SALINAS, CALIF. - Just about everyone with roots in this town’s fertile soil has a story about an old motel on Main Street. It is where local families gathered for wedding receptions and cowboys competing in the annual rodeo took their boots off at night. Years ago, Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio even stayed at this spot when the upscale Santa Lucia Inn graced the land.
Over time, a new motel was built, and the tales took a notorious turn as the property became the scene for prostitution and drug activity.
“This was a black hole,” said Dana Cleary, director of real estate development for the Community Housing Improvement Systems and Planning Association, Inc. (CHISPA). “It’s a big building. When it was bad, it was big. You couldn’t overlook it.”
CHISPA has written the next chapter in the story. The nonprofit housing developer gutted the troubled motel to its shell and rebuilt it to provide affordable apartments for low-income seniors.
Completed in May, the 124-unit Sherwood Village Senior Apartments makes a major contribution toward helping Salinas meet its goal of providing 500 new seniors units in the next five years, said Paul Tran, project manager.
At the same time, CHISPA has eliminated a huge source of blight on the city’s main thoroughfare. In the three years prior to CHISPA’s conversion, the police responded to a call at the motel every 2.82 days on average.
Sherwood Village also stands as an example of green building. The property features a bioswale to retain and treat storm water. Solar panels power the community areas. High-efficiency heaters have been installed. In addition, 75 percent of the construction and demolition waste was recycled.
The $22.2 million development’s greatest achievement is providing homes for the seniors, including many former farmworkers who labored in the area’s agricultural fields. The one- and two-bedroom apartments are reserved for residents earning no more than 50 percent of the area median income (AMI), including 13 units for those at 30 percent of the AMI and 48 units for those at 45 percent of the AMI. Seven apartments are handicapped accessible. Rents are approximately 36 percent to 67 percent below those at a market-rate seniors complex.
CHISPA built a new community center, and the services offered include diabetes screening and dental care, English as a second language classes, and legal assistance. There is a bocce ball court and a community garden. Sherwood Village is CHISPA’s single-largest development and its first rehabilitation effort.
The city of Salinas provided about 10 percent of the financing, amounting to $2.2 million in HOME and Community Development Block Grant funds. AIG SunAmerica Affordable Housing Partners provided about $15.9 million in low-income housing tax credit equity. Wells Fargo provided a $10.6 million construction loan, and the California Community Reinvestment Corp. provided a $4 million permanent loan.
In a creative move, the solar panels will be owned and operated by an outside investor, who will receive a lease for the rooftop space. CHISPA will pay the common area energy bill to the investor instead of the utility company and has the right to purchase the system in 15 years. This arrangement allows the group to benefit from the solar panels without including them in the capital budget.
The development is the start for other changes. The city has assigned property across from the development to be turned into a seniors center, creating an even happier ending for the story of one troubled old motel.