New housing development, a model for inclusive housing, opens doors in the center of Caguas

December 9, 2021 | McCormack Baron Salazar

National housing and urban renewal developer, McCormack Baron Salazar, and the Puerto Rico Department of Housing welcomed a group of leaders, including the Governor of Puerto Rico, community members, and the media to the grand opening of the new mixed-income apartment community, Emerald Vista. With an investment of around $135 million and the first multifamily project with funds from CDGB-DR in Puerto Rico, the 20-acre property at Barrio Turabo in Caguas offers modern apartments for rent to families of different income levels, bringing opportunities, and encouraging additional investments in the community.

“This effort represents the very best of public-private partnerships and we are proud to help create a mixed income and mixed finance model, built to high quality and resilient standards, for the many families of Caguas that will call this community their home”, commented Vincent Bennet, president, and chief executive officer of McCormack Baron companies.

The revitalization of Emerald Vista is an integral transformation of a previous public housing residential complex into a resilient, intergenerational, and mixed-income community. Emerald Vista is composed of two phases: the first, Villas at Emerald Vista and, the second, Senior Residences at Emerald Vista. Villas at Emerald Vista includes 238 apartment units of one to four bedrooms, distributed in five blocks, in three-floor buildings. All units include electrical kitchen and laundry housing appliances, air conditioning, smart keys, and alarms, among other amenities.

Senior Residences at Emerald Vista is comprised of 200 one- and two-bedroom apartments in a five-story building, and includes a park, and amenities such as a communal center, gym, sitting rooms on each floor, offices, and the Gold Club. Villas at Emerald Vista received its first residents at the end of November, while Senior Residences at Emerald Vista will be in construction until 2022.

“Our vision of transforming communities in which all people can prosper has turned us into pioneers of these efforts. In Puerto Rico we have already transformed two communities, Bayshore Villas in Puerta de Tierra and Renaissance Square in Hato Rey. Now, we have the pleasure of presenting the third, Villas at Emerald Vista in Caguas”, commented architect Antonio Gárate, vice president and director of development of McCormack Baron Salazar in Puerto Rico.

The Secretary of the Puerto Rico’s Department of Housing, William Rodríguez-Rodríguez, added that “our administration is committed to respond to the increased need of safe and affordable housing as a result of Hurricanes Irma and María.”   Rodríguez-Rodriguez explained “that through the development of new multi-family and elderly housing units, as is the case with this project, we facilitate the process so that more families can move to a safe, more dignified and resilient place to call home.”

The development also contains a 6,400 square-foot community building, which includes a multi-purpose room, a gym, a computer center, and a community meeting area, among other amenities. Each residential block includes amenities such as gazebos, play and exercise areas, lighting systems, picnic areas, community gardens, mail areas, waste and recycling stations, many green areas, and controlled access to parking and buildings. Additionally, the project offers walking and exercise areas, small recreational patios, a community gathering public park with a main plaza and multiple gazebos.

Emerald Vista is the first multifamily project in Puerto Rico with the National Green Building Standard (NGBS) green certification. Architect, Antonio Gárate, commented that this certification assures the project includes sustainable areas and environments, passive design which allows for cross ventilation, high-efficiency energy and water systems for low consumption, the use of recycled materials, systems that allow for better interior environmental quality, non-smoking areas, solar panels, solar heaters, and redundant infrastructure systems, among other things. The project also provides emergency generators, and structures resistant to hurricanes and earthquakes to create a resilient community.

Emerald Vistais the third phase of a public-private association effort between the Puerto Rico Housing Department and McCormack Baron Salazar. The first, Renaissance Square in the financial district of Hato Rey, celebrated its grand opening in December of 2018, with an investment of over $35 million. The second was Bayshore Villas, with an investment of $41.3 million. Similarly to these two transformative developments, Emerald Vista resulted in an investment of more than $82 million for Villas at Emerald Vista, and over $53 million for Senior Residences at Emerald Vista, financed with more than $66 million in private capital from RBC Capital Markets through the Low-income Housing Tax Credits program administered by the Puerto Rico Housing Finance Authority, $46 million in CDBG-DR funds, $23 million from the Puerto Rico Housing Department through financing from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. Citi Community Capital provided the construction loan.

“This third collaboration demonstrates the commitment that MBS has with Puerto Rico, and in this case with the Municipality of Caguas. We are very proud of being part of the community development”, commented Architect Ricardo Alvarez-Díaz of the Puerto Rican firm Álvarez Díaz & Villalón.

Throughout the process, the Puerto Rico Department of Housing has received the assistance of CVR Associates, a national affordable housing consulting firm. The planning and project design was carried out by the architecture and interior design firm Álvarez-Díaz & Villalón. The general contractor in charge of construction of the project is F & R Construction Group, Inc, the inspection was carried out by Custom Group, and the verifier for the NGBS (National Green Building Standard) certification was AVA Environmental.