Developed by Wakeland Housing and Development Corp., Atmosphere contains 205 affordable housing apartments, including 51 units set aside for formerly homeless individuals.
Housing Project Provides Residents New Lease on Life
by Mark Armao
San Diego Daily Transcript
May 22, 2017
SAN DIEGO - Malaka Moore spent much of last year looking for a stable place to live and a steady source of income to support herself and her newborn daughter.
The 25-year-old San Diego native was splitting a small room with her mother in a crowded transitional housing shelter, at times being forced to part with her daughter when a family friend - who only had space for one - volunteered to care of the child.
Moore had applied for affordable housing before but strict income requirements and a years-long waiting list had always stymied her search for adequate housing.
She was therefore apprehensive when she applied for a drawing to select candidates for Atmosphere, an affordable housing project that was rising in downtown San Diego.
"Throughout the whole time, I was driving by this place and just visualizing myself in it and looking at when it would be done and praying for it. It was on my mind every day," she said. "Then finally, when it happened, and they said 'You're approved,' I cried."
In April, Moore moved into a one-bedroom apartment in Atmosphere with her mother and daughter. The rent they pay is comparable to that of the cramped room they shared last year.
She is among the dozens of low-income and formerly homeless individuals who have already moved in to the 12-story, 205-unit building, developed by Wakeland Housing and Development Corp.
Located at the intersection of Fourth Avenue and Beech Street, the roughly $80 million project will officially open later this month, after a decade of planning and financing efforts.
"We spend so much time working on these projects - hours and hours and years and years - and finally, the best day in my life with these things is when I hear folks are starting to move in," said Ken Sauder, president and CEO of the nonprofit affordable housing developer. "It's really making a difference in people's lives."
Wakeland purchased the property a decade ago when a condominium project, called Atmosphere, was scuttled.
The affordable apartment project had secured much of the necessary financing when the demise of redevelopment agencies in 2012 stalled the effort.
But, in March of 2015 - having secured funding from an array of sources, including two low-income housing tax-credit programs, the county's Mental Health Services Act housing program, a grant from the California Dept. of Housing and Community Development, and loans from U.S. Bank, Civic San Diego and the San Diego Housing Commission - the development broke ground.
Atmosphere contains studios, one-, two- and three-bedroom units with monthly rents ranging from around $500 to $1,400, Sauder said.
Fifty-one units have been set aside as permanent supportive housing for individuals who were recently homeless, including those with mental disabilities. Along with a fully furnished studio or one-bedroom unit, onsite services will be provided to those residents by the Community Research Foundation and PATH San Diego.
Wakeland will offer services as well, including after-school programs and financial literacy classes to all residents.
Designed by Joseph Wong Design Associates, the building expresses a neutral color palette contrasted by red soffits that shade its balconies and an eighth-story terrace.
"One of the things I really like about Atmosphere is the fact that it ties in architecturally so well with the rest of downtown," Sauder said, adding that the quality of the architect's drawings streamlined the build process for general contractor Suffolk Construction.
"At the beginning of a project like this, you potentially have a lot of [requests for information] coming out but there were very few RFIs because, I think, the drawings were so tight," he said.
Construction was completed in March, and move-ins began in April. So far, 101 households have moved in, and Wakeland expects the project to be completely leased up by early summer.
For residents like Moore, who have struggled for years to find suitable housing, Atmosphere represents a breath of fresh air.
"I can focus on everything else now. It's like I finally started my life officially," she said. "Finally I have somewhere I can go."