St. Vincent’s project gets $6.7 million more

The Sisters of Mercy had their prayers answered on Tuesday, when the City of Santa Barbara approved an additional $6.7 million in redevelopment funds for St. Vincent’s housing project, which will provide 170 affordable units (95 designated for low-income seniors and 75 for low-income families) on the site at 4200 Calle Real.

Housing and Redevelopment Manager Dave Gustafson described the project as a precedent setting joint effort of the Redevelopment Agency, the county and the city. This is by far the largest affordable housing project these groups have ever undertaken, with a total cost estimate of $50 million, $11 million of which will come from Federal HUD funds.

Approximately $10 million will be dedicated to infrastructure and area upgrades near the project site, which the city annexed from the county specifically for development of the St. Vincent’s project. The developers will make improvements to the nearby Cieneguitas Creek, including bank stabilization, habitat restoration and enhanced public access with a new bridge. There will also be new roads, extensive grading, streetlights, sidewalks, utilities, drainage, landscaping and a bike and pedestrian path put in along Highway 154, which borders the project on the east.

A primary factor in the increased cost of the St. Vincent’s project is a worldwide increase in the cost of steel. This has also been a driver in cost overrun estimates for the Granada Parking Garage project.

While the City Council voted unanimously to approve the increased funding (with Roger Horton absent), it was not without expressing some concerns about the cost and the implications for funding of future redevelopment projects.

“I’m thrilled this is happening. I’m not so thrilled steel is going up,” said Mayor Marty Blum.

“This is a great project. But these are staggering numbers,” said Councilwoman Iya Falcone.

Construction on the project will begin this summer. Housing Developer Benjamin Phillips said he is hoping residents can begin moving in within two years.

“From the very beginning, there’s been a profound and palpable commitment from the city to make this happen,” said Sister Amy Bayley. “It’s been a source of encouragement and inspiration to us. The citizens of Santa Barbara should be very proud.”

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on May 20, 2004.

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