Grand ideas realized at North Beach Place

San Francisco – North Beach Place answers the critics who complain that HOPE VI projects result in the loss of affordable housing units.

The ambitious 341-unit development created more affordable units than existed before while transforming an old public housing project into an important mixed-use community in the heart of this high-cost city. It is believed to have received the largest low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) allocation in history.

The key to North Beach Place is that it integrates a mix of affordable housing and other uses into the existing fabric of the neighborhood, said Carol Galante, CEO of BRIDGE Housing Corp., the lead developer.

Since the opening of North Beach Place in the fall of 2004, developers and cities have called BRIDGE Housing to learn how the project was done.

BRIDGE Housing, a nonprofit developer, teamed with The John Stewart Co. and EM Johnson Interest, Inc., to build the $108 million project. Together, they negotiated the complexities of the large deal.

North Beach Place is adjacent to a popular cable car turnaround near Fisherman’s Wharf. Instead of a rundown public housing complex, tourists and San Francisco residents now see a contemporary development that embraces New Urbanist design. As a result, North Beach Place has had significant impact on a neighborhood that’s very important to the city’s economy.

Some other HOPE VI deals have replaced public housing projects with mixed-income developments that resulted in fewer affordable housing units than they began with, but not North Beach Place.

The development replaces 229 old public housing units with 341 mixed-income, but affordable, apartments. North Beach Place has 138 replacement public housing units plus 119 project-based Sec. 8 units that also help replace the old public housing. In addition, there are tax credit apartments affordable to families earning no more than 50% of the area median income. Seniors have their own building.

Rather than include market-rate apartments in the development, the developers decided the project was a rare opportunity to maximize the site for affordable housing. The development, one of BRIDGE Housing’s largest mixed-use projects, includes specialty grocer Trader Joe’s, where several residents are employed. Its proximity to a couple types of transportation makes it easy for residents to get around.

The project was nearly 100% occupied at the beginning of July. Demand for the apartments has been strong, but officials have been busy with a verification process to qualify renters. The team filled the tax credit apartments from a waiting list for which 2,100 people applied during a three-week period. The John Stewart Co. manages both the residential and commercial components.

The development has won several awards, including one for community impact and another for best affordable housing project from the San Francisco Business Times.

North Beach Place received record-breaking support because people understood how important the project is to the city, according to Galante.

The development began when the San Francisco Housing Authority received a $20 million HOPE VI grant to redevelop the old public housing. The 1996 federal grant was key to launching the project, but it wasn’t enough to accomplish the large task.

The development team received about $38 million in federal LIHTCs and another $17 million in state tax credits from the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee. Related Capital Co. was the syndicator, and Bank of America was the main investor. The city provided another $10 million. The Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco contributed a $1 million Affordable Housing Program grant through member Citibank (West). Citibank also came through with one of its largest loans - $56 million in interim financing, of which $24 million was converted to permanent financing.

Barnhart Associates Architects was the lead architect on the project, which utilizes the “eyes-on-the-street” concept. Instead of long corridors, the project features individual entrances, courtyards and porches. The development has an enclosed parking garage, and each family unit has a washer and a dryer. A child-care center was made part of the seniors building to encourage intergenerational activities.

North Beach Place

Developers: BRIDGE Housing Corp., The John Stewart Co. and EM Johnson Interest, Inc.

Total units: 341

Affordable units: 341, including public housing and Sec. 8 units and apartments affordable to families earning no more than 50% of the area median income.

Unique feature: Located near Fisherman’s Wharf, North Beach Place replaced an old public housing unit and served as an important community renewal project. The award-winning development received a record $55 million allocation of state and federal housing tax credits.

Key sources of financing

Equity from 9% federal low-income housing tax credits and California housing tax credits syndicated by Related Capital, with Bank of America the main investor: $48 million

Citibank mortgage financing: $23.7 million

HOPE VI grant: $20 million

City of San Francisco, Mayor’s Office of Housing: $10 million

HOPE VI demolition grant: $3.2 million

San Francisco Housing Authority, ground lease reinvestment: $1.4 million

Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco, Affordable Housing Program grant, through Citibank (West): $1 million

Developer equity: $451,451

Miscellaneous reimbursement: $183,251

Total development cost (residential and commercial components): $108 million