For decades, a vacant field in San Diego’s Chollas View neighborhood had been a blight on the community with concrete and other used building materials and trash piled high and overgrown with weeds.
But the former eyesore has been transformed by Sabre Springs-based Affirmed Housing into a $56 million affordable apartment housing project with carefully landscaped courtyards and an arroyo that’s being restored to its natural state.
“We discovered piles and piles of concrete, rubble and other buried debris that had been accumulating for decades,” said Jonathan Taylor, Affirmed Housing project manager.
“Eventually, we will be removing any irrigation that’s been used in the arroyo and allow it to function on its own,” Taylor said.
The name of the development, The Orchard at Hilltop, is a metaphor of sorts playing off the dramatic changes made to the 9.4-acre site along Euclid Avenue.
“An orchard is a protected place where trees grow, The Orchard at Hilltop is a secure place where families grow, and it’s firmly rooted as a reflection of the community, addressing its housing needs, providing vibrant commerce, and beautifying (and) restoring a natural resource,” Taylor said.
Colorful murals by Maxx Moses, a muralist with studios in Encanto adorn the project.
“They’re very prominent as you drive by on Euclid or as you enter the property,” Taylor said. “As part of our outreach to the community, we wanted to bring in a local artist to beautify the project and also convey a sense of place and belonging, something that was unique.”
Restaurant to Come
Two portions of Hilltop Drive have been connected through the site as part of several street improvements that include widening Euclid Avenue, planting a median parkway, installing traffic signals and building new curbs, sidewalks and street gutters.
“The extension of Hilltop Drive and adding the landscaping and adding a raised median along Euclid has made a bigger impact on the community than any one of us could have imagined,” Taylor said. “It truly as made the Euclid corridor coming off the 94 (State Route 94) a place you’re happy to drive through.”
The Orchard has 113 apartments in two four-story buildings and one-three-story building covering about half the site, Taylor said.
They include 37 two-bedroom apartments averaging about 800 square feet, 21 three-bedroom apartments averaging about 1,100 square feet, and 18 four-bedroom apartments averaging 1,400 square feet.
Every apartment has a patio or balcony.
Commercial Space Included
Monthly rents range from $561 to $1,732 depending on tenants’ income and the size of the apartments, Taylor said.
A separate one-story building of 1,836 square feet includes a community kitchen.
The project also includes 6,500 square feet of commercial space, which has been leased to Felix’s BBQ, a North County group of restaurants.
“It will serve good breakfast and lunch and dinner. There will be casual dining opportunities as well as late night options. There’s also going to be a grab-and-go market and baked goods for the morning run,” Taylor said. “All of this is being built in response to the community input that we received. We wanted to build what the community needed and then go out and find the right partners to make their desire a reality.”
Amenities in The Orchard include a basketball half-court, a tot lot and playground, barbecue areas, a community kitchen in the clubhouse, a computer lab, a learning center and several courtyards.
Meeting Common Goals
The Orchard at Hilltop shares the site with a market-rate development being built by Ito Girard & Associates and La Jolla MJ Management on the west side of the site.
Affirmed Housing has built a bridge across the arroyo to connect the two apartment developments.
“The Orchard at Hilltop breathes new life and fresh opportunities into the neighborhood and demonstrates what’s possible when multiple stakeholders come together to execute our common goals,” said Jimmy Silverwood, president of Affirmed Housing.
Funding partners for The Orchard included Civic Communities, Boston Financial, Boston Capital Finance, Western Alliance Bank, the San Diego Housing Commission, the City of San Diego, the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee and the California Debt Limit Allocation Committee.
Working with Affirmed Housing on the project were Studio E Architects, LandLAB, Kettler-Leweck, HA Builders and Project Design Consultants.
CEO: Jim Silverwood
President: Jimmy Silverwood
Headquarters: Sabre Springs
Social impact: The company supports the San Diego Housing Commission, the Boys & Girls Club, Compass for Affordable Housing, and People Assisting the Homeless.
Notable: Since 1992, Affirmed Housing has financed more than $2.8 billion in affordable housing projects and has more than 5,800 apartments developed or under development in 70 communities.