A developer plans to break ground in August on the Woodbury, a 56-unit condo project in downtown Lafayette that would be the first major housing development built in the city’s core since about 2000.
The project, at 3740 Mt. Diablo Blvd., could be the start of a building boom in the small East Bay city where developers have entitled more than 400 units in the downtown neighborhood. KB Home, another homebuilder, plans to start construction in a few months on a 69-unit development.
“Lafayette a very desirable core market with all the key ingredients we look for,” said Charles McKeag, regional vice president for New Home. Those ingredients include limited housing supply, good school district, proximity to jobs and transportation and an affluent population. “It’s a place consumers salivate over as a place to live.”
Lafayette offers suburban charms such as views of the Oakland hills, lots of green space, well-regarded schools, restaurants — Roam Burger and Smitten Ice Cream recently opened — and convenient retail like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods Market.
It’s also a place that hasn’t grown much — it’s population was 23,501 in 1990 and nudged up to 23,893 in 2010
New Home, based in Walnut Creek, has a national pipeline of nearly 6,000 housing units with about 1,100 of those are in the Bay Area. The company went public earlier this year (NYSE: NWHM).
McKeag had followed the site in Lafayette for many years since it was entitled in 2006 by Branagh Development. Branagh sold the site to New Home in March 2013.
The developer plans to finish the project by early next year. It consists of 36 “flats” that range from 1,450 to 2,900 square feet and condos ranging from 1,150 to 1,650 square feet. Prices will start in the $800,000 range for smaller units and above $1 million for larger units.
Other projects in downtown Lafayette’s pipeline include the Marquis townhomes, a 23-unit project that will wrap up construction this summer, and a 66-unit project from Lennar Homes at the intersection of Dolores and Mt. Diablo Blvd.
Eden Housing completed a 46-unit senior housing project in January. Another affordable developer, SRM, is building Merrill Gardens, a 72-unit senior facility that will be complete this summer.
Many of the projects moving forward, like Woodbury, were approved several years ago, but stalled during the economic downturn, said Niroop K. Srivatsa, Lafayette’s planning and building director.
Since then, the city adopted a specific plan to outline development in its downtown including about 760 new units of housing.
“We love and cherish our hillsides and ridgelines, so we’re careful about what gets developed there,” Srivatsa said. “We want to preserve the hillsides and allow development in the downtown, which is closer to services and BART.”
With about 10,000 total housing units, the new downtown developments would represent 4 percent growth.
“The growth you see here is consistent with general plan and specific plan,” Srivatsa said. “There is a concern from some residents that (the new housing) is all happening at the same time. There’s a concern about traffic, parking, congestion and about maintaining the character of our city.”
Developers see an opportunity to quench demand. McKeag said Woodbury could appeal to move-down buyers ready to sell their single-family homes, but not leave Lafayette and still have a nice home, and young families who can’t afford the cost of a single-family home (median price was $1.1 million in April according to Dataquick), but want to get their kids in the school system.
“Woodbury represents a rare and special opportunity to create a unique, thoughtfully designed community in one of the Bay Area’s most coveted locations,” he said.