As affordable housing developers build in inclusionary zoning areas, cities and residents demand high quality architecture and construction comparable to market-rate housing
By Genevieve Smith
Photography by Jim Doyle, Applied Photography
Curb appeal. A simple phrase that carries significant weight in both the architectural and development communities. Any developer, whether residential, commercial or retail, wants their project to have curb appeal, which, according to Wikipedia, is “attractiveness of the exterior of a residential or commercial property, as viewed from the street.”
But it goes much deeper than that. Good curb appeal can define the essence of a successful development while poor—or worse yet, bad curb appeal—can be detrimental to a project. While no architect or developer strives for poor curb appeal, sometimes the lack of funding or a marginal building site can be major challenges that impact the aesthetics of a property.
One of the challenges that frequently confront market-rate housing developers building in cities with inclusionary zoning ordinances is the requirement that a certain number of affordable units be built alongside market-rate housing to promote a more diverse community. In these cases, a market-rate builder may partner with an affordable housing developer to build the necessary affordable housing to satisfy the inclusionary zoning requirements, but the affordable housing developer is generally responsible for designing, entitling, and building the affordable units.
Whoever builds it, the juxtaposition of affordable with market-rate housing also demands that the affordable housing features a higher level of architectural style to compete aesthetically with the market-rate housing.
An affordable housing developer that has mastered the art of creating attractive properties, and in the process earned numerous design awards including several Gold Nugget Awards, is C&C Development headquartered in Orange County, CA. Family-owned and operated, C&C Development is a for-profit developer which made the decision years ago that its expertise as a home builder coupled with a strong sense of service could be better utilized in helping people by building affordable housing.
With projects throughout California, C&C has evolved into one of the state’s leading affordable housing developers with a commitment to work with top architects to design award-winning properties that meet architectural expectations within inclusionary zoning districts and elsewhere to set the design standard for future projects.
“Our mission is to design and build housing that provides a secure and comfortable environment for families and individuals to live in with pride and to improve their lifestyle and future prospects for a better life,” explains Todd Cottle, a principal of the firm. “Design and quality of craftsmanship play an important role in our properties, especially in inclusionary zoning environments. At the end of the day, it’s all comes down to close collaboration between local officials, stakeholders, architects, our finance and development partners, and our company.”
A premier example of that collaboration is the Terraces at Santiago developed by C&C within the City of Santa Ana, CA, Transit Zoning Code.
The winner of numerous design awards, including a 2013 Gold Nugget Award for Best Residential Project of the Year, Terraces at Santiago is a transit-oriented development designed by Bassenian Lagoni Architects. It sits amidst older industrial and commercial uses on a highly constrained urban infill site of less than an acre near the Santa Ana Regional Transportation Center.
Featuring Spanish Colonial/Santa Barbara architectural influences, the Terraces’ LEED Gold design is the result of an intense collaboration between C&C, the City of Santa Ana’s planning and housing staff, and Bassenian Lagoni Architects.
“The City of Santa Ana was deeply involved in every step of the design process and knew exactly what it wanted in terms of architecture and curb appeal,” says Gary Penman, Bassenian Lagoni’s lead architect on the Terraces. “We worked in collaboration with the city and the developer from the project’s very beginning. Consequently, we were able to balance the architecture with design efficiencies that allowed us to create a highly attractive project that met the city’s vision and expectations while working within the challenging site conditions and financial constraints that are part and parcel of an urban infill project. As with almost every affordable housing project, it all starts with efficiency.”
Another Gold Nugget Award winner under C&C Development’s belt is its mixed-use ParkView Apartments in San Marcos, CA, that earned the 2015 award for Affordable Housing Community Under 30 du/acre. A LEED Platinum certified, transit-oriented property, ParkView Apartments was a joint venture between the City of San Marcos and C&C Development. The property is on a 4-acre urban infill site and encompasses nine three-story buildings that include 84 affordable apartments, 6,490 square feet of street-front retail space, and 1,460 square feet of office and community room space.
The Gold Nugget Award judges wrote, “This affordable multifamily project built in a blighted area was an impressive multifamily product. Built in an urban infill location, it was able to provide a mixed-use, transit-oriented development designated for people living with mental disabilities. It was a thoughtful site design providing multiple tot lots, open plazas, and open/community space that will give residents a place to be active, learn, and socialize. The materials, colors, and massing of the buildings combine to provide a sophisticated, contemporary look, all the while reaching LEED Platinum Certification.”
Designed by San Diego-based Foundation for Form Architects, the buildings are garden-style walk-ups that complement and enrich the adjacent neighborhoods with a distinctive architectural statement reflecting the surrounding structures and urban infill location.
“As a designer of affordable housing, my primary objective is the efficient and wise use of land and building space, which is always limited and usually challenging,” says Mike Burnett, founder and principal of Foundation for Form. “With this intense urban location, there was a lot of connectivity between the different uses and we wanted to design a project that would mesh seamlessly with the adjoining properties, and yet be aesthetically distinctive and stand on its own as a special place. I believe we achieved that goal.”
A key hallmark of projects built by C&C Development is innovation, both in design and where they are located. In Corona, CA, C&C partnered with the city to build Citrus Circle, a 61-unit workforce housing project on a 2.5-acre site contiguous to the Corona Civic Center. Within walking distance of downtown Corona and community services, Citrus Circle is a LEED Gold certified, gated property that features 42 newly constructed apartments and 19 completely rehabilitated units within two existing apartment buildings purchased by the developer as part of the larger site acquisition.
“The Citrus Circle Apartments community is a wonderful addition to our city and to our Civic Center complex and fully meets our expectations of quality design and workmanship,” says City Manager Darrell Talbert. “Located within proximity to retail, grocery stores, and public transit, the Citrus Circle Apartments offer many onsite amenities, all at affordable rents. As our city’s outstanding reputation and quality of life continue to attract residents to Corona, the Citrus Circle Apartments are the perfect affordable home for many individuals and families.”
Looking to the future, Talbert says the city is working with C&C on other potential workforce housing projects to increase the inventory of affordable housing and be prepared for future growth. “Affordable housing has its challenges for both the city and the developers, and during the process of building Citrus Circle; we established a good relationship with C&C and are impressed with the quality of their work,” Talbert notes. “We wanted a property that looks and feels like market-rate and I think Citrus Circle meets that criteria.”
C&C currently has five workforce housing projects under construction, including Parc Derian in the Irvine Business Complex (IBC), which is the company’s first development in the City of Irvine, CA. Although not slated for completion until next year, Parc Derian has the earmarks of award-winning architecture that will carry on C&C’s legacy of design excellence.
Located in the heart of the 4,000-acre Irvine Business Complex, Parc Derian is an 80-unit workforce housing property designed by KTGY Group and is being developed on a 2.2- acre urban infill site. Parc Derian is a podium structure featuring contemporary architecture that incorporates urban inspired elements and finishes. The LEED Gold project encompasses almost half an acre of open space and residents will be served by a wide range of amenities. With its urban location, it is also in the center of the Complex’s thriving business community and near multiple public transit services.
Keith Labus, a partner with KTGY Group and one of the architectural and planning firm’s leading experts on the design of affordable housing, says a major factor in the design of an affordable project such as Parc Derian is the shape of the site and parking design.
“In many ways, affordable housing design can be more challenging than market-rate projects due to the need for higher density at a lower cost,” he explains. “Everything revolves around efficient site and parking design. Beyond that, our goal is to create a distinctive, quality driven design with the earmarks of a market-rate project, but with the cost and construction efficiency of an affordable development like Parc Derian.”
Parc Derian is the result of a collaboration between the City of Irvine, C&C Development, and Lennar Homes. C&C approached Lennar about taking its 62-unit, on-site inclusionary requirement for the urban village of Central Park West to an offsite location within the IBC. C&C was able to leverage outside sources of funding to create an offsite project with 80 affordable units. Consequently, the city gained an additional 18 affordable units that would not otherwise have been developed.
“As part of our development of Central Park West in the Irvine Business Complex, we were required under the city’s inclusionary zoning ordinance to develop affordable housing,” explains Donna Kelly, Lennar’s Vice President of Community Development. “To deliver the best experience for the residents and the city, we decided to partner with affordable housing developer C&C Development to build the project in the IBC. The City of Irvine has high expectations for new housing design and quality, whether market-rate or affordable, and Parc Derian passed the city’s rigorous review process with flying colors.”
Also closely watching Parc Derian’s progress is Mark Asturias, the city’s housing manager and executive director of the Irvine Community Land Trust, which is the city’s primary agency for development of affordable housing and a partner in the Parc Derian project. Asturias oversees the allocation of land resources and funding to builders who develop affordable housing in the city under its inclusionary zoning ordinance.
“Whether market-rate or affordable, housing developed in Irvine must have the quality materials and design that fits well within this community,” he states. “The project design must have classic attributes that will look as contemporary 10 years from now as it does today when first constructed, and the quality of materials and construction must be durable.”
Genevieve Smith is an Assistant Editor for Builder and Developer magazine. She may be reached at email@example.com.