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Kalos affordable-living complex opens in North Park

(This article originally appeared HERE in San Diego Uptown News, a SDGLN media partner.)

A new affordable-living rental community that has been turning the heads of commuters along University Avenue in North Park for over a year celebrated its grand opening Friday, May 17.

Rising three stories above Florida Street and one below, with unique, angled lines and bold, vibrant colors, the new property has been in development since August 2011 and is a project of Community HousingWorks (CHW), a local but nationally recognized 501(c)3 nonprofit with a mission to “ensure the dream of homeownership” to traditionally underserved working families.

The development team named the community Kalos, which in Greek translates to “all that is good” and “beautiful, noble, harmonious in body and mind.” This translation is etched onto a pane of glass near the front entrance of the gated community.

“We wanted that sensibility of trying to fit into the neighborhood,” said Sylvia Martinez, senior project manager at CHW. “The architect [M.W. Steele Group] considered a low scale along Florida Street so that pedestrians didn’t feel overwhelmed. The other side certainly beautified the alley and you can see it as you’re driving [west] from 30th and University. We thought about that, too: creating some visual interest with the colors.”

Tenants of the new community, who went through a vetting process, began moving in the first part of January, with the last group having settled at the beginning of May. A final tally of 84 families, senior couples and singles were selected from the 3,000 applicants and now reside at the complex, with a total of 110 children also in residence.

Anne Wilson, senior vice president of CHW, hosted the grand opening festivities that took place on one of the property’s two outdoor courtyard areas inside the complex. Attended by residents, neighbors, media and elected officials, the ceremony included remarks by CHW representatives, financial supporters and other distinguished guests. Food, refreshments, entertainment and self-guided tours of the grounds were also provided.

Honored guests in attendance included Assembly Majority Leader Toni Atkins, Mayor Bob Filner and Council President Todd Gloria. Gloria was also on hand for the official groundbreaking ceremony in October 2011, along with Rep. Susan Davis.

Built on a steep sloping one-acre lot on the east side of Florida Street, Kalos is being touted as one of the most environmentally sustainable developments in the area. It is expected to use 56 percent less water than typical residential communities through its efficient irrigation systems, storm water reuse, low-flow plumbing and sustainable landscapes.

The development will also offer energy savings of more than 40 percent above code through the use of rooftop-installed solar photovoltaic panels, LED exterior lighting, a high-efficiency central water boiler, and cross ventilation designed into the layout of each unit to minimize the use of air conditioning. The outdoor, shared-use tables and chairs are made from recycled materials.

“Kalos is a great example of what redevelopment brought to North Park,” Gloria said at the May 17 ceremony. “I thank the many people who stuck with this project over the years and to Community HousingWorks, who sets the example with community involvement and their willingness to engage the neighborhood on this project.”

The North Park complex cost $27 million and was funded through bonds and equity from Union Bank, grants from both the San Diego Housing Commission and the former Redevelopment Agency, substantial “green” rebates and incentives, and other low-income housing tax credits.

Two local community groups, the North Park Planning Committee and the North Park Project Area Committee, assisted CHW by providing much needed input during the planning and design phase, Martinez said.

“The architect wanted strong colors and when we went through the community design process they wanted something modern. They weren’t afraid [of the bold colors] and they were open to something a little edgier,” Martinez said. “That’s just North Park. … They are open to new things.”

San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) presented CHW with two checks: one for $2,500 to help sustain the Kalos Learning Center, where books, a reading and study area, and 16 computer terminals with internet access will be made available to residents and their children; and another for $349,000, a rebate for using the energy-saving solar technology.

Union Bank presented the organization with a check for $225,000 for CHW’s homeownership training programs, acknowledging the significant work CHW does in facilitating first-time homeownership training and financial counseling for their residents and other working families.

“This is a model for what we should be doing everywhere,” Filner said from the podium after acknowledging the developers. “It’s everything we talk about.”

For more information about CHW and its programs, visit chworks.org.

Morgan M. Hurley is Contributing Editor of SDGLN, Editor of San Diego Downtown News and Assistant Editor of Gay San Diego and San Diego Uptown News.

Left photo: Todd Gloria and Toni Atkins at the May 17 opening hold a picture of the Oct. 2011 groundbreaking. Photo by Mark Davidson Photography.