How Developers Make Rural Feel Urban



Matt Quinn
Quinn: “Generally speaking, homebuyers get ‘more house’ for their money in these outlying areas, and often enjoy a more relaxed and higher-quality lifestyle.”

RAMONA, CA—Emphasizing walkable town centers is one way planners and developers can create a more urban feeling in towns that have a more rural feel, Pathfinder Partners’ VP Matt Quinn tells The San Diego-based developer and its general contractor, Crowbar Construction, recently broke ground on Paseo Village Townhomes, the first community developed under the guidelines of the new Ramona Village Center Form-Based Code, which promotes Ramona’s rural character while embracing development in the town center.

Pathfinder, which specializes in opportunistic and value-add multifamily real estate investments, acquired the 2.5-acre parcel, complete with approved architectural plans, in late 2016. We spoke with Quinn and senior associate Aaron Flores about the project and the vision for Ramona. Tell us about Paseo Village and the Ramona Plan.

Pathfinder: Pathfinder Partners purchased Paseo Village in December 2016 with architectural plans approved in March 2016 under the guidelines of the new Ramona Village Center Form-Based Code.  The Ramona Village Center FBC is designed to maintain Ramona’s existing village character while encouraging pedestrian friendly development—aspects we believe will continue to enhance future development in the town center and appeal to current and future residents.

Paseo Village rendering Paseo Village offers residents a high quality of living at a relatively affordable price. What methods can you use to “urbanize”—and make more walkable—a San Diego County community long known for its rural character?

Pathfinder: In many suburban markets, planners and developers “urbanize” rural areas by emphasizing walkable town centers. Paseo Village, originally zoned agricultural one unit per acre, is planned for 31 townhomes on a 2.5-acre parcel. The site is just one block from Main St., walking distance to a grocery store, local shops, restaurants, art galleries and businesses. Residents also enjoy access to public transportation located directly across the street. The project’s density and craftsman architecture blend well with the character of the area and provide sidewalks, trees and landscaping where none existed before. “Paseo” means a leisurely walk or stroll, and we look forward to providing residents with an urban-town-center lifestyle within a country landscape, a leisurely stroll away from restaurants and retail. We’re noticing a lot more multifamily development in more “remote” areas of San Diego like Ramona. What do you think is causing this increased activity?

Pathfinder: Multifamily developments are springing up in suburban locations primarily because of lack of available land in urban locations. Faced with high land prices, barriers to entitlement, NIMBYism and other factors, developers in urban-infill locations generally build luxury product. In addition, there is a limited supply of affordable homes in the San Diego County. With escalating land prices, labor, materials and regulatory costs, builders are seeking more affordable areas in which to build. Generally speaking, homebuyers get “more house” for their money in these outlying areas, and often enjoy a more relaxed and higher-quality lifestyle. Can you describe the Ramona submarket and why you felt this was a good place for a new development?

Pathfinder: We were attracted to the opportunity to acquire an entitled site with approved plans, which allows us to immediately begin construction on new homes during a time when San Diego housing inventory is at record lows. This compares to the more-common scenario, which involves acquiring a site and spending two years obtaining entitlements before being able to begin construction.

There are many desirable aspects of Ramona. Located 30 to 45 minutes from high-technology centers—including Carlsbad, Sorrento Valley and University Town Center—Ramona is San Diego County’s fastest-growing unincorporated region. The area is known for being the gateway to the back country, offering a family-friendly community with award-winning schools, hiking trails, horseback riding, wineries, parks, golf courses and fishing and other water recreations in four nearby lakes. In addition, the Village Center offers Paseo Village’s residents access to local shopping, cafes, restaurants, art galleries and a weekly farmer’s market.

In Ramona and throughout San Diego County, there is a limited inventory of homes for sale and strong buyer demand. We believe Paseo Village offers residents a high quality of living at a relatively affordable price. What else should our readers know about this project?

Pathfinder: Paseo Village, located in the Ramona Village Center at Day and La Brea streets, is slated for completion in spring 2018. The three-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath, Craftsman-style home—each with a two-car, direct-access garage—range from 1,570 square feet to 1,692 square feet. The homes will feature high-end flooring, countertops, cabinets and appliances; private patios or balconies; and views of the surrounding Laguna Mountains. The community will include a barbecue area and green belts and is located within walking distance to several shops and restaurants.

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