Foster Square comes to life: Senior housing community filling, construction continues

People walk near Alma Point, a portion of the 15-acre senior housing community known as Foster Square.

Years after planning a diverse senior housing community, the first Foster Square residents are moving into a sprawling 15-acre site that was once the last city-owned piece of undeveloped land.

New buildings continue to rise from the site adjacent to Foster City Hall, as developers chip away at their portions of the project that will house hundreds of seniors in the Bayfront community.

Once complete, the entire site will host 155 assisted living units constructed by Atria Senior Living, 66 affordable housing apartments produced by MidPen Housing, 200 for-sale condominiums built by Lennar, as well as nearly 35,000 square feet of retail and commercial space. The New Home Company bought the site from city officials in 2013 before divvying up the various components.

Ultimately, Foster Square will support a diverse senior community that includes those on fixed low incomes, people with dementia and those who can afford an anticipated $1.5 million condominium.

“The Foster Square concept that is starting to come to life is really a great concept because it has so many different types of options for different types of seniors,” said Nevada Merriman, MidPen’s director of development on the Peninsula. “The history of the site, with it being such a key location next to so many great city resources that are all adjacent also made it a very exciting project to be a part of. We’re just thrilled to see the other apartment homes come online.”

MidPen’s portion was constructed first and quickly filled up receiving nearly 700 applications for just 65 affordable units. Now that it is fully occupied, Merriman noted the demand for senior housing, particularly affordable options, highlights the need across the Bay Area. The property also offers exercise classes, social events and food assistance programs, according to MidPen.

Merriman added it’s been great to be part of a development created with other renowned builders like Atria and Lennar.

Atria was pleased to announce its portion — which includes a memory care unit, independent as well as assisted living options with extensive perks — has been completed and the first tenants are moving in. Lennar’s 200 for-sale properties for those 55 and older are under construction.

“It’s great because everything is geared toward seniors and the community as a whole has that special feel,” said Allison Miller, executive director of Atria at Foster Square.

She noted Atria is approaching about 50 percent occupancy and residents range from living independently to needing more intensive memory care. She touted a modern venue with a range of amenities such as on-site restaurants, 24-hour concierge service, a cocktail lounge, salon, spa and a wide range of exercise programs.

“Just the location alone, being close to the PJCC, and library and the rec center, the police department, it makes a major difference in people being interested in our community,” she said, adding she expects an active group of residents across the entire Foster Square community. “There’s assisted living, subsidized senior housing and the 55 plus senior housing condos; the whole concept is coming together really nicely.”

Lennar representatives did not return a request for comment. However, that developer is in the midst of a flurry of construction as 14 four-story buildings will host the 200 for-sale condominiums with the first expected to come online over the summer, said Curtis Banks, Foster City’s Community Development director.

The retail space under MidPen’s Alma Point was also sold off to another developer and thus far places like restaurants and a Starbucks are slated to move in, Banks said.

The entire property is immediately adjacent to City Hall, the fire station and library to the north; with the Peninsula Jewish Community Center to the south. Plans for what to do with one of Foster City’s last pieces of undeveloped land began decades ago as officials considered the best uses for the city-owned parcel. Once the council landed on housing seniors, the city sold the land for $30 million in late 2013.

Originally, the property was 30 acres and considered for a high school, which Foster City still doesn’t have. But after the school didn’t come to fruition, the council split the property in half, with the PJCC developing a portion of the lot.

One of the council’s goals in selling the land was to help community members age in place and, to the extent possible, existing residents were given priority. At the subsidized Alma Point, 45 of the 65 tenants were already living in Foster City before moving to the affordable units, Banks said.

Looking back over the decades, there were bumps in the road as the city sought to create a vibrant community — the city even selected another developer with a similar albeit different senior living concept. But when the recession hit, that project was no longer feasible, Banks said.

As part of the existing development, the council made the entire project contingent on the affordable housing being built first. MidPen’s $31 million cost included $18.7 million in competitive federal tax credits, as well as the city offering a loan.

With Alma Point and Atria complete, residents moving in, and opportunities to house hundreds more underway, Banks said it’s been a pleasure to watch Foster Square grow.

“This is the fruition of a vision that started in 2006,” Banks said, adding it’s very satisfying “to see that vision after a number of years and some challenges, to see it coming to life.”

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