Non-profit developer Skid Row Housing Trust and Michael Maltzan Architecture have unveiled plans for a mass-timber high-rise in Downtown Los Angeles.

The project, slated for a property at 609-623 E. 5th Street, calls for the construction of a 14-story structure containing 150 studio apartments for formerly homeless persons and one manager's unit.  The new construction, which would also include ground-floor offices for case management services, would replace an existing five-story residential building.

Skid Row Housing Trust has named the project "The Alvidrez," honoring Mike Alvidrez, the organization's former chief executive officer.

The design by Michael Maltzan Architecture is described as a "collection of vertical 'bundles,'" with tiered building heights that create terrace decks on the 2nd, 5th, 8th, 9th, 11th, 12th, 13th, and 14th floors.  In addition to providing open spaces for residents, the open areas would also provide natural light and ventilation for each apartment.

Unlike most high-rise buildings in the Los Angeles area, which are built from concrete and steel, the Alvidrez is slated to be built from 12 stories of mass timber above a two-level podium - one of, if not the first, examples of this construction type in Southern California.

"The proposed construction will incorporate modular building blocks made of cross-laminated timber columns, beams, and gravity framing deck members that contain the basic dwelling unit types," reads a description released by Skid Row Housing Trust. "Mass timber systems are typically more fire-resistant, provide strong structural integrity but are lighter in weight, are sustainable, and can provide time-saving efficiency benefits during construction."

Plans for the mass timber building emerge as the City of Los Angeles explores more cost-effective methods for building permanent supportive housing - including prefabricated modular construction.  The high cost of construction has been blamed for the slow pace of construction of projects financed with the Measure HHH dollars.  The $1.2-billion bond measure, passed by voters in 2016, was anticipated to produce 10,000 units of permanent supporitve housing, but is likely to fall short of that mark.

The project team, which also includes structural engineer John A Martin & Associates, Inc., was the recipient of a $200,000 award in a competition designed to highlight the use of mass-timber construction.  The award was provided by the California Governor's Forest Management Task Force and Office of Planning and Research, while the competition was managed by the industry group WoodWorks.

Construction of the Alvidrez is tentatively expected to begin in late 2021 and conclude after a period of approximately 18-to-24 months, according to a representative of Skid Row Housing Trust.  However, that timeline is contingent on the completion of an environmental impact report, and is not finalized.

Skid Row Housing Trust, one of the most operators of permanent supportive housing in the Los Angeles area, is also developing a slew of other developments that employ more traditional construction methods.  The non-profit is in the midst of construction on three other projects in the Downtown area, and is also planning new housing in the San Fernando Valley.

Another Skid Row-based non-profit, the Weingart Center, has also announced plans for high-rise developments containing supportive housing.  The organization has proposed a pair of 19-story towers on two sites near the intersection of 6th and San Pedro Streets.

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