Big Green Giant Breaks Ground in I.V.

Sustainable Student Housing Complex Will Be Five Stories Tall and Feature 48 Units

Construction is underway on a $12.5 million student housing complex in downtown Isla Vista that developers say will set a new benchmark for energy efficiency in the county. Coined “The LOOP” by private developer Mesa Lane Partners, the building will use half the energy of a typical building its size and produce energy through green technology, resulting in a “net zero” energy output.

“This project is a game changer for UC Santa Barbara and the building industry as a whole,” developer Neil Dipaola said. “Every aspect of the building is designed to be mindful of the resident experience and respectful of the local and global environment.”

The LOOP — which is slated to be ready for move-in by June 2012 — is being funded by private and public sources, including $11 million from Bank of the West and an additional $1.5 million from the county’s Redevelopment Agency. Due to green consulting costs, the LOOP will cost about one percent more to build than a typical building of its size, according to Dipaola.

When completed, the 44,994-square-foot development will feature five floors, 48 residential units, and 8,000 square feet of commercial space. Although UCSB is not affiliated with the project, the building will predominantly house UCSB students. The LOOP will also be open to private renters, and five residential units will be lotteried as affordable housing for low-income families across the county. Rent for the residential units will likely be near market rate to “make the building accessible to a spectrum of incomes,” Dipaola said.

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The project has been germinating since 2007, when Mesa Lane Partners closed on 6533 Trigo Road, a corner property at the intersection of Trigo and Embarcadero del Norte. Last year, the firm received a grant from the Department of Energy to assist in making the project energy efficient. Developers from Mesa Lane Partners were partnered with scientists and consultants at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, who provided the firm with design feedback and modeling.

“We decided to do the greenest development Isla Vista had ever seen,” said Dipaola, a former Isla Vista resident who graduated from UCSB with a degree in environmental science. Dipaola added that Isla Vista’s history as a hotbed for environmental awareness makes it an ideal location for the project. Developers plan to “put the building on an energy diet” by producing energy onsite through solar panels and solar water heating. Developers also intend to purchase offsite green energy for the building to avoid taking energy off the grid.

Additional features such as skylights, drought-resistant landscaping, and energy-efficient heating and cooling systems will reduce utility costs for residents, Dipaola said. The LOOP will also own two Zip Cars for resident use as part of a car-sharing program designed to reduce the number of cars in the residential community. As a result, the building will be certified as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Elite Platinum, the U.S. Green Building Council’s highest benchmark.

As construction gears up, local restaurants say they expect the project to have a slightly negative impact on business. Jeff Willis — who is the marketing representative for Woodstock’s Pizza in Isla Vista — said that while students who typically walk or ride their bikes to the restaurant would likely be unaffected, families with cars might be deterred by construction just a block away from the restaurant.

But Aidan Belit — who manages nearby Pita Pit, also about a block from the new construction site — said he expects the project to be good for business in the long run. “Right now with the economy being tough, it’s going to be hard dealing with [the construction],” he said. “But when residents move in, that’ll probably increase our sales quite a bit.”

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