Catholic Charities of Santa Rosa is drawing up plans to transform nearly an entire city block with a new homeless service center, family shelter and nearly 140 low-cost apartments in partnership with nonprofit Burbank Housing.
The ambitious project, just now being unveiled to the public, would replace existing facilities and several homes on a downtown city block bounded by Sixth and Seventh, A and Morgan streets, northwest of the Santa Rosa Plaza mall.
The proposal, contemplated for several years though only now beginning to take shape on paper, has “had very positive feedback,” Catholic Charities Executive Director Len Marabella said.
“You know, it’s exciting and exhilarating as you really see it going together,” he said.
Named Caritas Village, from the Latin word for “charity” or “love for all people,” the site includes Catholic Charities’ current Family Support Center on A Street and the homeless drop-in center behind it, at 600 Morgan Street. Agency officials say the existing facilities — the century- old Santa Rosa General Hospital and an aging two-bedroom house — are inadequate to meet the need for temporary shelter and expanded programming shown to reduce homelessness.
But key to the project’s vision and urgency in a post-fire world is the inclusion of high-density, affordable housing for families and individuals priced out by the local market, representatives of the two nonprofits said. The October fires destroyed more than 5,100 homes in Sonoma County, including about 5 percent of Santa Rosa’s housing stock.
“We were thinking about maybe a less aggressive housing project — and certainly a more relaxed timeline,” said Mark Krug, business development manager for Santa Rosa-based Burbank Housing, the county’s largest affordable housing developer. “But now that the fires hit, we feel like we have more of a moral obligation to the community to move as quickly and aggressively as we can.”
The proposal joins a growing list of projects involving Burbank Housing, which emerged last weekend as a lead developer in a bid to transform the fire-ravaged Journey’s End mobile home park into a new complex of affordable and market-rate apartments.
At Caritas Village, as currently envisioned, Burbank Housing would build and manage two multi-level apartment buildings on the north end of the site, with a combined 137 studio, one- and two-bedroom apartment units. Only one of the agency’s 63 housing projects has more units, Krug said. About half of the tenants at Caritas Homes would be people who are currently homeless or at risk of it, Krug said. The remainder would provide housing for those whose income levels are at or below 60 percent of the area’s median, he said.
A new emergency family shelter with up to 56 rooms and enlarged housing- focused day center for those experiencing homelessness would be built near the southeast end of the parcel, with an entrance off Sixth Street, away from residential areas. While Catholic Charities owns the existing Morgan Street drop-in center, two neighboring homes used for client volunteers and a vacant apartment building — all expected to be razed — two privately owned and occupied homes at the corner of Morgan and Sixth streets would remain untouched.
The agencies hope to begin phased construction by 2020 and expects it to be entirely complete within about 20 months after groundbreaking, said Jennielynn Holmes, director of shelter and housing for Catholic Charities.