The property was vacant for years. An empty building was there, attracting crime and gang activity. There was even a murder there at one point. After the building was demolished, the parcel still attracted trouble. When CHISPA started construction, we first had to pick up needles, other waste. People had been squatting there, selling and doing drugs. It wasn’t a pleasant spot.
A few years prior, CHISPA had built a senior development across the street. We knew there was this empty, half-acre eyesore across from our building. When you have an untended, vacant lot in a busy neighborhood, it draws the worst. We didn’t want the worst happening across the street from our senior tenants. A local church owned the vacant parcel and wasn’t maintaining it, so we purchased the land from them in 2009 and started developing La Gloria—a senior development for people over 62 years old.
“The crime has dissipated [near La Gloria]. Our residents are part of the community, and that’s what matters most.”
Dana Cleary, Director of Real Estate Development
We worked with all of our neighbors. Around the time we purchased the property, the city of Salinas launched its East Market Street Beautification Plan. The city was repaving the street and adding new crosswalks and lighting to the area, so we worked closely with the Public Works Department. As members of the area’s local business association and neighborhood clean-up board, we already were part of the community, but the timing of this new development allowed us to take a more visible role.
While we were under construction, our site superintendent observed a lot of drug dealing in the three-unit property next door. Fortuitously for us, that neighboring property went into foreclosure. We bought and renovated that building, which allowed us to protect our flank and make the neighborhood safer. We also built a single-family home down the street to lease to young adults aging out of foster care; it’s very important for CHISPA to stay involved in the community.
La Gloria is a landmark on the block. Most buildings on the street don’t have more than two stories. Because this building is taller, it’s important that it be as attractive as possible. Our ironworker ran plumbing up the building’s façade to allow CHISPA to water balcony window boxes. In the back, we constructed a private, protected courtyard with a fountain, landscaping, and raised [soil] beds for resident gardening.
The services inside the building reflect what we do outside. CHISPA has two staff people who establish partnerships with community-service providers to provide education and health programs to tenants in all of our properties around the county. La Gloria has a community room and computer lab that are used regularly. Tenants get a free hot lunch on weekdays. We teach our residents to recycle and compost their kitchen scraps. This helps the city accomplish its trash diversion goals. La Gloria is equipped with energy-saving features like a high-efficiency central boiler and Energy Star appliances. The building sets a standard for future construction in the area.
The neighborhood is a lot brighter now. Over 131 local workers had jobs during construction, and the property injected more than $3 million back into the city. People are sitting on their balconies, spending more time outside. The crime has dissipated. Our residents are part of the community, and that’s what matters most. ABQ