urban Land Institute for its design, which enables the adaptive reuse of buildings that were formerly surplus warehouses. The award recognizes efforts to develop buildings and communities that accommodate population growth in ways that are economically sound, environmentally responsible and supportive of community livability.

Financial assistance for the project comes from Centre City Development Corp. and Southeastern Economic Development Corp., in addition to the San Diego Housing Commission, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Proposition 1C funding and infill infrastructure grant programs through the California Department of Housing and Community Development, the California Pollution Control Finance Authority and the San Diego Association of Governments.

McKay said Bridge Housing will market the homes next summer and expects they will be filled by lottery.

-Nagappan is a San Diego-based freelance writer.

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