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100% affordable housing project and parking garage in downtown Flagstaff might be one step closer to fruition

Foundation for Senior Living project downtown Flagstaff

A rendering of the proposed affordable housing development from the Foundation for Senior Living in downtown Flagstaff. 

After several years of work, Flagstaff may be one step closer to the development of a 100% affordable housing development and parking garage downtown.

The project by the Foundation for Senior Living, which specializes in affordable housing projects across Arizona, is set to go before Flagstaff City Council early next year and ask for several exemptions from city code.

The project will take the place of the old Catholic elementary school and the historic Babbitt House, and is set to provide 146 affordable housing units to a city that declared a housing emergency just last year. Those units and associated parking will come in the form of two buildings, each four stories in height, that will largely take up the entirety of the block.

During a meeting this week, city staff and Steve Hastings with the Foundation for Senior Living detailed the project to city council.

The project comes as a collaboration between the Foundation, Catholic Charities and the City of Flagstaff, Hastings told the council.

Hastings said the foundation plans to build the project in two phases, with the first starting construction in June of 2022 and the second phase beginning in fall of 2023.

“I know that this project is going to be a really welcome addition to Flagstaff,” Vice Mayor Becky Daggett said.

The first phase of the project will encompass the northern half of the property. Dubbed San Francisco Square, phase one will be largely aimed at seniors and include 70 units. Of those, 60 would be one-bedroom units while 10 units would have two bedrooms. It will also include 59 parking spaces for residents.

Phase two of the project, dubbed Aspen Lofts, will then be built on the southern half of the property and comes as part of a collaboration with Catholic Charities. The units built as part of phase two will be aimed at more than just a senior population, rather being built for a wide variety of family types.

As such, phase two will include 37 one-bedroom units, 20 two-bedroom units and 19 three-bedroom units for a total of 76 units. The phase will also bring 55 parking spaces for residents and 97 parking spaces that will be sold to the City of Flagstaff for use by the nearby municipal courthouse and members of the public.

The city is currently renting several public parking spaces on the old school property, largely to support the parking needs of the courthouse. That arrangement will continue through construction of the first phase.

Once the second phase of the project -- which will include the parking garage -- is built, the city is expected to purchase those spaces at no profit for the developer. In other words, the cost of construction for those 97 parking spaces will be what the city ultimately pays.

The parking garage largely will not be visible from the outside, however, as the project is designed with the apartments wrapping around the structure and hiding it from view. 

The residential use and density of the project is allowed right on the area, but the foundation is still asking for several exemptions from certain parts of the city’s code.

The foundation’s request comes after the city council voted in March to allow developers building 100% affordable projects to request loopholes from the council within the zoning code. Council approved that measure as one way to encourage the construction of affordable housing in a state that does not allow cities to require the inclusion of affordable units within projects.

Although the foundation’s project had been in the works for several years prior to the passage of that measure, it appears this development could be the first to take advantage of the new cutouts.

City Planning Manager Alaxandra Pucciarelli said the foundation has requested close to 20 exemptions from city code. Some of those exemptions include lowering the required height for first-floor ceilings, as the first floor will be used for residences and not commercial spaces.

The foundation previously built and still operates the Flagstaff Senior Meadows development on McMillan Mesa.

The project is partially being funded through the use of low income housing tax credit, and residents who make at or below 80% of the area median income will be able to qualify for the units. For a family of four in 2021, that equates to an annual income of $61,450.

Adrian Skabelund can be reached by phone at (928) 556-2261, by email at askabelund@azdailysun.com or on Twitter at @AdrianSkabelund. 

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