Developer looks to build massive, affordable apartment complex off 23rd Street
on October 11, 2014
A private developer proposed what may be one of the largest apartment complexes in Richmond to a uniformly encouraging but cautionary planning commission on Thursday.
The applicant, Alexis Gevorgian, founder of AMG & Associates, came to the city with the vision to transform two vacant properties on the 23rd Street corridor into two 289-unit, 350,000 square-foot apartment buildings on Nevin Avenue.
“We develop affordable urban land,” Gevorgian said of his interest in the two parcels that have turned to blight over the years. His firm was drawn to the spot because of its proximity to the BART station, 23rd Street businesses, and the Civic Center. “We hope to draw people in from all over the Bay, from San Francisco to San Pablo,” he added.
The Los Angeles-based developer is currently negotiating a title to the 1.7 acres of land between 21st and 23rd streets, said Jonelyn Whales, the Richmond senior planner working as a sort of liaison for the city.
But right now, the project is still in its pre-infancy: Thursday’s presentation was a review and chance for open commentary on the initial draft.
The first phase of the “Nevin Homes” development would be the demolition of a one-story vacant building on 22nd Street and the large parking lot adjacent to Taqueria La Estrella, areas known to attract homeless and police attention.
Armando Carmona, owner of the Mexican restaurant, said he hasn’t heard much of this new proposal, but he knows the city’s been trying to do something with the vacant lot, which he currently rents for parking. And although he’s wary that this might fall through like some other ideas in the past, Carmona said, “It would definitely be good for the neighborhood.”
The planning commission shared the sentiment. Echoing others, commissioner Andrew Butt said, as long as its done right, the project “has a lot of potential as a catalyst for future development.”
And for the 23rd Street business corridor—an area that commissioner Roberto Reyes said has “kept Richmond alive” in rough economic weather—the prospect of affordable, family-oriented housing is critical for the merchants and their customers.
“Folks that work and shop there need places to live there,” Reyes said. The complex would likely include 112 studios, 84 one-bedroom, 53 two-bedroom, 30 three-bedroom, and 10 four-bedroom units.
In conjunction with environmental impact consultants, the Richmond planning department took eight months to put together a 157-page proposal draft, available for public comment until Oct. 23. The draft details the project’s possible adverse effects on the community—aesthetics, air quality, traffic, noise, greenhouse gas emissions, and market price affordability.
All of which, according to Contra Costa County health services consultant Michael Kent, could be made negligible by “adopting the specified mitigation strategies.” Bringing the project up to code, so to speak, would require directed adjustments in construction, like installing natural gas-powered hearths to curb air quality impact.
But family time around a warm living room is a ways off. Gevorgian’s firm is still investigating whether or not the project would be economically feasible; an estimate that will become more clear after this draft has been reviewed and once he achieves entitlement to the land. (Gevorgian declined to divulge the amount he’s negotiating for the property.)
Should the project break ground, the estimated 18 months of construction would require between 100 and 300 workers, according to the proposal. At Thursday’s meeting, a union representative pleaded that it be a Richmond worker who strikes the soil. Reyes agreed, saying the project seems like the perfect opportunity for local job creation.
The commission also emphasized the importance that it fit in with the “master plan” of the neighborhood. Richmond development project manager Chadrick Smalley said his department recently received funding for a $7.7 million urban streetscape revitalization to begin in the Spring. That project will connect Nevin Avenue to the BART Station with “a full street reconstruction, LED streetlights, new landscaping, storm water treatment, street furniture—the whole deal.”
Gevorgian said his firm, alongside senior planner Whales, is designing the residential complex in concert with the city’s larger concept for the area: “The timing couldn’t be better.”
Though the time isn’t here just yet, the need seems to be.
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