Affordable housing project looks to revitalize area

SAN MARCOS — The revitalization of the once-downtrodden Richmar community took another step forward in May as the City Council approved another affordable housing development.

The council unanimously approved the El Dorado II project, a 120-unit development that will be built just east of one of Richmar’s first revitalization developments, Paseo Del Oro.  The project will include 7,000 square feet of retail space.

A 12-unit apartment complex and several retail stores — including the original Mr. Taco in San Marcos  — will be bulldozed to make way for the new apartments, but residents and commercial tenants will be offered spaces within the new development.

The $50 million project will reduce the total retail space occupied by the current tenants by nearly 7,000-square-feet, but developers and city officials concurred the smaller retail space would be more compatible with the new development.

City officials and one resident praised the developer, C&C Development and Orange Housing Development Corp. for the project’s design, which incorporates a brownstone feel.

That resident, Michael Hunsaker, however, criticized the city for building so many affordable housing units in such close proximity.

“The only problem I have is in the wrong place,” Hunsaker said. “With smart growth, you’re supposed to distribute affordable housing across the city to avoid generating a pocket of poverty. This we haven’t done in San Marcos.”

Vice Mayor Rebecca Jones dismissed the criticism.

“You look at Autumn Drive and what they’ve done with the strict rules and regulations, just because something is affordable doesn’t necessarily mean it is going to become a ghetto,” she said.

Richmar, the city’s second oldest neighborhood, was one of the region’s most crime-laced areas until 2004, when Paseo Del Oro opened. Since then, the city has forged forward with revitalizing the community in partnership with several affordable housing developers. The 103-unit Autumn Terrace opened in 2010, along with a companion park along Autumn Drive, and the 84-unit ParkView apartments will open this year.

C&C Principal Todd Cottle said the project should break ground in late 2015, as the developer still needs to apply for tax credit financing through the state.

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