C2 Collaborative, based in San Clemente, California, is a landscape architecture design firm that works mostly on residential master-planned communities.
They have also done work with habitat restoration, urban infill, multifamily projects, public parks and hospitality work. One thing that they have been designing over the years that has picked up over the last 10 years is agrihoods. This started when people would approach the firm about converting neglected spaces such as old oil fields, failed golf courses and dying retail outlets.
Jack Haden, principal of C2 Collaborative, says there’s not a lot of land left in California and this has driven developers to consider these abandoned spaces. These remaining spaces have caused landscape architects to get creative and it really asks people to change their mindsets.
One of their most recent agrihoods set to open in summer 2021 is Miralon Palm Springs. This failed golf course project is being transformed into a working olive tree farm. C2 Collaborative met with the clients and discussed how to take advantage of the existing infrastructure and proposed planting 7,000 olive trees.
“You can use the golf cart paths as your trails, and the tee boxes and putting greens that have the best views as social gardens or social spaces and sit by the lake and the mountains,” says Jack Haden.
The 309-acre agrihood will be one of the largest in the country and will offer 1,150 residences working olive and citrus groves, community gardens and walking trails. The community will emphasize resort-style living alongside sustainable open space. It also offers a source of income for the community with the sale of olive oil produced on-site.
“Miralon is a bit of a phoenix rising from the ashes in the Coachella Valley,” says Paul Haden, president at C2 Collaborative. “After a golf course project failed in 2007, its streets, roads and golf courses sat untouched until we were tasked with reimagining this neglected community into a sustainable, modern agrihood. The reuse of this land was approached with a water- and energy-conservation first vision. The former golf course’s lakes are now used for irrigation and the orchards will act as a windbreak creating shade opportunities that slow evaporation from the lakes – every detail was considered to ensure a habitat-sensitive approach.”
Customers like agrihoods for their sustainability, the produce they can sell and share with the local community, and it’s a space the public can enjoy as well.
In the city of Tustin, C2 Collaborative proposed a space that had 25 acres of slope be used to grow avocados, as this is what the space had been used for historically.
“They said, ‘Yeah that’s not happening,’ so we went back and went through the analysis and said here are the benefits of it,” says Paul Haden, president of C2 Collaborative. “You’re going to install it for a maybe a third of the price you would to do a traditional landscape, you’re going to have much lower maintenance costs, and the homeowners association is going to get a crop that they can harvest and sell.”
These agrihoods will hire a farm manager to maintain whatever crop is growing in these spaces.
Paul Haden says he doesn’t have a numerical goal as for how many agrihoods he’d like to design, but the idea is more the ethic of it.
“This idea of how can our work be responsible is a big part of what we do,” Paul Haden says. “If you do this, it’s going to be responsible to your community, your residents and visitors. It’s also going to help you with visibility and it’s going to give you a different look and people are going to look at you differently.”
He adds this ability to live, work, play and produce by agrihoods is easily done; you just have to change your mindset.
“I think developers have a responsibility when taking some open space, they need to put something back that gives back to the community and is sustainable for many years,” Jack Haden says.
He argues that developers don’t need to max out their properties with as many units as possible.
“You can still get what you’re asking for from a price perspective on these units if you give them an amenity or a space to play in, to pick from, and enjoy instead of wall-to-wall density,” Jack Haden says.
Some of the other recent neglected spaces C2 Collaborative is working on reimagining are Montebello, which is an abandoned oil production field and The Farm Poway, an old golf course. Montebello will have 1,100 homes, varied amenity programs, including a hilltop view park. The Farm Poway will feature mixed-use retail/residential/high-amenity development.
“If we ever lacked a sense of appreciation of our community or a connection to the outdoors, the COVID-19 pandemic really created an opportunity to recognize and value the beautiful outdoor spaces around us,” Paul Haden say. “We’ve taken to them as a safe way to gather amid the pandemic, and in doing so, many have reconnected with their roots and gotten back to the basics by putting their hands in the soil to grow fresh fruits and vegetables. Whether agrihoods that transform neglected spaces into working and sustainable food systems that provide produce for entire communities or multi-family living centered around community garden plots – these essential open spaces beckon the soul and bring us back to the basics – they also bring us together as a community, offering a place to gather and enrich our lives.”