In 2019, the City of Los Angeles set aside $120 million of Measure HHH bond funds for permanent supportive housing developments which promised lower construction costs and faster delivery. Now, some of that money will go toward a unique project in Wilmington.
On November 25, the City Council voted 12-0 to commit $7 million in HHH funds to non-profit developer and service Brilliant Corners for a new supportive housing project at 1355 Avalon Boulevard. The proposed development - which includes both new construction and adaptive reuse - would convert a 1950s Safeway supermarket into residences, while adding a four-story apartment building on an adjacent site. Plans call for a total of 54 studio and one-bedroom apartments - all of which will be supportive housing save for a single manager's unit - as well as on-site case management services.
Plans to convert an existing building, rather than build a purely ground-up development, were dictated in part by the unique circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We looked at a lot of odd properties," said John Arnold with KFA Architecture, which is designing the project. "Adaptive reuse had a lot of potential, especially right now, when the pandemic has forced many businesses to go remote. Folks are discovering that it's been okay, and there is potential for more properties coming on the market."
The former Safeway, which city records indicate was completed in 1953, has been vacant for nearly a decade, according to Arnold. Nonetheless, it still bears the hallmarks of its mid-century roots, including concrete construction and double-jointed trusses located 25 feet overhead.
Brilliant Corners and its partner Richman Group have tasked KFA with restoring the building for habitation, which involves a structural retrofit and the restoration of architecturally significant features - most notably the Googie elements along its northern faces and existing sidewalk palm trees. This includes the addition of a raised floor along its interior, elevating the residential units above the ground plane, and punching windows and a new entrance into the concrete wall facing Avalon Boulevard.
Additionally, a new courtyard will be carved into the center of the Safeway building, creating a light well for the dwellings on either side and an open space for use by residents. Solar panels are also slated to adorn the single-story building's roof.
The new construction, which would replace a paved parking area directly south of the Safeway building, would rise four stories in height. Conceptual renderings depict a contemporary design with a gabled roof.
While the parking lot to the north of the building, consisting of 12 spaces, is slated to be retained, a narrow strip of parking along adjacent alley way is slated to be replaced with a landscaped space for use by residents. The western landscaped area could be made to connect with the surrounding neighborhood, should Brilliant Corners see demand for that during community outreach. Otherwise, the space would be fenced off for use by residents at 1355 Avalon.
According to Vanessa Luna, the associate director of multifamily housing for Brilliant Corners, the entitlement process for 1355 Avalon is expected to move quickly due to a city ordinance adopted to streamline the production of supportive housing. However, the process of securing financing for the project could potentially present delays.
Luna currently anticipates that construction will begin near the end of 2021, with delivery of the new apartments expected roughly 15 months later.
The expected cost of the project - which is partially funded through Measure HHH and housing vouchers - is estimated at approximately $500,000 per unit. However, that figure represents the expected cost prior to more detailed engineering, which along with reductions to the construction timeline, could reduce the overall price tag.
Brilliant Corners, which operates across California, focuses its efforts on providing supportive housing for at-risk populations - including those with developmental disabilities. Although the non-profit manages a number of single-family homes, the Wilmington project is the organization's first multifamily residential development in recent years.
- Wilmington (Urbanize LA)
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