Parc 55 – Fremont OKs Major Senior Housing Plan: Here are the Project Details

Silicon Valley Business Journal

February 17, 2016

More housing options for older adults could soon come to what’s currently a collection of light industrial buildings not far from the Tesla factory in Fremont.

Developer John Wong got unanimous approval Tuesday for his “Parc 55” proposal, which is slated to include 497 housing units (including 90 affordable units) and a 15,000-square-foot senior center that would be owned by the city. The approval allows the conversion of 23.5 acres from “tech industrial” zoning to residential.

Here’s a quick rundown of what you need to know.

What is it?
Parc 55 would see five different “villages” each containing a different type of housing. The breakdown includes:

  • 90 apartments offered for rent to low income (one unit), very-low income (63 units) and extremely low income senior households earning between 30 percent and 80 percent of the “area median income” (AMI, which basically means what people in the neighborhood earn). The developer is partnering with Eden Housing on this component of the project.
  • 169 garden-style market-rate rental apartments or condominiums containing one to three bedrooms and ranging from 500 to 1,200 square feet.
  • 90 for-sale townhomes with two to four bedrooms, ranging from 1,250 to 1,750 square feet.
  • 80 detached single-family “cottages” containing three to four bedrooms and ranging from 1,700 to 2,200 square feet.
  • 68 condominiums containing two to three bedrooms and ranging from 800 to 1,300 square feet

Also on tap: A 15,000 square foot senior center with classrooms, meeting spaces, event rooms and food service. Under a development agreement, the developer would construct the project, and then give the center to the city. Although the city would reimburse the developer for the construction, the city would essentially get the land for free.

Where is it?
The site consists of five legal parcels at 47003 to 47320 Mission Falls Court and 47323 to 47339 Warm Springs Boulevard, occupied by five light industrial buildings totaling about 300,000 square feet of space. One of the parcels is vacant.

What’s the trend?
Demand for senior or “active adult” housing is expected to soar as the baby boomers age and seek out smaller, more manageable homes and communities that are built around their lifestyles, with amenities like clubhouses. These communities are not a new idea; the legendary developer Del Webb is credited with re-imagining the retirement lifestyle through his Sun City projects throughout the country (the brand is now part of PulteGroup). In Foster City,Lennar is building a large senior project called Foster Square that will have 200 units. And Pulte is also planning a new Sun City in San Benito County, as I wrote about last week.

In some cases, market forces intersect with land use politics. Some developers believe getting project approvals is easier because senior projects aren’t seen to be as demanding on city services — namely, schools. In other words, while non-age-restricted projects can generate pushback because of the potential additional demands on a school system, you don’t have that problem with seniors. It’s worth noting that school impacts have been a huge issue for home builders in Fremont, as I’ve previously reported here.

Why did the city say yes?
Many cities are loathe to give up “jobs” land for housing, partly because of a belief that employment uses are fiscally positive for a city, while housing requires costly services. And at nearly 24 acres, this is a sizable conversion in an area not far from Tesla, which is booming.

But the city staff report outlines a couple reasons why officials think it makes sense. First, those 90 affordable units, which is more than required by the city’s inclusionary housing ordinance, is pretty attractive for Fremont given the challenge of providing below-market-rate units. The senior center is also a big community benefit (and the developer will pay nearly $3 million to operate it over a 10-year period.) Several infrastructure improvements are also part of the package.

As for losing that industrial “jobs” land? The staff report notes that the city actually gained about 700,000 square feet of industrial space in 2014, when the Crossings @ 880 project was completed. The city is also studying zoning changes to the Ardenwood area that could generate more employment.

Who’s behind it?
The development of Parc 55 is being spearheaded by East Warren Park LLC, an entity headed by John Wong. Wong is the founder of homebuilder The Mission Peak Co., which has built numerous for-sale projects in the East Bay and South Bay. It’s unclear if Mission Peak would build all of the components or sell off pieces, such as the rental portions, to another entity.