Building a New Multigenerational Neighborhood in Eagle River, Alaska
In Eagle River, Alaska, located approximately 15 miles from downtown Anchorage, the Cook Inlet Housing Authority (CIHA) is helping revitalize the city’s downtown while providing affordable housing and green amenities to seniors, families, and other residents. Built in phases, Coronado Park will eventually consist of 123 affordable senior and family rental units and a number of homeownership units. The site is now also home to a park featuring a community garden and play area. Social services catering to the needs of senior residents help people age in place while remaining involved in community life in Eagle River. For the town, the ongoing buildout of the development represents a significant new neighborhood in the downtown area that replaces a large and abandoned site.
Laying the Groundwork
Before the creation of Coronado Park, the 10-acre site had once served as a mobile home park. Fifteen years ago, CIHA began drawing up plans to redevelop the abandoned site. At the time, CIHA envisioned working with market-rate developers to fully build out the site as a mixed-income multigenerational community combining rental and ownership units in a variety of building types, according to Mark Fineman, vice president of development and project management at CIHA, and Sezy Gerow-Hanson, director of public and resident relations at CIHA. To facilitate that work, CIHA subdivided the site into 18 parcels and began installing infrastructure such as access roads, water mains, sewer lines, and gas and electric lines.
Building Out the Site
By 2014, the CIHA-developed units had come online, consisting of 56 units of affordable senior rental housing and 28 units of affordable workforce housing. Meanwhile, private developers had begun building townhouses as homeownership units. In 2020, CIHA built the second phase of affordable housing, consisting of 6 affordable rental duplexes aimed at families and an additional 27 units of affordable senior housing in a building known as Qintali View, which honors the nearby Mount Baldy with its traditional Dena’ina name. The Dena’ina are the original inhabitants of the area, and CIHA is a designated Alaska Native organization.
When the buildout of the 10-acre site and the construction of the homeownership units are complete, Coronado Park will feature 123 affordable rental units for seniors and families and 62 homeownership units.
Coronado Park offers locational advantages to residents as well. It is near Eagle River’s downtown area, which hosts a popular café, commercial businesses, retail stores, and employment opportunities, says Fineman. In addition, and central to the design of Coronado Park, is a park with outdoor amenities designed to create community among residents. A lawn area provides space to gather, and garden beds form the nexus of an intentional strategy of engagement, encouraging residents to spend time tending to their gardens and, as a result, getting acquainted and deepening social ties. The park also helps connect Coronado Park to the town, says Fineman, with many living nearby taking strolls through the development’s green space.
The inclusion of so many senior units resulted from research and community listening sessions that identified a lack of affordable housing options for area seniors, many of whom have significant and longstanding ties to Eagle River, reports Gerow-Hanson. Partnerships with local organizations help sustain those connections, including one with the nearby senior center, which features a large exercise facility and hosts a communal lunch.
A local bank offers Coronado Park residents important financial education programs — in particular, programs focusing on common scams that target seniors. Scammers, say Gerow-Hanson, commonly target seniors receiving their yearly dividend check from the Alaska Permanent Fund, which helps ensure that the state’s residents share the economic benefits of the state’s large oil reserves. Other financial education programs teach residents how to create an emergency fund and budget on a fixed income.
Other aspects of senior programming are intentionally self-directed, with resident seniors, assisted by CIHA’s resident engagement team, given the ability to decide what activities they want to pursue and how they want to use the common space. Activities have included a book club, potlucks, and holiday celebrations.
Founded with a focus on providing local seniors with affordable housing options, CIHA initially faced the significant challenges of high housing costs and unreliable funding sources. The passage of the Native American Housing and Self-Determination Act of 1996 enabled streamlined and flexible HUD support, allowing CIHA to broaden its mission to include developing affordable housing generally. Over time, neighborhood and community development initiatives became part of the organization’s mission. With Coronado Park and Qintali View, CIHA has created a neighborhood that embodies these goals while providing Eagle River with an amenity the entire community can appreciate.
Joint interview with Mark Fineman, vice president of development and project management, Cook Inlet Housing Authority, and Sezy Gerow-Hanson, director of public and resident relations, Cook Inlet Housing Authority, 19 September 2022; Affordable Housing Tax Credit Coalition. n.d. “Coronado Park II/Qintali View,” Accessed 3 October 2022. ×
Joint interview with Mark Fineman and Sezy Gerow-Hanson, 19 September 2022; Cook Inlet Housing Authority. n.d. “Coronado Park II.” Accessed 3 October 2022; Affordable Housing Tax Credit Coalition. n.d. “Coronado Park II/Qintali View.” Accessed 3 October 2022. ×