A $3 billion project that developers say will transform Mission Valley has received a highly competitive $41.1 million state grant aimed at combatting climate change.
“This is something that proves out what we’ve been saying all along, which is how unique and different this project is from everything else in San Diego,” said Peter Shearer, project manager for Hines, the developer of the 200-acre master-planned Riverwalk community.
The grant includes $30 million that will go toward construction of a $122 million affordable housing project planned by Wakeland Housing and Development Corp. as part of Riverwalk, said Lisa Huff, Wakeland Housing director of development.
Another $10 million will go toward construction by Hines of a new trolley station to serve the development that will ultimately cover 200 acres, including what is now the Riverwalk Golf Club on Fashion Valley Road, Huff said.
A portion of the $10 million also will go toward construction of new bicycle and pedestrian trails along the existing San Diego River Trail, according to Huff.
When it’s finished, Riverwalk is planned to have 4,300 apartments and condominiums, 110 acres of parkland, 1 million square feet of offices and 150,000 square feet of retail.
Wakeland’s part of the project will have 188 affordable apartments that are the first of 430 affordable apartments planned for Riverwalk.
Developers for the rest of the affordable apartments haven’t been selected yet, Shearer said.
“This will be the first of what will be multiple affordable housing projects,” he said.
The $41.1 million grant comes through the highly competitive state Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities program and is the largest such grant awarded in San Diego County, said Rebecca Louie, president and CEO of Wakeland Housing.
“Being the only project funded here this year and the highest award ever given to a project in this region is a very big deal,” Louie said. “It’s going to make a great project feasible, allowing us to combine affordable housing with transit, bike and pedestrian connections. It’s going to be truly transformative for the community and the residents who get to live there.”
Preliminary construction of the first phase of Riverwalk started in August 2022 at the northern end of the site along Friars Road.
“We’re doing infrastructure installation now and expect to start vertical construction on the market rate housing and retail,” Shearer said. “Once Phase One is complete and operational, we will continue to develop to the north side of our project.”
In addition to the Wakeland Housing apartments, the first phase of the project will include the new trolley station, the new trails, and new bike lanes along Friars Road, Shearer said.
Construction of Wakeland Housing’s apartments will likely begin with a groundbreaking planned for early 2025 at the earliest, Shearer said.
“We won’t be able to get through the permitting process until then,” he said.
Ideally, Shearer said that the entire Riverwalk development will be finished around 2037.
“That suggests a lot of things happening between now and then,” he said. “We’ve only been focused on the first phase.”
Wakeland Housing’s affordable housing portion will have 188 affordable apartments in two buildings — 46 one-bedroom apartments, 89 two-bedroom apartments and 53 three-bedroom apartments.
The apartments will be for families with annual incomes between 30% and 60% of the area median income. The median income is determined annually by the federal government, but in 2023, that income range is $41,350 to $74,460 for a family of four.
Designed by MVE + Partners, based in Irvine with Sun Country Builders, based in Carlsbad, as the general contractor, the 227,000-square-foot project will be on a 2.16-acre portion of Riverwalk along Friars Road.
It will have 100 parking spaces, 95 bike parking spaces, and electric vehicle charging stations.
Amenities will include a second-level outdoor courtyard and play areas, a community room with computer stations and a kitchen, a central laundry, and onsite leasing offices.
Wakeland’s project is designed to be energy efficient and sustainable, with rooftop solar electric panels and will use landscaping that requires little irrigation, Huff said.
It also will have a roof made of material that reduces the amount of heat from the roof.
Wakeland estimated the project will reduce carbon emissions by 37,058 metric tons over its life, Huff said.
Wakeland Housing and Development Corp.
CEO: Rebecca Louie
Headquarters: downtown San Diego
Business: affordable housing developer
Annual revenue: $6.256 million
Number of employees: 47
Notable: Wakeland Housing has built 7,900 affordable apartments in 57 projects throughout California.