The Housing Trust is poised to develop a bright, contemporary-design apartment complex with a strong wellness component at Las Soleras. The project named Soleras Station will offer housing for a range of residents, including disabled persons, the previously homeless, and those with limited income; it will serve households earning from 30 percent to 80 percent of median income. The Housing Trust has partnered with the city of Santa Fe, Pulte Homes, and the architecture firm Dekker/Perich/Sabatini on what is planned as a pilot program for certification through International WELL Building Inc.
This is perhaps the only multifamily WELL Building project in the nation,” said the trust’s director, Sharron Welsh. “This is a new U.S. Green Building Council certification based on the fact that well-designed buildings can have a positive impact on human health.”
Welsh pursued the WELL Building aspect of Soleras Station after seeing a presentation by DPS intern architect Hannah Feil Greenhood. “Hannah’’s a big devotee of WELL Building. There are seven elements to it, including air, mental heath, lighting, and water. Our apartments will have a lot of daylighting, better water filters on the faucets, and also a bicycle repair station and bicycle garages, just a few examples.”
The Soleras Station site is about 1,000 feet east of Cerrillos Road, across Beckner Road and a bit east of the new VA clinic. There will be 87 units in six 3-story buildings and five 2-story buildings, plus a community building.
On Jan. 7, the Planning Commission approved the project’s preliminary development plan. Six days later, the Santa Fe City Council adopted a resolution agreeing to accept a donation of at least $1.4 million from Pulte Homes for a 4.5-acre parcel of land for Soleras Station as well as necessary work to bring utilities to the plot.
Pulte also is donating a handful of homesites within its planned single-family project immediately west of Soleras Station to Habitat for Humanity. "The Santa Fe Homes Program, the city's inclusionary zoning program, requires that 20 percent of owner-occupied housing in any proposed development is priced affordably and that the affordable housing is integrated into the market-rate development,” said Alexandra Ladd, special projects manager in the affordable housing division of the city’s Housing and Community Development Department. “Pulte said that would be a no-go for their project and the Santa Fe Homes Program ordinance allows a developer to propose an alternate compliance, and they proposed to donated six lots to Habitat."
Welsh said readiness to proceed is always important under the low-income housing tax credit program, and that city planners “have fast-tracked the development plan review to accommodate the need for alacrity.”
Asked about that, Ladd said the city always tries to expedite affordable-housing projects, and she spoke about this one with admiration. “Soleras Station isn’t just an affordable roof thrown up. This is a new way of doing affordable housing. For very-low-income persons, the lack of housing is not usually their only problem. They often have many things going on that makes them vulnerable to housing instability. For years and years the thought was, well, you just get them under a roof and it’s up to them to get their lives together, and I think we’ve realized that doesn’t work very well.
“These projects that Sharron is doing are innovative in a lot of ways and one of the ways is that there’s a whole variety of incomes within that one project. People tend to think, 'Oh, it’s horrible, you’re segregating all these poor people in one site,' and this is not like that. There will be people who are transitioning out of homelessness all the way up to people who are almost ready to buy a home.
“The community also will have all sort of things that don’t happen in a normal apartment complex,” Ladd said. “They’ll offer GED classes and ESL classes and homebuyer training classes and residents will be able to access services onsite. It’s just a more holistic approach to affordable rental housing.”
The Housing Trust is making a setaside for 20 percent of the units to be occupied by persons emerging from homelessness or folks with disabilities, and providing a preference for veterans,” The Housing Trust's Sharron Welsh said. The project incorporates design elements to accommodate people with vision and hearing impairments and the disabled. “At the end of the day that means we have a great collaboration ongoing with the Coalition to End Homelessness, Lifelink, St. Elizabeth Shelter, the New Mexico School for the Deaf, and PMS.”
DPS designed Soleras Station with a contemporary aesthetic: hard-edged buildings, plenty of glass, grid-form screens, and elevated walkways. A corrugated metal tower rises at a corner of the apartment complex. “This element anchors the project, shining during the day and glowing at night,” according to DPS materials.
Building colors (selected by architect Tara Teilmann, Teilmann Design, Inc.) include Santa Fe earth tones but also grey and beige, with screens and sunshades in earthy reds and oceanic blues. Landscape design is by Solange Serquis.
Besides the WELL Building certification, Soleras Station is designed to earn the highest rating, “Platinum,” in the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for Homes protocol. "It’s going to cost us like $20,000 more for the Well Building certification process," Welsh said. "We’ve asked Wells Fargo Bank Foundation for a grant in their environmental grant-making program that they partner with the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation. That could pay for our additional costs."
Architect Ron Witherspoon of DPS mentioned a few more of the wellness aspects. The community building will have a health and wellness library as well as a reverse-osmosis water station for residents to fill up vessels. “It will be a cleanable environment,” Witherspoon said. “There will be very little carpet — and none in the residences; it will all be hard, vinyl plank flooring. There will be planter areas where residents will be encouraged to grow their vegetables. And a regional park will be developed right next door to Soleras Station.”
One aspect of "soleras" relates to agriculture, a reference to the aging of liquids for vinegars and wines. Along the Vine, the central pathway through the project, people can mix — social interaction and the feeling of being part of a community is key to well being, according to project materials. The community garden is called Vinedo, Spanish for vineyard. The community building, La Sobretabla, is named for the starting point of the solera process – out in the open. Then there are the Criadera, the six courtyards within which residents can mix. Finally, the mandated rainwater-retention pond between the site and the planned park is the Copita, or cup.
While Soleras Station will have “an edgy industrial aesthetic,” the design of homes in the 300-home single-family project on the west side of Soleras Station will be more traditional. Pulte Group got City Council approval last fall to build 300 homes at Las Soleras. “I think Pulte is pulling permits now, so they’ll probably be building before we will,” Welsh said.
Pulte Homes, along with two other production homebuilding companies, Centex, and Del Webb, is owned by Atlanta-based Pulte Group.
"WELL Building is a new USGBC certification. Hopefully we will help them develop this certification process," Welsh said. "Pulte is holding our hand every step of the way on this project, so if see things they like, it could be trendsetting. I’m trying to kind of be the anchor project that fulfills the image proposed by the original Las Soleras annexation."
She expects to hear back from the Mortgage Finance Authority on April 15 regarding her application for low-income housing tax credits. The Housing Trust hopes to break ground in the early fall and construction will take about one year.