Where Flowers Used to Grow, Affordable Housing Prepares to Pop Up
Seventeen years in the making, the Miraflores Senior affordable housing project celebrated its groundbreaking on May 15th, 2017. Miraflores Senior is being developed by non-profit developer Eden Housing in partnership with the Richmond-based Community Housing Development Corporation (CHDC) on 1.56 acres, and is part of a larger master-planned development of the entire 14-acre site. When the assembled crew of dignitaries and project proponents (many of whom were from the local neighborhood) gathered to sink golden shovels into freshly turned dirt, it represented a momentous step forward for a critically needed project on a storied piece of land.
Home to a flower nursery for more than 100 years, the Miraflores site was owned by the Sakai, Oishi and Endo families. Members of these Japanese American families were interned in U.S. concentration camps during World War II, but with the help of neighbors, they retained control of the nursery and continued to grow flowers on the site until 2003.
While beautiful, flowers (and agricultural production more generally) frequently contaminate land and water. In the case of Miraflores, this meant pesticides, lead and petroleum hydrocarbons, all of which had to be remediated to standards appropriate for housing before construction could proceed. Because housing is a sensitive use, cleanups have to be completed to the state’s highest standards, which is typically more costly and takes more time. The remediation process also had to manage a plume of polluted groundwater that didn’t originate on the site but nevertheless affected its safety for housing.
In addition to the affordable senior housing project, the 14-acre Miraflores site is planned for the development of 190 new mixed-income homes as a sustainable, LEED for Neighborhood Development certified community. The Miraflores development, which will serve low income senior and moderate income first-time home buyers, also preserves historic structures, develops recreational areas, and restores a creek within a four-acre greenbelt. CCLR assisted the City of Richmond and other neighborhood stakeholders with restructuring the project’s finances to provide for the cleanup of the site. Three EPA Brownfields Clean-Up grants helped finance the removal of 7,654 tons of contaminated soil, which cleared the way for the site’s redevelopment and transformation.
CCLR spoke with Kyle Flory, P.G. and Principal at PES Environmental, Inc., the environmental and engineering firm that led the assessment and remediation of the Miraflores site. Kyle shared with us in a statement that “PES had the pleasure of working closely on the Miraflores project with Eden, CHDC, and the City of Richmond since 2003. The environmental and planning challenges were numerous and by working diligently with the Department of Toxic Substances Control and conducting extensive outreach with neighborhood councils, schools, businesses, and politicians, Eden, CHDC, and the City of Richmond were able to develop a cleanup plan and redevelopment plan that allowed the site to be remediated to residential standards and achieve the goals and objectives of the community. It is rewarding to see the project come to fruition.”
Congratulations to the entire project team. Miraflores is a result of strong partnerships between neighborhood groups, the City, and a determined team of developers, engineers, advocates and regulators, as well as the Endo, Oishi, and Sakai families, whose sale of the parcel made this project possible. Miraflores’ redevelopment is a transformative triumph for the City of Richmond and creative land reuse.