The Power of Partnerships: 41 homes for seniors in East Palo Alto

HEART board members (MidPen photo) 3.17.16
HEART board members Barbara Evers of Boston Private Bank (center) and Supervisor Warren Slocum (2nd right) and HEART staff Paula Stinson, at the groundbreaking on March 17 with Matt Franklin, ED of MIdPen Housing (left) and Robert Jones, ED of EPA Can Do.

Groundbreaking in East Palo Alto on March 17, working together to assemble land and design and fund a site

The origins of the University Avenue Senior Housing project (University Senior) lay in EPA CAN DO’s recognition of the deep need for affordable senior housing in the East Palo Alto community.

Committed to that vision and the community’s need, EPA CAN DO has been working tirelessly over a number of years to assemble parcels for this project. By early 2013, EPA CAN DO had acquired five parcels on the 2300 block of University Avenue, borrowing a total of $2.1M from various lenders including HEART and the County of San Mateo.

MidPen Housing was then approached by the County of San Mateo to assist in evaluating the feasibility of EPA CANUniversity Senior - 1 DO’s project, which had stalled. MidPen worked quickly to complete density studies of the site and the financial analysis. Based on this work, the site would be able to accommodate 41 affordable units for seniors if the missing lot could be secured to create a contiguous parcel MidPen was able to work with EPA CAN DO to gain site control of the sixth and final lot necessary to assemble the 0.75 acre parcel for the 41-unit project. Acquisition financing closed in fall 2013 with new financing from Boston Private Bank and HEART, in addition to existing financing from the County of San Mateo and HEART. With the land assembled, MidPen, in partnership with EPA CAN DO, was able to move forward on design, approvals, and financing.

University Senior is a response to the tremendous need for affordable housing for seniors in San Mateo County. When construction completes in early 2017, the community will provide 41 affordable rental homes to very-low and extremely low income seniors, including apartments targeted to frail and elderly households, in the heart of East Palo Alto.

University Senior adds vitality and strength to University Avenue,  the City’s main thoroughfare. The site is well serviced by public transportation, and  is proximate to many amenities, including local shopping centers, and community services like the public library, supermarkets,  pharmacies and the local community senior center. This combination of addressing community need while simultaneously improving the neighborhood, was at the core of EPA CAN DO’s initial vision for the development, and was a driving factor in the partnership with MidPen.