Holliday Development

To reach the Iron Horse Lofts, just strap on your rollerblades and
follow the trail.
The cluster of 54 loft-style townhouses developed by Bart Lofts LLC
and managing partner Holliday Development is just 100 yards from
the popular Iron Horse Regional Trail, which stretches 25 miles from
San Ramon in the south to Concord in the north. Just south of the
development, the Contra Costa Canal Regional Trail runs to Diablo
Valley College, the Contra Costa Country Club and Hidden Lakes
Park in Martinez. The completion of a $2.1 million pedestrian bridge
across busy Ygnacio Valley Road to the south four years ago means
that riders and rollers can now safely reach parks, commercial
shopping areas and the Dean Lesher theatre complex in downtown
Walnut Creek as well.
Of course, BART is also an option — the lofts are just a few minutes’
walk from the Pleasant Hill station, putting downtown San Francisco
within about 30 minutes.
Urban planners have long advocated high-density housing near transit
hubs as the best way to un-jam sclerotic freeways, and Iron Horse
Lofts was built to meet this need. Before Contra Costa County began
seeking mixed-income housing project proposals for the site in 1996,
the weedy, four-acre lot was a garbage-strewn eyesore.
Enter Holliday Development and Bridge Housing Corp. They
submitted a joint proposal under which Holliday would build 54
market-rate live/work lofts, and Bridge would build 87 affordable
rental units. Coggins Square — the Bridge project — and Iron Horse
Lofts share the site.
Rick Holliday, president of Holliday Development, says his company
chose to build lofts outside core urban areas because of consumer
desire. “As a product, lofts are finding their way outside the areas
where you’d normally expect them,” he said. “People kept asking us,
`When are you going to find a good suburban locale for these?’ ”
Being in the ambit of the sprawling BART complex caused headaches
for the site’s developers, however. Plans for the redevelopment of 70
acres of parking and 11 acres of BART-owned land met frequent,
vociferous challenges from local residents. A proposed multiscreen

cinema was shot down by neighbors. But the influence has worked in
both directions — successful completion of the lofts has spurred the
city and county to implement their plans for redeveloping the area.
Proposals for the transit village to come include a sports club, new
office space and a 175-room Marriott hotel. Because the affordable
rental units had to be built first, the lofts were also delayed by the
funding hurdles Bridge Housing Corp. had to clear to raise enough
money for its part of the project.
Seeking to entice buyers who might otherwise have chosen to live in
more colorful urban areas like Oakland or Berkeley, the developers
designed a hybrid of high-ceilinged lofts and more suburban-style
townhouses, with models opening last September. The four different
loft designs are priced between $375,000 and $450,000. Though the site
lacks some of the grit of lofts in Jack London Square or San Francisco,
residents trumpet its fog-free weather and views of green and gold
Twenty-six lofts have been completed — and 20 of those have already
been sold.
Steven E.F. Brown is a contributing writer for the San Francisco
Business Times.