A 21.5-acre Encinitas project combines housing with a working farm that is self-sustaining and retail shops in what developers are calling an “agrihood” in a trend that is gaining popularity throughout California.
Fox Point Farms is the work of Nolen Communities, which designed the overall project and is developing the farm and retail portion of the project, and Shea Homes, which is responsible for the housing.
“I have a feeling we’re going to see home builders doing a lot more of that,” said Brian Grover, partner of Nolen Communities, based in Encinitas.
Many people talk of wanting to live on a farm, romanticizing what farm life is like, as Grover sees it.
“They don’t have the time to take care of a farm, but they want to be part of that type of community. This was our attempt to give people the type of community they want to live in without expecting them to become a farmer overnight.”
210 Units For Sale
Fox Point Farms will ultimately have 250 residential units in a mix of single-family homes, townhomes and apartments. They will include 40 rental apartments by Chelsea Development Corp. and 210 market-rate, for-sale units.
Grover said that zoning changes would allow up to 600 homes, but Grover said that he intentionally kept the project smaller to give a rural feel to the development, adding that, “Financially, that was probably not the best idea.”
Sales have already started on some of the single-family homes, said Paul Barnes, San Diego division president of Shea Homes.
“We’ve got approximately 35 homes sold to date and probably 28 homes under construction,” Barnes said, adding that “There’s a tremendous amount of demand.”
Barnes said that Shea’s share of the project would likely cost about $187 million by the time it’s completed in late 2025.
Grover declined to say how much Nolen Communities is spending.
The housing includes townhomes, carriage houses that are flats atop a garage, and single-family homes. They range from about 700 square feet to about 1,500 square feet with prices starting in the mid-$700,000s and going up to $1.6 million, Barnes said.
“There are so many families that grew up in North County. This is an opportunity for them to live where they grew up and where they work,” Barnes said.
The homes may be on the small side, “but the ambience of the overall community manages to get people out of their houses to take advantage of the park space, the open space,” Barnes said. “I like to call them little jewelry boxes. They’re very highly amenitized.”
The design is a traditional farmhouse, with open beam ceilings and wood board and batten siding.
The project includes a 1,500-square-foot all-glass and steel event center built to look like a greenhouse fronting a large community lawn for outdoor movie screenings and concerts, Grover said.
There are also about two miles of trails.
Grover said that he wanted “to create communal spaces that people could enjoy together rather than be isolated in yards.”
The retail portion of the project, that Grover said should be completed in February, includes a restaurant, brewery, winery and market.
The northern portion of the site includes a five-acre organic farm that will grow produce sold in a farmer’s market and used in the restaurant, grapes for the winery, and coffee beans.
The farm also will include a chicken ranch with 100 chickens, whose eggs will be used in the restaurant and sold in the market, Grover said.
The chickens will be fed used grain from the brewery.
Schmidt Design Group, based in Point Loma, is doing the landscaping, which includes edible plants.
“The whole point of the community and the commercial areas is to create businesses that are independent and related to one another, to close the loop and form kind of a circular economy,” Grover said. “We grow product, we pack it, walk it to a farm stand or a restaurant, and that’s the lifecycle.”
The property was once Dramm & Echter/Fox Point Farms, a flower grower that went out of business.
Nolen Communities took over the property in August 2017, according to Grover, and construction of Fox Point Farms started in December 2021 following approval by the Encinitas City Council.
Grover, whose background is in urban design and architecture, said he has worked on agrihood projects elsewhere and, “I got really enamored of the concept.”
“I wanted to do it my way and this property was an opportunity to do that,” Grover said. “We had an opportunity with this property to do something unique and different and to respond to what the community was asking for, what homeowners were asking for, what people want in the place they live.”
Grover said he and partner Sean Kilkenny named their company after John Nolen, a landscape architect hired in 1907 by the San Diego Civic Improvement Committee to develop a comprehensive plan for the development of San Diego.
“His big thing was connecting higher density, downtown urban areas with open spaces,” Grover said – a concept that lies behind the design of Fox Point Farm.
Barnes said that he expects that Fox Point Farm will be a model for similar communities.
“I hope this provides a model that people can visit in the future, policy makers, and go, ‘This is what we should be building to provide housing,’” Barnes said. “This is an example of it done right, where people feel a sense of community with their neighbors.”
Partners: Brian Grover and Sean Kilkenny
Business: Real estate developer
Notable: Nolen Communities is developing 650 homes in six North County communities