Plano Star-courier > News
Developer breaks ground on 'green' affordable housing
Photo courtesy of City of Plano -- Plano city officials and representatives from developer Green Extreme Homes broke ground on an affordable, transit-oriented workforce housing development at 14th Street and G Avenue Friday. An acre and a half of out-of-use public housing units have been cleared for the development, which is set to open in the spring.
The city of Plano and Green Extreme Homes broke ground Friday for a project that will bring 60 affordable, energy-efficient housing units to Downtown Plano.
The ceremony was held at the development's future site at the southwest corner of 14th Street and G Avenue. Until recently, the 1.5-acre location was home to a handful of 1950s-era public housing units, which had been boarded up since they were taken out of use in 2004.
Now, the site is cleared of all old buildings, and a preliminary site plan has been approved by the city council. All that's left now is to complete the design process and install underground utilities, said Jean Brown, executive director of Green Extreme Homes, the nonprofit developer which bought the property from the Plano Housing Authority for the project this year.
"We have totally cleared and abated the site, which is a huge celebration for us and the city ... because it's been a blighted site," she said. "That's why we decided to do the groundbreaking now, to celebrate that."
The project's buildings will be three stories, with condominiums priced between $90,000 and $120,000. Units will be open to residents making 80 percent or less of the area's median household income level of $82,000 per year. Twenty percent of the units will be reserved for firemen, teachers, policemen, wounded warriors and city workers making up to 120 percent of the median income.
The development will be within walking distance of the 15th Street DART rail station, an aspect Jean said plays into the affordable housing concept.
"Transportation costs are now a big percentage of everyone's monthly budget," she said, "so if you can build more density next to the DART rails and give them the opportunity to use that for their transportation as much or more as they use the vehicle, then you're making the housing more affordable."
The buildings will also incorporate green design elements, such as energy-efficient insulating panels, low-wattage light fixtures, Energy Star-certified appliances and extreme low-flow water fixtures, said Steve Brown, designer with Green Extreme Homes.
"Everything we're doing will save money from the standpoint of utility usage, be it electricity, be it water," he said.
Solar panels will also be in use for outdoor lighting, and water will be funneled from roofs and streets into a 10,000 gallon tank under a common area for landscaping use.
While the overall design, including the facade and individual floor plans, is still in development, Steve said the standard for the quality and design of the buildings and units is high.
"We sit right across from $290,000 townhouses and $170,000 condos, and so we need to look as good if not better than those, and we will," he said.
Phyllis Jarrell, director of planning for the city of Plano, said the city is happy to see the property on track for productive use again. The development also brings the city closer to its 1998 goal of adding 1,000 housing units within a quarter mile of the Downtown Plano DART station, she said.
"I think there is a need for affordable housing," she said. "... There are a lot of service jobs in Plano that are not very high paying, but certainly there is a need to provide housing for people who work in Plano and want to live close to their jobs."
Construction should start after the first of the year for a spring 2013 opening, Jean said. In the meantime, contractors, designers and engineers will be working on a collaborative "charrette" process that allows all parties to develop efficient design principles and hash out potential conflicts prior to construction, Steve said.
"We work that out ahead of time, and it makes the job run more smoothly, and it's much more efficiently built with less waste, less time, and everybody knows going in what their part of the program is," he said.
A major guiding principle of the project is holding to true a promise made to city council members that the development, while affordable, will not look any different than the high-end housing surrounding it, Jean said.
"We're trying to educate and change the mindset on workforce affordable housing," she said. "There's still a stigma against it, and really workforce housing, that's middle-class America, and it will bring economic development."