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Grass Valley gets first look at plans for homeless day center

The architect for the proposed homeless day center and affordable housing project in the Glenbrook Basin gave Grass Valley officials a first look at the plans Tuesday.

The project came before Grass Valley’s Development Review Committee for a conceptual development review, although the formal application process will be handled through the county. That is because even though the project site, at 936 Old Tunnel Road, is within city limits, the parcel was purchased by Nevada County in January.

Nevada County representatives have been working with Hospitality House staff and city staff for several months on the proposed Homeless Resource Center and housing project, Community Development Director Tom Last told the Design Review Committee members.

This includes a collaborative effort to complete two grant applications to fund the project, Last said, adding the city is asking for continued involvement.

Since the county owns the project, it is legally exempt from obtaining approvals from Grass Valley, Last noted in his staff report. Grass Valley will still provide input on the project design and can request conditions of approval, particularly pertaining to any issues that would be handled by the police, fire or public works departments.

Robert Wallis, of Wallis Design Studio, is the architect working on the project. Wallis noted his firm had done the conversion for Utah’s Place that turned a former gym and church into the year-round homeless shelter.

Wallis offered more details on the project, which in its first phase will include a 10,558-square-foot, two-story resource/day center and a 28,023-square-foot, three-story apartment building. A second apartment building is possible in the future, he said.

The day center will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., offering van transport, mail pickup, lockers and computers to assist with housing and jobs, as well as a kennel for pets. It will also feature a commercial kitchen, food pantry, laundry facilities, and restrooms and shower facilities.

The center will include nine transitional housing units with shared restrooms, kitchen and lounge.

“We wanted to be able to provide transitional housing, a place for Hospitality House guests to take that next step for housing permanence,” Wallis said.

The apartment building will include 41 apartment units, a 1,600-square-foot community center, a laundry facility, bicycle lockers and racks, a community garden area, a children’s area, a covered picnic area and 54 parking stalls.

Mike Dent, the county’s director of child support, collections, housing and community services, has noted funding from the state’s No Place Like Home program would earmark 12 of those units for clients with significant mental health issues.

Another hurdle

City zoning only allows for a two-story building with a maximum 35-foot height, while the proposed apartment building is three stories and 41 feet high. Only two stories would be visible from Old Tunnel Road, but a three-story building would be “extremely visible” from the highway, Last’s report noted, particularly with the expected tree removal.

According to Wallis, the building was designed with three stories due to the slope of the site. It would have two stories in front with a “half-story” on the back.

“We wanted to maximize the apartment count and compress the footprint,” Wallis said, adding the design also avoids more substantial grading work. “It’s a good solution, but it’s not in compliance.”

The Design Review Committee will compile its comments and send them to Nevada County’s Community Development Agency for review, Dent said.

“It is our intent to have a public meeting for feedback and to provide more details,” Dent said.

That meeting has not yet been scheduled but will likely be in late April or early May, he added.

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at lizk@theunion.com.

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