Local Business

Builders return after recession

By From page B8 | February 23, 2014

During the early 2000s, before the Great Recession, local and regional builders obtained approvals for several residential developments in Fairfield.

These housing developments included traditional single-family homes, attached single-family homes on smaller lots, townhouses and two apartment developments in Cordelia. Fairfield averaged more than 700 new home building permits annually for several years prior to the recession.

During the recession, as new residential development slowed dramatically in Fairfield, most of the approved housing developments went into hibernation. In some cases, developers returned the land to lenders. In 2008, Fairfield issued only 34 residential building permits.

Over the past three years, the residential building industry has begun a slow recovery. Almost all of the new homes built in Fairfield have been concentrated in a few larger subdivisions: Goldridge (Peabody Road north of Cement Hill Road); Southbrook (Lopes Road south of Gold Hill Road); and Paradise Valley and Paradise Crest (both near the golf course).

The market may now be broadening. With rising home prices and the resulting improving economics for developers, the city has seen a return in interest from homebuilders looking for smaller infill projects with entitlements.

One of the more visible infill sites in Fairfield is located behind the Assembly of God Church on Union Avenue. This four-acre development, originally approved in early 2007, included 46 single-family attached homes and a private park. The church also intended at the time to develop a new sanctuary for the congregation. The economy put these plans on hold, but the underlying approvals for the subdivision map remained in effect.

This dormant project came back to life earlier this year.

Discovery Builders purchased the project, currently known as The Cottages of Fairfield, and recently submitted new house plans and a community design plan to the city’s planning division. While retaining the concept of attached “duet-style” single-family homes, the new plans include some larger family sized units with up to six bedrooms in a more than 2,500-square-foot, three-story home. The project is close to Veterans Neighborhood Park and has good access to North Texas Street and Air Base Parkway.

Developers interested in finding potential infill housing sites are also looking in unusual places. Garaventa Properties began developing Fairfield Corporate Commons (Suisun Valley Road near Kaiser Drive) during the late 1990s. While several buildings have been completed, an unfortunately slow office market has limited absorption of vacant land. Vacancy rates for existing office space in Fairfield currently exceed 25 percent.

The Garaventa family approached De Nova Homes for assistance in developing a residential subdivision on a portion of the office park. The proposed Campus Estates would be comprised of 146 single-family, small-lot detached homes clustered around parking courts. These homes will be adjacent to the existing office park – and hence close to potential employers – and commute routes.

To the south, Seeno Construction saw an opportunity in commercially zoned properties at the intersection of Interstate 680 and Gold Hill Road. The city approved Gold Hill Village, an 88 single-family subdivision, in 2012. The Seeno Company submitted plans this month for a new, second phase for this project (Gold Hill Village II) on the adjacent parcel, which is  under review by the city’s planning staff. These homes will complement and extend the company’s long-term development in southern Cordelia.

Seeno also has entitlements for the Fieldcrest project and a 300-unit apartment development along Red Top Road. All of the planned Seeno home developments provide access to regional commute routes, although commercial services are limited in southern Cordelia.

Fairfield planning staff continues to receive inquiries about other remaining sites with entitlements in eastern and central Fairfield. These sites are particularly concentrated along East Tabor Avenue, with housing subdivisions such as Strawberry Fields, Ivy Wreath and East Tabor Townhomes originally approved for several hundred units.

In addition, the Lewis Company continues its long-term planning for The Villages at Fairfield in northeastern Fairfield. If environmental issues can be addressed, more than 300 units are under consideration in Hawthorne Mills, immediately west of the Train Station Specific Plan Area near Walters Road.

Fairfield has benefited from long-term planning for residential development and now has interest from homebuilders new to the marketplace, as well as homebuilders re-entering the market after the economic crisis of the past half-decade. The city’s economy as a whole also benefits, as Home Depot and Lowe’s have also seen an uptick in sales of related to building materials. Furniture stores, nurseries and appliance dealers also benefit.

Economic Notes is an update from Fairfield City Hall written by Brian Miller and Karl Dumas of the Fairfield Planning and Development Department. Reach them at 428-7461 or email at [email protected] or [email protected]

Brian Miller and Karl Dumas


Discussion | 3 comments

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  • innovationinstitutellcFebruary 23, 2014 - 12:16 pm

    Smart development boosts our Solano economy and creates jobs.

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  • Anne WaltersFebruary 23, 2014 - 2:38 pm

    Fairfield gets it; Suisun City doesn't. Why can't SC plan long-term instead of crossing their fingers and hoping for the best? SC City Hall seems more content to reassure their election or their jobs than to actually do anything.

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  • Rick WoodFebruary 23, 2014 - 2:55 pm

    Suisun City has done it's best with what it has, but it's a much smaller city with less vacant land left. I'd be interested in observations of others closer to the development business. My personal opinion for some time is, setting parochial politics and emotions aside, both cities would benefit from a merger.

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