New life has come to the Las Gladiolas public housing site in the financial district of San Juan, Puerto Rico. What once were four high-rise towers plagued by blight and surrounded by a wall of barbed wire is now Puerto Rico’s first mixed-income housing community.
Developed by St. Louis–based McCormack Baron Salazar, Renaissance Square is bringing walk-up and townhome-style apartments with market-rate amenities, resilient features, and green design to 140 families.
“The entire community is open so there are no walls. We have low density, and it is not segregated, but inviting to say the least,” says Daniel Acosta, senior vice president at McCormack Baron Salazar.
Of the 140 one-, two-, and three-bedroom units, 60% are reserved for very low-income families, including 28 units with project-based vouchers; 20% are reserved for the workforce at 60% of the area median income; and the remainder have market-rate rents.
Residents will start moving in this summer, and there has been a sense of urgency from families who were displaced after Hurricane Maria ravaged the island in October. “We have in excess of 2,000 names on a list that have expressed interest in addition to a pre-existing list of former public housing residents who have a priority to apply first to come back,” says Acosta.
He adds that there had been a lot of reservation that the mixed-income concept wouldn’t work, but over two-thirds of the list is interested in the market-rate units.
The development, which was under construction during the hurricane, is designed to withstand a category 4 storm with hurricane-rated doors, windows, roofs, and structures. A management plan also includes a hurricane preparedness program that covers communications, site preparation, and recovery.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development, Puerto Rico Department of Housing, and the Puerto Rico Public Housing Administration committed significant funding for the $35.5 million development. It also received low-income housing tax credit equity, with Hunt Capital Partners as the syndicator and Citi Community Capital as the investor. Citi also provided a construction loan.
McCormack Baron Salazar is working on the redevelopment of another public housing development in San Juan’s historic district and hopes to close financing this year on a two-phase project in Caguas.
“We’re just a small dent and hoping to make a bigger impact in the recovery of the island,” adds Acosta.