Silicon Valley ‘Agrihood’ Project Combines Senior Housing and an Urban Farm

A real estate development in the works for Silicon Valley is bringing together affordable senior housing with an urban farm, as part of the “agrihood” movement. The project exemplifies the growing trend of combining farming and senior living, as well as the trend of multigenerational housing.

An agrihood places agriculture right in the midst of residential neighborhoods. The concept has gained in popularity over the last several years and seemed a natural fit for a 6-acre parcel of land in Santa Clara, California, said Vince Cantore, senior development manager at The Core Companies. Based in nearby San Jose, Core was awarded the site through a request for proposals issued in 2015, and now the integrated development and construction firm is in the last stages of the entitlement process.

“We’re paying homage to the past history of the site,” Cantore told SHN.

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The site — 17 acres in its entirety — was previously used by the University of California to conduct research on agricultural best practices. The real estate also included housing constructed in the 1920s to house widows of Civil War veterans.

The 6-acre parcel was bought in 2005 by the city of Santa Clara, which planned to put affordable senior housing on the location. This plan met with pushback from citizens who thought the land should continue to be used for agricultural purposes, Bay Area News Group reported. Policy changes made by the state of California created funding challenges, and the project ground to a halt.

Ultimately, Core Companies offered its agriculture-plus-housing proposal. The plans call for 1.5 acres of farmland with the remaining real estate dedicated to housing, with 361 residential units overall. Of these units, 165 would be in a standalone senior housing building. Senior veterans would receive preference to occupy 30% of those units. There would also be 36 for-sale townhomes and a mixed-income apartment building as part of the agrihood. Mixing in market-rate options would help subsidize the affordable components of the project, Cantore said.

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The production farm would be privately operated by an agricultural partner — a few have expressed interest, Cantore said — while there would be 28 garden plots on the podium of the senior housing building, for those residents to farm. The mixed-income building would have about a dozen garden plots. The most recent plans, which were created after community consultation, include an orchard, performance area, play area, “farm to table terrace,” and all-ages active area.

“Seniors will have healthy, fresh produce right on their doorstep,” Cantore said.

The senior housing is designed to be age-restricted apartment-style living. However, Core Companies is working with the county on a source of funding that might require supportive housing for a proportion of the residents.

“We’re working with a property management company that’s very well-experienced in affordable housing and resident services,” Cantore said.

Core Companies is looking to break ground about one year from now and anticipates that the project would take between 2 and 2.5 years to construct.

Agrihoods are not common senior housing options, but there are an increasing number of mixed-use, multigenerational projects in the works. One of them — Peninsula Wellness Center — is planned for the Bay Area community of Burlingame, just about 30 miles from Santa Clara.

There are also several recently opened or planned initiatives to meld senior living with farming.

Aldersgate, a North Carolina life plan community, is creating a 6.7-acre farm on its campus. Westport, Connecticut-based Maplewood Senior Living bought a 48-acre farm, with plans to involve it in culinary operations and resident programming. And memory care is being provided on farmsteads in Kaneville, Illinois, and Overland Park, Kansas.

Written by Tim Mullaney

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