“By integrating one of the oldest buildings in Milpitas (California) within a new, high-density community, the city is able to grow while still maintaining the continuity and historic feel of its city center.”

The result of a partnership between nonprofit developer MidPen Housing Corporation and the Milpitas Redevelopment Agency, DeVries Place Senior Apartments is a housing project for seniors in Milpitas, California, that has become the cornerstone of the city’s downtown revitalization effort. In 2009, it won a ULI Awards for Excellence: The Americas award. 

Situated on a historic yet underused site in the town’s center, DeVries Place provides 103 affordable rental homes for low- to very-low-income seniors. Helping restore the character of the town’s Main Street by incorporating a historic home, the apartments are within walking distance of the newly ­renovated municipal library and a recently constructed modern medical center.

thoerig_3_400DeVries Place comprises two buildings—a meticulously renovated historic home and a newly constructed three-story apartment building atop a parking structure.

Built in 1915, the Smith-DeVries House was the family home and office of Dr. Rensselaer Smith, the second doctor to reside in Milpitas. The home, architecturally restored by Rothschild Schwartz Architects, was relocated from its original location to the 1.2-acre (0.5-ha) site, closer to North Main Street, and includes community rooms for residents and local civic groups, staff offices, a restored dining room, and three one-bedroom rental apartments on the second floor.

The three-story apartment building includes 100 affordable units, a fitness center, a theater room, a computer room, courtyards, and a rooftop patio with views of the East Bay hills. The design of the new building, undertaken by HKIT Architects, is a modern interpretation of the prairie style exhibited by the Smith-DeVries House.

The residential units are reserved for low- to very-low-income seniors: qualifying tenants are over age 62 and earn 25 to 40 percent of area median income—$18,575 to $33,960 per year. The studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom units range in size from 460 to 850 square feet (43 to 79 sq m) and feature energy-efficient appliances and water-conserving fixtures. Photovoltaic panels meet 80 percent of ­common-area energy needs, and sustainable building materials and strategies were used in construction.

DeVries Place is one component of the Milpitas Redevelopment Agency’s revitalization strategy. The plan included expansion and modernization of the historic central library and construction of a new medical center—valuable resources located on the same block as DeVries and easily reached by the senior residents. “By integrating one of the oldest buildings in Milpitas within a new, high-density community, the city is able to grow while still maintaining the continuity and historic feel of its city center,” says Matthew O. Franklin, president of Mid-Peninsula Housing Coalition.

DeVries Place was an immediate success: within three months of opening in 2008, the affordable rental apartments were leased, and today, nearly three years after opening, a waiting list of more than 70 people remains. Financing for the $32.1 million project was provided through the Milpitas Redevelopment Agency, Santa Clara County, the Housing Trust Fund of Santa Clara, U.S. Bank, National Equity Fund, KB Home, Sobrato Affordable Housing Fund, and Opportunity Fund. MidPen Housing Corp.—a nonprofit developer that has provided more than 6,600 units of affordable housing throughout the San Francisco and Monterey Bay region—also manages the property, providing on-site services to the senior residents at no charge.