A supportive housing project for formerly homeless residents broke ground at a vacant lot on University Avenue Wednesday afternoon, three years after the zoning board approved the plans.
Building Opportunities for Self Sufficiency (BOSS) will master lease and manage the 7,000 square-foot, 39-unit property, Cityspace Studios, from developer Panoramic Interests. Panoramic founder Patrick Kennedy said the building is expected to open by the end of summer 2024.
Tenants will be placed into studios through Alameda County’s Coordinated Entry process, according to BOSS, instead of an open application process like other subsidized housing in the city. Coordinated Entry is the main intake process for homeless residents locally.
BOSS will lease the whole property (including office space and common areas) for about $64,000 monthly, and residents will be responsible for paying about one-third of their income toward rent.
The property at 1367 University Ave. will have 39 private studio units with bathrooms and kitchenettes at just under 200 square feet each, a secured main entrance, 24/7 on-site management, a community kitchen, a central courtyard and wraparound balconies. On-site help will be available for residents to navigate jobs, medical and mental health services, addiction support and other resources.
The project was initially supposed to be wholly constructed of prefabricated all-steel modular units like another of Kennedy’s buildings on Shattuck Avenue, but after 18 months working with a construction firm — the quoted price doubled, Kennedy said, partially due to the pandemic and supply chain issues. Ultimately, he said the company “couldn’t pull it together” on quality.
Developers shifted to Pleasanton-based Hawk Development, and the building will now have prefabricated components, but it will no longer be fully modular. Kennedy said the delays pushed up the cost of the project by about $2 million.
But because it’s still partially modular, the project will still cost below the per-unit average for building housing in the Bay Area. Each unit is expected to cost about $400,000, according to city officials. It will cost about $2 million annually to operate once it’s open, split between funding from Berkeley’s Measure P and Alameda County. Kaiser Permanente put about $500,000 toward the project.
Donald Frazier, executive director of BOSS, said the nonprofit’s goal is to create a welcoming environment for residents who are emerging from homelessness. This will include events and programming to draw residents into a community atmosphere so they don’t feel isolated, he said.
“We build relationships first; we don’t start with a heavy hand,” Frazier said, describing a “mint on pillow” style of service. “It’s really about coming at (residents) with love, with respect, with safety and sense of belonging — certainly for the tenants and our neighbors around us.”
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