SAN FRANCISCO, CALIF. - The city’s most vulnerable seniors, including those transitioning out of homelessness and long-term care, have a place to call home at Mission Creek Senior Community.

This mixed-use development is an integral part of its urban neighborhood. In an inspired move, the project combines 140 needed apartments with San Francisco’s first new branch library in 40 years.

Developed by Mercy Housing California, the $43.7 million project received strong support from the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency (SFRA). The development is in the Mission Bay neighborhood that is rising on a former rail yard. SFRA brought together Mercy Housing California and the library system to create a place for housing, care, and community.

“This development is special in so many ways that the combined impact is truly remarkable,” said Jane Graf, president of Mercy Housing California, citing Mission Creek’s architecture, neighborhood uses, and resident services that will help many seniors stay out of nursing homes. “It is truly a healing place,” she said.

In addition to the 7,500-square-foot branch library and a coffee house, there is a third-floor community room, said Sharon Christen, housing developer at Mercy.

One of the most important components of Mission Creek is the Adult Day Health Center (ADHC), which provides key health and social services to seniors. Many of the residents have suffered long episodes of homelessness or institutionalization. Operated by North & South of Market Adult Day Health, Inc., ADHC’s services include medical care and occupational and physical therapy. Clients also receive lunch. More than 50 seniors use the center daily. About 20 are residents of the building, with the others coming from the neighborhood.

The building features several energy-efficient elements, including solar panels, which will provide about 25 percent of the power needs of the common areas. In addition, the project has low-flow fixtures and piping for future reclaimed water use for landscaping and toilets.

The development’s biggest achievement is providing housing for very low income seniors with special needs. Fifty-one apartments are designated for formerly homeless and frail or disabled seniors. The rents for these units are subsidized by the city Department of Public Health.

Eighty-eight units are for residents earning no more than 50 percent of the AMI, and 51 units are for those earning no more than 20 percent of the AMI. All are one-bedroom units. The average income of the seniors at Mission Creek is below 20 percent of the AMI. There is also a manager’s apartment. Rents are as much as 90 percent below the pricey market-rate rents in the area.

The 51 units serving frail seniors have monthly rents of $356 each. Mission Creek also has 88 Sec. 8 units. Ten units are designated for elders living with HIV or AIDS.

The $43.7 million price tag does not include the library, which was also developed by Mercy Housing California. SFRA provided approximately $18 million in loans and grants. The state Department of Housing and Community Development contributed $7.5 million through its Multifamily Housing Program. The California Tax Credit Allocation Committee provided LIHTCs that generated $13.8 million in equity. The National Equity Fund was the syndicator. Citibank provided an $8 million permanent mortgage. The Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco provided $625,000 from its Affordable Housing Program through member Bank of America.

Additional project information, as provided in application by the nominator.

Q. Why does the nominated project deserve to be recognized based on the award criteria of this contest?

A. Mission Creek serves low-income and very low-income seniors with special needs. Up to 51 units were designated for persons transitioning out of San Francisco’s Laguna Honda long-term-care hospital. Onsite social services allow elders to age in place, reducing the need for residents to be moved to higher levels of care as they age. The project meets the changing needs of San Francisco’s elders, including those leaving an institutionalized setting, and the formerly homeless.

The Mission Creek Project created a vibrant mixed-use community that is a neighborhood center. This was achieved by the inclusion of the Mission Bay branch of the San Francisco Public Library (SFPL) at the ground floor of the building; inclusion of the third floor community room, open to all as the “communities’ meeting room;” and the inclusion of ground-level neighborhood-serving retail, which now houses a coffee shop.

The San Francisco Redevelopment Agency (SFRA) required that the project fit into the Mission Bay North neighborhood, and be an example of excellence in affordable housing design. This resulted in architectural detail and design not commonly found in “standard” affordable housing. Building material uses—including metal panels and lots of glass—are much more expensive and were more widely used that on a typical affordable housing project.

Mercy pioneered a unique service model in our Presentation Senior Community in the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco. This service model combines affordable housing with onsite adult day health services similar to assisted living (although not licensed). The model was adjusted to serve a difference population at Mission Creek, which serves more seniors with behavioral health and mental health issues, and who have likely experienced longer periods of homelessness or institutionalization.

Mission Creek includes cost-effective green building elements and renewable sources, including piping for future reclaimed water usage for landscaping and public toilets; landscaping designed for low water use; installation of low-flow fixtures; energy-efficient fluorescent; high use of daylight with large windows; and long-lasting, low-maintenance interior finishes that include rapidly renewable resources and recycled product-content to the extent possible, such as bamboo, linoleum, bathroom tiling, and resilient paint. Mercy Housing utilized state rebates and tax credits available to include a 40-kilowatt photovoltaic system.

Two onsite Resident Services Coordinators work with residents to locate needed services in the community, such as in-home support—to help with meal preparation and other household work—meal, transportation, and health services. They also organize recreational activities within the building and trips off-site, which engage the residents socially, and help create a sense of community and well being.

Mission Creek addresses the city’s need to house long-term institutionalized persons from Laguna Honda Hospital, and homeless seniors. Many residents have mental health and/or substance abuse issues, as well as the standard health issues of senior citizens. We met this need through choosing a scenic, peaceful location in a vibrant, service-enriched neighborhood that is highly accessible by public transit, and by including onsite social services to address residents’ specific healthcare needs.

Q. How does this project represent an innovative solution to a specific development challenge?

A. In the Master Pan for Mission Bay, a neighborhood created from a former rail yard, the SFRA and the Dept. of Health recognized a great opportunity to relocate frail, low-income seniors living in this city’s hospital to this vibrant community. SFRA negotiated to deed parcels for affordable housing and neighborhood-serving amenities. Due to the site’s proximity to public transit and retail, SFRA envisioned senior housing with services and the neighborhood’s first public institution: a library. SFRA brought together Mercy Housing and the SFPL to create a place for housing, care, and community.

Mission Creek Community is the second residence-with-services partnership of Mercy and North and South of Market Adult Day Health (NSM-ADHC). This service model has generated national attention on how to provide affordable assisted-living-level services to low-income, frail seniors. The inclusion of an Adult Day Health Center with the apartments allows caregivers to provide services to seniors, including those with HIV/AIDS, while allowing elders to retain their independence and “age in place.” The Dept. of Health also funded additional NSM-ADHC staff specializing in psychiatric and behavioral skills.

Our community sits along restored Mission Creek, at the entrance to Mission Bay. Here, a biotech campus, new residential high-rises, and the region’s transit systems meet. The project creates a neighborhood hub on this prominent site. Three entrances mark the building’s principle functions: residential, day health and community meeting room, and the library. Retail spaces line Berry Street. Designers from the city waterfront park worked with Mercy Housing’s team to allow for views from the library while integrating the public waterfront park and the building’s private garden.