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Saturday, Jun 22, 2024

$188M Campus Project Coming to Clairemont

REAL ESTATE: Affordable Housing for Intergenerational Tenant Mix

Chelsea Investment Corp. is starting construction of a $188 million affordable housing campus in the heart of Clairemont.

Called Etna, for its location on Mount Etna Drive at Genesee Avenue, the campus will initially have three, five-story buildings with 309 apartments, 58 of which will be for people with physical or mental disabilities.

The nearly 4.1-acre campus site at 5255 Mount Etna Drive used to house the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department Regional Crime Laboratory, which relocated in 2018 to the county’s Kearny Mesa Operations Center at 5590 Overland Ave. The old crime lab was demolished.

Heidi Mather 
Director of Development 
Chelsea Investment Corp.

“Right now, it’s a vacant lot. We’re going to turn it into a vibrant community,” said Heidi Mather, Chelsea director of development.

Two of the buildings in Etna will be for very low-income families and the third will be for low-income tenants aged 62 and older.

Fronting Genesee Avenue, the senior housing portion of the project will include a 3,000-square-foot senior center that will be open to the public for people 60 and older.

The other two buildings will front on Mount Etna Drive.

Costing $42.9 million to build, Messina Senior Apartments on the campus will have 79 apartments – five studio apartments, 73 one-bedroom apartments, and one two-bedroom apartment.

Taormina Family Apartments, costing $85.1 million, will have 136 apartments – 63 one-bedroom apartments, 38 two-bedroom apartments, and 35 three-bedroom apartments.

At a cost of $59.5 million, Modica Family Apartments will have 94 apartments – 42 one-bedroom apartments, 27 two-bedroom apartments, and 25 three-bedroom apartments.

Construction of the building for older tenants is scheduled to be finished in the first quarter of 2025, Mather said, followed by the other two buildings in the first quarter of 2026.

Pending financing, Mather said that construction of a fourth building would start toward the end of 2024 and take 16 months to complete.

The buildings for low-income families will take longer to build than the senior apartments, because they include one level of underground parking.

“You’ve got to dig a hole and then build the units (apartments) on top, and each of them has more units than the seniors,” Mather said.

Creating a Neighborhood

Chelsea had planned to build all four apartment buildings at once, but funding issues delayed the start of the final structure, Mather said.

The buildings will be similar in appearance, “so it looks like a campus,” Mather said.

Mark Longstaff, a partner and vice president of The McKinley Associates architects, said that designing the project was a challenge, because the goal was to create as much housing as possible on a small site.

Mark Longstaff 
Partner and Vice President 
The McKinley Associates

“In the end, we’re delivering a really nice-looking project that I think a lot of people are going to really enjoy,” Longstaff said, adding that care was taken in situating the buildings, “to make sure we’re not going to be shading anybody’s property or anything like that. We tried to be as courteous as we can.”

The exteriors of the building will be stucco, and every apartment will have a balcony or patio, which serves the dual purpose of giving tenants a connection to the outdoors and breaking up some of the visual mass of the buildings.

Other design details, including the exterior colors of the buildings, are still being worked out, Longstaff said.

“What we’re going to do now is, we’ll come back, and we’ll get together with Chelsea and decide on what the color scheme will be for the entire campus,” Longstaff said.

The apartment buildings will have multiple courtyards meant to provide a place for older tenants to mix with the young families, Longstaff said.

“There’s a lot of room there for the kids to play,” Longstaff said, adding that some design details have yet to be worked out.

Permitting was fast-tracked by the city, because the need for more housing is so great, Longstaff said.

“That process with the city has been fantastic,” Longstaff said. “Their team over there has really helped us out.”

Social services for all of Etna’s tenants, seniors and families alike will be provided by the nonprofit Serving Seniors, which will also provide staffing for the senior center. The center will offer free breakfasts and lunches.

Paul Downey 
President and CEO 
Serving Seniors

The senior center “is something that the Clairemont community has been missing for quite a while and one of the key reasons we got involved in doing this in the first place,” said Paul Downey, president and CEO of Serving Seniors. “Clairemont has a large number of older adults and there’s been talk for more than a decade of wanting a senior center.”

Downey said that he expects 100 to 150 people to use the center daily.

An important aspect of Etna, as Downey sees it, is that the apartments will be intergenerational with a mix of older tenants and young families.

“What we wanted to do is really create a real neighborhood, because a real neighborhood isn’t seniors living by themselves,” Downey said.

Working with Chelsea on the project were the San Diego Housing Commission, the Southern California Housing Collaboration, Emmerson Construction, and GMP.

Chelsea Investment Corp.

Founded: 1984
CEO: Charles Schmid
Headquarters: Carlsbad
Business: Developer specializing in affordable housing
Employees: 100+
Website: www.chelseainvestco.com
Contact: info@chelseainvestco.com; 760-456-6000
Notable: Chelsea Investment Corp. has invested more than $3 billion to develop more than 15,000 apartments for low-income seniors, families, people at risk of becoming homeless, and homeless veterans


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