A dream nearly a decade in the making finally came true on Sept. 20. Representatives from The Core Companies along with local leaders gathered near the intersection of Winchester Boulevard and Forest Avenue in Santa Clara to cut the ribbon on the Agrihood development.
Agrihood is California’s largest urban farm and affordable housing community. It was funded mostly by Santa Clara County’s affordable housing bond Measure A. The development includes 165 affordable units for seniors ages 55 years and over.
Consuelo Hernandez, the director of Santa Clara County’s Office of Supportive Housing says the focus on seniors was very important in this development.
“For us, it was really important to look at what are we building and who are we serving. And we know that our homeless population is aging and Agrihood is responding to that,” said Hernandez.
Hernandez credited the incredible work Measure A has done across the county. So far, Measure A has provided 3,467 people with affordable homes and another 2,000 affordable units are expected to open countywide in the next two years.
The site is unique in that it also includes a 1.5-acre open space farm. The farm’s produce will be provided to the seniors as well as sold on site to the public.
“Agrihood is a long-awaited addition to the supply of safe and affordable housing the Bay Area needs,” said Susan Ellenberg, president of the County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors. “This development is particularly exciting in its innovative design that includes a working farm, some units designated specifically for older adults and others for mixed-income populations and planned efforts to build a true community, not simply shared residency around the theme of local food sourcing. Agrihood is going to be really special.”
Credit for the development could not be spread around enough. More than one speaker at the ceremony thanked Santa Clara staff, specifically members of the City’s Planning Department. Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor gave special recognition to local business owner Kirk Vartan for bringing the concept of urban farming to her attention. Vartan and San Jose’s Alrie Middlebrook received special recognition during the ceremony for their hard work in making Agrihood a reality.
Vince Cantore, Vice President of Development at The Core Companies, was a driving force behind the Agrihood development. He presented Vartan and Middlebrook each with a fruit tree as a thank you for their dedication to the project.
For Cantore, the ribbon cutting ceremony was especially emotional.
“It’s completely surreal,” said Cantore. “There’s so many things over the last few years before the project actually started construction. So many decisions that go into the design of a project, especially a project as complex as this and there’s so many times you’re like, ‘God, I hope I’m making the right decision.’ And you hope. And it’s like, you make the decision and you go down a path.”
For Cantore, the ribbon cutting is by no means the end of the process but rather the continuation of something special.
“It very much is a team sport and it requires just a lot of coordination with parties that may not always see eye to eye,” said Cantore. “The challenge is how do you thread the needle and recognize that we all share a common humanity? That we all want to see a project that we can all be proud of. It’s not always easy, but we did it here and my goal would be to do it 20 more times. As long as I’m standing, I just want to keep going. And that’s what I plan to do.”