Miraflores project not dead yet, city in negotiation with new owner

Miraflores project not dead yet, city in negotiation with new owner
Council finds new hope for stalled Miraflores project with new owner. Photo/Linda Hemmila

Richmond Councilmember Doria Robison reported the new owner of the former Miraflores property is possibly interested in picking up the bankrupt housing project near I-80.

Miraflores is the former site of the historic Sakai and Oishi nurseries, founded by Japanese immigrants in the early 1900s.

The proposed project consisted of 22 detached multi-story buildings containing 190 residential units on an 8.17-acre parcel in the Park Plaza neighborhood, bordered by South 45th Street, Wall Avenue, Interstate 80, and the Richmond Greenway.

Miraflores is a 7.3 site originally proposed for a 190-unit mixed market-rate and affordable-for-sale housing development.

“I know a lot of people, if you’ve been tracking that project, you thought it was kind of dead because the developer went into bankruptcy,” Robinson said at the Richmond City Council meeting on Tuesday, May 28. “It finally went through foreclosure and there is a new owner of the property who is now interested in possibly picking the project back up.” 

“We did not forget. We did not let it go. We had to be clear that the developer that we had was not the developer that we needed. We are hopeful for the future.”

The Richmond Redevelopment Agency purchased the nursery property in 2016. Richmond officials wanted to build affordable senior housing, create a park, and rehabilitate the nursery structures on the property.

The city selected Miraflores Community Devco to develop the property and transferred the property in 2018 for $4.2 million.

After the transfer, the developer used the land to secure several loans totaling $10 million, according to a presentation on the project. The Disposition and Development Agreement requires city approval of this financing, which did not occur.

In 2022, the developer approached the city to modify the project from a for-sale development to a workforce rental project, maintaining the exterior building design and site plan to change the financing structure.

The developer's anticipated site improvements did not happen. The site was rapidly becoming a major dump, former Richmond Mayor Tom Butt wrote in his e-forum in April 2023. 

“The developer appeared at a community event at Miraflores Park and told the community to anticipate a groundbreaking this summer, knowing full well it was a lie,” Butt wrote. “It turns out that the developer breached his DDA by mortgaging the property without city permission, and he wanted to abandon his market rate for sale housing for a rental project with higher density, fewer benefits and more risks for the city.”

The city received notification of defaults for the developer. On January 26, 2023, a notice of default and election to sell was recorded for $7,311,718 by Artes Capital, which now owns the property.  

A second trust deed for $1,694,276 was recorded from the GF Fund on January 18, 2023.

Robinson said to “stay tuned” as the council reaches out to neighborhood councils near the project site and sets up a community meeting for residents following the project.

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