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GARDEN GROVE, CA—Wesley Village represents a creative use of underutilized church land into a multi-use, multigenerational urban campus of quality affordable housing with educational, social and health services available to residents and the larger community, Jamboree Housing Corp.’s VP of marketing and communications Mary Jo Goelzer tells GlobeSt.com. The firm, in a unique partnership with the City of Garden Grove and the Garden Grove United Methodist Church, recently completed construction on the property, an innovative, adaptive reuse of church property.
Through the partnership, Jamboree entered into a 60-year ground lease with the church, repurposing 2.2 acres of excess parking space and unused vacant land that will provide ongoing financial support for the church’s charitable activities. The redesigned 130-year-old church campus includes the addition of two three-story residential buildings for working families and seniors, with a community center that permanently houses these community partners: Alzheimer’s Orange County, Boys & Girls Club of Garden Grove, Lestonnac Free Clinic, and Project Hope Alliance. A third building is dedicated for the exclusive use by Orange County Head Start as a learning center. These community partners will provide adult day care, behavioral health services and after-school activities, plus a range of other social, education and health services available to Wesley Village residents and the surrounding community.
Financing for the $18.9-million development consists of $3.6 million in HOME Funds provided by the City of Garden Grove through HUD and a Redevelopment Property Tax Trust Fund; $4.8 million in permanent financing from the California Community Reinvestment Corp.; $7.449 million in tax-credit equity invested by Boston Financial Investment Management; and $11.1 million in construction financing provided by US Bank. Garden Grove United Methodist Church is the ground lessor.
We spoke with Goelzer about the significance of this project and how developers are coming up with creative solutions for solving the dearth of affordable housing, particularly for vulnerable residents, in Orange County.
GlobeSt.com: What makes this property unique for affordable housing?
Goelzer: First, the site. Property is scarce and expensive in Orange County, so to “find” room to build on at the campus of the Garden Grove United Methodist Church was a creative use of underutilized land. The land lease with the church, eliminating the need to acquire land, keeps the development cost down and is of benefit to the church since lease payments can be used to fund their other faith-based activities. Next, the church has been an active community member for more than 140 years and, in 1979, opened the Acacia Adult Day Care Center in Downtown Garden Grove. The creation of Wesley Village allows the church to expand on these community services with organizations such as Garden Grove Boys & Girls Club, Alzheimer’s Orange County, Acacia Adult Day Care, Lestonnac Free Clinic and Project Hope Alliance all having offices, classrooms and clinic space located in the common areas of Wesley Village to offer services to the entire neighborhood—not just the residents of Wesley Village. Orange County Head Start was also moved from an existing church structure to a brand-new building with three classrooms, its own playground and dining areas. Finally, the community is intergenerational, with housing designed specifically to meet the needs of a senior population in one building and the requirements of active families in yet another residential building and common areas that appeal to both generations.
GlobeSt.com: How are developers coming up with creative solutions to the lack of affordable housing for vulnerable residents in Orange County?
Goelzer: Education, advocacy and outreach all play a role in creating more affordable housing. Jamboree supports local and statewide legislation that will support more affordable housing either through the creation of new funding resources or administrative changes that will reduce the cost of development or streamline the time it takes to bring an affordable-housing community to the marketplace. We frequently meet with state officials and local municipalities to show them ways that they can create more affordable housing in their community. We offer property tours to elected officials, HOA members, and community groups to dispel their fears of adding more housing in their neighborhood, to answer their questions and to listen to their concerns about what they envision for their community. We strive to be a good neighbor from day one and want to seamlessly blend into new communities as well as be an asset to the entire neighborhood for the long term.
GlobeSt.com: What factors could help move this process along?
Goelzer: Creation of a permanent source of funding for affordable housing would be a start. So many federal and state financial resources have vanished over the years, making it a real challenge to find the capital needed to develop affordable housing. Here in California, we need to find new revenue-generating vehicles, whether it is a new bond issue or charging document fees on real estate transactions. We also need to see administrative reforms that address issues like zoning, density bonuses, inclusionary housing, and California Environmental Quality Act that create delays to development and increase the cost. On a national level, we need to let our elected representatives know we support HUD programs that may be cut back or even discontinued and let them know of our support for the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program.
GlobeSt.com: What else should our readers know about this infill project?
Goelzer: Jamboree works hard to create private/public partnerships with groups from various disciplines to work together to achieve a collective vision. This was certainly the case with Wesley Village, which brought together the city, a local church, a handful of community-service organizations, local, state and federal lenders and a nonprofit developer. As demand for available buildable space increases, there are certainly opportunities available that need to be explored as society evolves. If fewer people are attending church or shopping at brick-and-mortar stores or commuting to a daily job, choosing instead to work from home, what will become of those empty stores and parking lots? Perhaps there’s opportunity to transform these paved lots and put up a “paradise”—with housing and services vital to a community and its residents.