In Palm Springs, CA, a developer is building the next agrihood in the desert. Olive trees and pockets of citrus trees are a centerpiece.
The Urban Land Institute (ULI) defines agrihoods as single-family, multifamily, or mixed-use communities built with a working farm or community garden as a focus. In the Coachella Valley, Freehold Communities is building a new agrihood on 97 acres.
Brad Shuckhart is President of the California Division of Freehold Communities. Here is an overview of the project.
Overview of Miralon, the newest agrihood planned for the Palm Springs, CA area…
Miralon is one of the largest new “agrihoods” in the United States. Now being built by Freehold Communities, its 309 acres will offer 1,150 Modernist-inspired residences to harmonize with the Coachella Valley’s architectural heritage. Freehold Communities is a developer of masterplanned communities, with offices in California, Massachusetts, Texas, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Florida.
A highlight of Miralon is its transformation of an existing (yet, never played) 18-hole golf course into working olive and citrus groves, community gardens, and walking trails. Paths meant to serve as golf cart paths previously will now constitute approximately 6.5 miles of hiking trails. Former tee boxes and greens are being transformed into smaller groves, dog parks, exercise stations, and social areas with firepits and WiFi. The former golf course’s lakes are now water features in the sustainable landscaping. These outdoor spaces are part of Miralon’s comprehensive community plan that emphasizes resort living alongside sustainable open space.
“Evolving the existing golf course into habitat-sensitive, olive and citrus is a response to the precious resources of the Coachella Valley including its need for water,” said Freehold California Division President, Brad Shuckhart. “We considered a wide range of uses, concluding that these crops integrate best with the community’s overall approach that values sustainability and social cohesion.”
Core Principles Components of Miralon…
Miralon’s agrihood component is part of its core sustainable principles, while can be grouped into the following categories.
Resource Conservation and Efficiency
- Solar included with every home
- High-efficiency community center exceeding the state of California Title 24 requirements by more than 15%
- Impervious surface limitations
- Front yard landscaping restrictions
- Dark sky compliance
- Carbon sequestration from olive trees and ground cover
- Added shade and water efficiency
- Low maintenance costs relative to other open space planting
- Reduced need for pesticides
- Composting of olive oil byproducts
Other core principles of the development focus on a holistic approach to healthy living, and community involvement.
Choosing Olive Trees, And Pockets Of Citrus…
Pursing its vision for Miralon, Freehold Communities enlisted the help of sustainable agriculture specialists to optimize the proposed planting scheme. The developer worked with Blaine Carian, owner of Desert Fresh, a multi-generational farming concern with operations throughout the Coachella Valley; and with Thom Curry, general manager of the Temecula Olive Oil Company, an organic producer of high end olive oil and olive oil products
In planning the olive and citrus trees at Miralon, Shuckhart, consulted with Carian and Curry to evaluate orchard planning criteria, and these included:
- Annual water consumption
- Pesticide requirements
- Ability of plants to survive at project location
- Harvest labor requirements
- Commercial demand for fruit/produce
- Propensity to attract pests
In addition to olives and citrus, the team also considered grapes, persimmons, pomegranates, date palms, almonds, walnuts, and figs for the site. They evaluated the pros and cons or each type of crop and their suitability for the desert climate and ecosystem of the Coachella Valley.
Grapes, for example, require relatively low water use and a relatively short pollination period. But grapes are also susceptible to damage from wind, require significant ongoing maintenance, and require regular use of pesticides. Date Palms are a traditional crop in the Coachella Valley. But these also had drawbacks in comparison to olives and citrus, including that they require very high water consumption and can produce significant waste byproduct and dust.
The vast majority of Miralon’s cultivation area—more than 70 acres of the 97-acre open-space plan—is devoted to olives, with “pockets” of citrus throughout the community. Fruit from olive trees will be pressed on-site by Temecula Olive Oil Company. The oil will be bottled and delivered to residents and sold to the public.
Other Sustainable Components
The reuse of Miralon land offers other, complementary environmental programs, especially water and energy conservation. These include the transformation of the former golf course lakes for irrigation. The system of lakes serve several important functions:
- Open space irrigation using untreated water
- Water reserves capacity to sustain plantings for approximately three weeks in the event of a failure of the on-site pumps or well
- Stormwater detention as required by State mandates
And while there is evaporation loss from lakes, Miralon has built compensating offsets:
- Elimination of front-yard turf is analogous to reducing lake surface area by 2.5 acres (40% of total six-acre lake surface area).
- The orchards will act as a windbreak and will create partial shade opportunities that will slow the rate of evaporation from lakes.
To learn more about the Miralon development, visit the Freehold Communities website.
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