As a kid playing amongst the row houses, parks and alleys of DC; as a young adult exploring the maze of courtyards in the old Jewish quarter in Berlin; or yesterday discovering a new walk street near my home in Venice, I have always approached the urban terrain with a sense of inquisitiveness, adventure and delight.
So, when in 2013 I stood with our client amidst a sea of surface parking, and together we imagined the possibilities of a community of apartments interwoven with an amphitheater accessible to the neighborhood, a village green for picnics and movies, an orchard with fruit from his childhood, and an arroyo of people wandering through a huge, yet intimate site, it felt not only right, but like coming full circle as a perfect marriage of site and city.
People find community in different places, and KFA’s current projects reflect a subtle shift in the ways that we live in LA. Incorporating design opportunities for a variety of levels of social interaction increases connectivity and promotes a sense of belonging and participation in a neighborhood.
With the passage of recent initiatives, the people of Los Angeles have committed to making our city denser, more connected, and more inclusive. We will make our streets, transit system, single site and campus scaled projects part of a vibrant interwoven public realm. Looking to the future, I expect it to be an exciting ride in exploring and contributing to this city.
Lise is committed to the advancement of people and the profession. She has spoken at Design for Dignity: Changing the Housing Equation by Design; at Powerful, the AIA|LA conference showcasing women leading the design profession; and at the USGBC-LA Municipal Green Building Conference. She is a Board Member and the Scholarships/Fellowships Chair of the Association of Women in Architecture Foundation, and a Board Member of Step Up on Second.
Our office is bustling with new faces and we are excited about opportunities to collaborate as we grow. We interviewed our newest freshman class and asked each of them to give us a brief introduction:
Born in Florida and raised in Ohio, Christopher has always had a passion for technology and finding ways of automating or streamlining the ways tasks are performed. With over 10 years of BIM knowledge and management, Christopher charges forward to find better ways to handle today’s demanding project information. In his free time (mostly after the kids go to bed), you will find him photographing architecture, coding a new application, or learning new software. Christopher is a member of NCARB and the AIA.
Chuck began his relationship with KFA as a member of the architectural staff in 1994. He is responsible for technological and human information systems in the service of KFA’s mission. He is interested not so much in the new as in the effective and the delightful. He mentors homeless youth at p:ear in Portland, and enjoys singing and playing the banjo.
As she grew up outside of Philadelphia and went to school in Southwest Virginia, Corinne yearned to live in a city by the ocean. Her fascination with urban metropolitan areas and obsession with all things marine life compelled her to move to Santa Monica, and she has no plans to return back East. From the beachy haven of Santa Monica where she lives and works, to the mountains of Malibu where you can find her hiking on the weekends, and to the hustle and bustle of downtown LA where she explores the adaptive reuse projects KFA has completed in the past, she appreciates Los Angeles’ many distinct environments. New on the KFA team, Corinne is extremely excited to leave her mark on a city she has come to love in such a short period of time!
Daniel’s ideal built environment engages progressive architecture, technical detailing, society, community, and place in equal measure. His commitment to addressing issues of social inequality has led him to work in urban revitalization in Downtown Los Angeles with the former Community Redevelopment Agency, affordable housing development in the Bay Area in partnership with AmeriCorps, and international development as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Balkan Peninsula. Daniel can be found drinking as much wondrous coffee as he can and appreciating California’s bountiful food and landscapes.
Daniel brings over two decades of full-service accounting expertise to KFA and its clients. His position is vital to making sure that all project billing is timely processed and that the firm is fiscally sound. Daniel also brings focus and dedication to his work. His experience includes being the controller for mechanical and electrical engineering firms where he gained a thorough knowledge of construction accounting procedures. He also has worked with companies that provide services to Federal and local government agencies. What Daniel loves about KFA is that the people love their work. When he’s not looking for patterns in KFA’s financial statements, he can be found making floral patterns in his paintings.
Having recently joined the KFA team, Dara values sustainability, innovation and user centered design. For her, successful designs confer a feeling of authenticity, sensory impact, and the connection of the user to the greater social and ecological context. Dara has worked on the design and development of single and multi-family residential, commercial and retail building and renovation projects. She also brings a knowledge of interior design, lighting, and landscaping, and graphic design to her work. Dara seeks to make the communities that she lives in better places, and takes her involvement in projects and passion for design beyond the walls of the office. Previously, she has volunteered with the Center for the Advancement of Sustainable Living and the Junior League; she is always looking for a good cause to get behind.
After growing up in Las Vegas, David returned to Los Angeles, his birthplace, to attend the USC School of Architecture. He is a recent graduate excited to hit the ground running. He joined the team already hard at work on the Anita May Rosenstein LGBT Center located in Hollywood, and is eager to see the project come to fruition. David is a LEED Green Associate and is actively studying for the ARE. He is passionate about reshaping Los Angeles’ architectural landscape. When not hard at work, David is reading the latest best seller, working on his Japanese skills, or hiking LA’s local trails.
Kevin takes a holistic approach to architecture, considering technical and sustainability issues in design while respecting a project’s surrounding context. He seeks opportunities to create a more equitable, functional and beautiful city. While at KFA, he has been working on multifamily and urban infill projects; his previous experience includes complex higher education and medical campus planning. He plants trees in and around LA as a volunteer for Tree People, and is a Friend of the Los Angeles River. He loves music and running (particularly in combination); you may see him in your neighborhood.
Ismar Enriguez, AIA
Ismar has been passionate about drawing since he was a toddler; his creative energies are currently channeled into creating the built environment. While in college, he obtained a diverse background, which prepared him for a career in architecture. Those experiences included working for a press company, a residential contractor, a civil engineer, and an interior architecture firm. He continues to reflect upon these experiences when approaching each project. As an advocate of sustainability, his decisions are guided by a sense of the future of our environment. His sense of community has led him to serve non-profit organizations, and he has been involved in several local AIA chapters. Ismar has visited over 20 national parks, as well as many national monuments and state parks. When not at KFA, you’ll find him hiking, camping, and backpacking with Mochi his loyal basset hound.
Jared has worked on a variety of new construction and adaptive reuse projects, including office, retail, restaurant, and multi and single family residential. With a knowledge of commercial real estate valuation, he has a holistic understanding of KFA’s market rate housing projects and clients. On the weekends, he enjoys exploring L.A and playing guitar. If he’s not on a beach or mountain, you might find him at a local taco truck or brewery.
Lydia Chambers, AIA
Lydia sees problems as opportunities to answer the question, “What is the best product that we can deliver?” Before coming to KFA, Lydia worked in healthcare architecture; she completed projects for small medical clinic tenant improvements, mid-size clinic renovations, the development of a new 250,000 SF medical office building, and the St. Luke’s Replacement Hospital project in San Francisco. Her former architectural employers include Gruen Associates and Boulder Associates. She has an eclectic background: before graduate school in architecture she studied American Sign Language, working as an interpreter while completing a degree in biomedical photography, and then as a photographer for a retinal specialist, before exploring Alaska and driving ski buses in Colorado. Lydia is an active member of a fitness organization called November Project, and completed her first full Ironman last year. She is also a member of the AIA and The Living Building Futures Institute.
Megan loves being a part of the cross-pollination of minds that leads to a beautiful built form. As a designer, she participates in schematic design and planning, design development, and preparation of construction documents. She was drawn to KFA for its leadership in addressing the urgent need for affordable housing in Los Angeles. Megan finds that participating in this process is a rewarding way to combine a love of advocacy and a passion for design. Her inherent urge to be useful in society serves her in efforts towards licensure, in researching sustainable systems and materials, and in her personal life: outside of the office Megan advocates for urban agriculture, and has volunteered at Enrich LA, Food Forward, and other like-minded organizations.
A Brazilian native, Nicole Violani moved to Los Angeles in her late teens, the result of her father’s passion to be a pilot. Between her undergraduate and graduate degrees in architecture, she worked on high-end, multiple lot residential projects. Since joining the KFA family in early 2016, Nicole has played an important role in the WHCHC Rampart affordable housing project and collaborated on others like the 4000 Sunset Hotel in Silverlake and NEXT on Sixth project in Koreatown. Nicole’s passion for ocean swimming keeps her competing in open water races and triathlons year round; when she’s not at work, she’s in the Pacific Ocean with dolphins and other sea creatures.
Originally from Council Bluffs, Iowa, Sara moved to California in 1994, and received a Bachelor’s degree in Communications from Humboldt State University in 2004. After college, she spent two years volunteering full-time with AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America), and in June 2011, she received a certification in Holistic Nutrition from Bauman College. Sara is ambitious, outgoing, creative, and enjoys organizing and planning events with thorough detail. When not at KFA, you can find her taking classes in voice acting and improv; she periodically works as a voice actor for indie game developers and other projects. Drop the mic…
Passionate about art, music, furniture, architecture, and all things design, Tyler brings a creative perspective to KFA projects. Born and raised in an artistic environment in Northern California, Tyler’s natural design sense drew him to a career in architecture at the age of 18. After graduation, Tyler began designing fire stations, multi-family residential developments, and other planning projects in San Luis Obispo. He can be found drawing at a drafting table, on stage with a bass guitar, in the seat of a bike, and home at KFA.
Wu Ji Wu Ji is a sincere, friendly, detail-oriented project designer. She understands the value of effectively managing time in delivering high quality and well-executed designs. Having recently joined the KFA family, Ji has enthusiastically fit into the firm’s culture. Most of her experience has been focused on designing residential components for mixed-use projects. She is currently working on the senior housing units for the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s new Anita May Rosenstein Campus. Originally from Beijing, Wu Ji received her Bachelor of Architecture degree from Beijing University of Civil Engineering and Architecture, and earned her Master of Architecture from USC. Since 2014, she has been an active participant in the USC Architectural Guild mentorship program.
2016 “Firm of the Year” Recognizes the Talent & Contributions of Licensed Architects Team
KFA has announced several promotions of its licensed architects. Founded in 1975 and based in Santa Monica, CA, the multiple-award-winning firm attracts innovative and talented design professionals, and nurtures their professional advancement.
A large percentage of KFA employees have been there 10 years or longer, retained by the many opportunities the firm affords to work with other creative, talented people and contribute to a large number of diverse projects. “Los Angeles Business Journal has ranked KFA as one of its “Best Places to Work” in recognition of KFA’s culture of life/work balance,” said KFA Partner Barbara Flammang, AIA. “Our associates are inspired further by KFA’s focus on social issues, such as affordable housing, mobility and transit” she added.
The AIA California Council honored KFA as “Firm of the Year” in 2016, singling out KFA’s commitment to wellness and culture building in addition to the firm’s architectural achievements.
The KFA architects promoted to senior associate positions are Allison Massett, AIA, Christine Cho, AIA, Jesse Ottinger, AIA, and Monica Rodriguez, AIA; and promoted to the position of associate are Jaime Olmos, AIA, Kristyn Cosgrove, AIA, Lars Johnasson, AIA, Laura Highcove, AIA, and Tarrah Beebe, AIA. The associates will soon put their new responsibilities to work on creating and overseeing several significant KFA projects in various stages of the design process in 2017.
Uncommon and “24”: Interview with Principals Jason Larian and Ryan Hekmat
KFA collaborated with developer Uncommon and MGA Entertainment to develop a master plan for “24,” the Valley’s first live-work-play community, on the under-utilized 24-acre site of a former Los Angeles Times printing facility in Chatsworth, CA. KFA sat down with Jason Larian and Ryan Hekmat, the co-managing directors of Uncommon, to discuss the concept and development of 24.
1. What is “uncommon” about your new company, Uncommon, which you co-founded?
Larian: Uncommon is passionate about a new, “uncommon” vision for creative living as a model for the future of Los Angeles. We are a new firm, but, as a next-generation company, we co-founders each have a long history of successful development projects in the Los Angeles region. The real estate industry isn’t just about property. We are inspired to build and create spaces for people to connect, live more harmoniously, work more productively, and improve their quality of life. It’s a bold way to focus on creating long-term value for all stakeholders.
Hekmat: We take pride in being a young, imaginative and energetic company with tremendous ambitions for developing the best possible spaces for future living, working, and enrichment, linked by public transportation to regional transit centers. Our business model allows us to discover hidden value, bypass middlemen, and reinvest the savings in high-tier amenities. We want to bring award-winning, functional design to formerly overlooked areas.
2. You recently broke ground on “24,” an innovative, mixed-use “project like no other.” Who will be the occupants and users of 24’s live-work-play campus when it is completed?
Hekmat: Our anchor tenant is MGA Entertainment, a consumer entertainment products company currently headquartered in Van Nuys. 24 will be home to MGA’s new corporate headquarters. The company is well known for manufacturing innovative lines of proprietary and licensed products, including toys and games, dolls, consumer electronics, home décor, stationery and sporting goods. MGA’s award-winning brands include Bratz® dolls, Little Tikes®, Lalaloopsy™, Project Mc2 ™, Num Noms™, Gel-a-Peel™, and Zapf Creation®.
Larian: MGA has been and continues to be closely involved in planning 24 as a unique environment that will embody MGA’s core values of wellness, community and whimsical fun. MGA, Uncommon and KFA are all tremendously excited about the vision of bringing new life to such a large, underutilized property in an underserved area of the San Fernando Valley. Other tenants will offer dining and retail options, and the site will also include creative office space and world-class amenities for the residents.
3. Can you describe the most important features of 24?
Larian: The 24 acres located at 20000 Prairie Street in Chatsworth will include the 255,000-square-foot existing building; four new apartment buildings totaling 660 units; 14,000 square feet of retail/dining; a transit plaza; and extensive, community-oriented green space. The landscaping will include a dog park, community gardens, two pool plazas and a sports park. There will be a walking trail weaving through the entire perimeter, serving as promenade and an exercise path. The landscape’s canopy trees, native shrubs and drought-tolerant grasses connect the campus to the surrounding natural landscape.
Hekmat: 24 creates an integrated design vision of live/work/play, starting at the campus macro level with a composed series of diverse spaces throughout the site for gathering, fun and wellness including walking trails, an amphitheater, a village green with movie area and orchard, roof decks for yoga, outdoor dining, an open retail plaza, and a pool deck encircled by a dining room, outdoor cooking space, club house, theater lounge and gym.
Late last year saw the groundbreaking for “24,” a 24-acre, mixed-use campus project in Chatsworth, CA. It was master-planned and designed by KFA to occupy the site of a former Los Angeles Times printing plant, shuttered since 1983. The developer, Uncommon, represents the next generation of two distinguished families of the Southern California commercial real estate industry.
Uncommon chose KFA in part because of the firm’s renown for influential ground-up new construction and adaptive reuse projects that bring obsolete sites back to life. Partner Lise Bornstein, AIA, headed the KFA design team.
The guest of honor at the groundbreaking ceremony was Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch Englander, who presented official proclamations from the City recognizing 24, Uncommon, and anchor tenant MGA Entertainment. MGA, which will move its corporate headquarters to 24, is a maker of consumer entertainment products.
Uncommon Principals Jason Larian and Ryan Hekmat told attendees about their vision of a live/work/play campus concept, the first of its kind in Southern California. We focus on people, not just construction,” said Hekmat. Added Larian, “The project will virtually transform the under-served neighborhood of Chatsworth into an interactive hub of work and recreation for residents, tenants and the community.” The developers acknowledged the support of important civic groups represented at the groundbreaking, including the Chatsworth Neighborhood Council, the San Fernando Valley Chamber of Commerce, and the Valley Industry and Commerce Association.
“24 creates an integrated design vision of live/work/play starting at the campus macro level with a composed series of diverse spaces throughout the site for gathering, fun and wellness, including walking trails, an amphitheater, village green with movie area and orchard,” said Bornstein. “This concept moves into each of the individual buildings, and can be found in the multiple spaces including roof decks for yoga and outdoor dining, an open retail plaza, and a pool deck, connected by landscaped pedestrian paths and designed to reflect the character of the Chatsworth locale.”
Guests at the groundbreaking were treated to a virtual reality tour that allowed them to experience 24 as they wandered through renderings of the campus and its countless amenities for residents, employees, and the surrounding community, including a concert venue, poolside dining room and outdoor cooking space, a club house, movie theater, lounge and gym. The campus will serve as a template for Uncommon to build similar projects across the country, and reflects one of the core values of the company: “Begin with a vision, not a spreadsheet. “
Over two dozen KFAers took the streets of downtown LA on a balmy Friday night in November to enjoy the fruits of their labor with a carefully curated crawl of the bars and restaurants located in KFA-designed adaptive reuse projects. The group spent the evening savoring drinks and food, while experiencing the new vibrancy of downtown.
5 KFA Teams Competed & Finished the 2016 Nautica Malibu Triathlon
5 KFA Teams competed and finished the 2016 Nautica Malibu Triathlon.
Team D’Yer Mak’Er – Margot Jamison, Ryan K, Jason
Team Killefer Flamingos – Dulce De La Paz, Adam Zhang, Veronica Castro
Team Jake From State Farm – Karen Filippe, Jeff DeWitt, Andrea Urmanita
Team TriTriAgain – Michelle Bolld, John W, Dganit Shtorch
Team Better Late Than Never – Nicole Violani, John Arnold, Raymond Vuong
As part of KFA’s green building culture, our firm participated in #ParkingDay2016 as a way to promote green public spaces, educate about sustainable practices, and continue being a good neighbor within the Santa Monica community.
Come join us again next year!
#StopBySayHI #ParkingDay2017 #KFAParkingDay #KFA #KilleferFlammangArchitects #SantaMonica #ArchitectureforLosAngeles
To commemorate KFA’s selection as AIACC 2016 Firm of the Year, Paul W. Welch, Jr., Hon. AIA and Shannon Calder from AIACC, along with last year’s recipient, Debra Gerod, FAIA from Gruen Associates, joined us for a celebratory lunch this past April. It was a proud moment for everyone at KFA when Paul handed the official Firm Award to Barbara and Wade.
“Architecture is the most public of the arts, and all advanced civilizations look at architecture as the centers of community. And you [KFA] have been able to make a difference in this [the Los Angeles] community,” Paul remarked.
Through its AIA California Council Awards Program, the award celebrates KFA’s architectural legacy — for portfolio, firm culture, and contribution to society. Bestowing KFA with the Firm Award, Paul noted that the AIACC appreciates the focus the firm takes on social issues and having a core value of helping others, including the less advantaged, by providing them with homes and elevating their quality of life.
For 40 years, KFA has been changing LA’s landscape, providing a work environment that inspires excellence, teaches the value of good design, and exemplifies the work-life balance. “To be in an environment where they trust you to take on leadership roles sets you up for even more challenges and further fulfillment,” says KFA’s Andrea Urmanita. Part of the firm’s legacy is the life-work balance, which greatly contributes to personal wellness and culture building.
“It was particularly meaningful to have Paul, Sharon, and Debra personally present the award for firm of the year,” says founder Wade Killefer, “Paul’s remarks addressed what we are most proud of here at KFA, our work to house the homeless, our commitment to design excellence for Los Angeles, our efforts to rebuild our City’s historic core and our emphasis on creating a firm culture where everyone can do their best work. “
The lunch commenced with handshakes and hugs, Firm Award T-shirts, and of course, KFA’s signature leap of happiness.
Largest LA Multifamily Project Breaks Ground – Multi-Housing News
by Jeffrey Steele – Multi-Housing News
June 13, 2016
Next On Lex is a Killefer Flammang Architects-designed $280 million mixed-use transit-oriented development in Glendale, Calif.
Image credit: Killefer Flammang Architects
Santa Monica, Calif.—Southern California architectural firm Killefer Flammang Architects (KFA) has announced the groundbreaking of Next On Lex, a KFA-designed $280 million mixed-use multifamily project in Glendale, Calif. The transit-oriented development at 201 Lexington Drive is the largest apartment project launched in the Los Angeles area this year. It is part of $1.3 billion in new developments by Century West Partners, which is among the most active L.A. metropolitan area apartment developers.
Slated for a partial opening with available units in fall of 2018, Next On Lex will be fully completed in the fall of 2019.
“In order for this project to come about our client, Century West, requested that entitlements had to be completed within three months,” Barbara Flammang, KFA co-founder and principal, told MHN. “This is an extraordinarily short time frame, especially when this also requires city council approval. We also needed to provide large open spaces to obtain incentives for height and FAR increases from the city, yet still maintain the total number of units to make the financial structure work. We were challenged with creating four separate and distinct buildings, each with an individual design and impression, and yet still cohesive and complementary throughout the site. One unique aspect of this project was factoring in an elevated, competitive-sized swimming pool.
“We are working closely with the general contractor and lender to coordinate the construction and demolition of two temporary lots. This is important to managing the phasing of construction to meet a tight building schedule. By doing this, we were able to eliminate almost two months of the construction, realizing tremendous savings.”
Next On Lex includes four six-story buildings that include a mix of studio-, one-, two- and three-bedroom units, as well as 39 studio lofts and 10 live-work units. Occupying a full block bordered by Central Ave., Lexington Dr., Milford and Orange Sts., the development includes three levels of underground parking with spaces for 753 cars, 152 bicycles and secured storage for all units.
The Next On Lex entrance is graced by wide, welcoming paseos with spreading trees, flagstone pavers and steel planters.
Residents will also appreciate a range of luxury amenities that includes outdoor living areas, pools, landscaped courtyards that include a landscaped rooftop deck and sky lounge, multiple sun decks, and ample community space. They will be able to access an onsite business center, yoga studio and fitness center, hot tubs and the aforementioned competition-sized pool. A media room, game room, private massage room and party room with kitchen are among other luxury amenities.
“Next On Lex is a stellar example of a transit-oriented development of the highest quality that looks to the future,” said Wade Killefer, AIA, and co-founder and partner of KFA. “We are very pleased to have created this model for mixed-use multifamily projects with more upscale, luxury finishes. “With its gracious paseos and lush landscaping, Next On Lex helps meet the increasing demand for rentals that meet higher lifestyle standards, located in the more sought-after neighborhoods of the Los Angeles metropolitan area.”
Added Flammang: “Flexibility was key to keeping the project under budget and making sure we met each of the tightly-scheduled milestones.”
What are some of WHCHC’s achievements over the past 30 years?
As I look back over the 30 years of providing affordable housing, WHCHC has had a wonderful trajectory. We started out developing housing slowly, and now we develop one, two and sometimes three projects a year, which means that we are fulfilling our mission.
We provide housing for people who desperately need it. Many of the people who come to us have either been living in sub-standard housing, in their cars, or on the streets. We have some residents with disabilities who, before they moved into one of our units, simply couldn’t climb up the stairs to get to their apartments, so they had become virtual shut-ins.
An important historic achievement for WHCHC and for the City of West Hollywood was the development of two permanently affordable housing communities for people with HIV/AIDS during the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
These buildings were some of the first in the country. We now have more than 100 residents with the HIV/AIDS diagnosis living through- out our portfolio, including many long-term survivors whose health
What types of services do your residents require?
We are dedicated to providing secure and creative living environments for people with limited income. In addition to their financial limitations, many of our residents have special needs such as chronic health disorders, mental illness, HIV/AIDS, or are struggling with drug abuse. We also house many older adults who are experiencing the frailty associated with advancing age as well as a new vulnerable population at the other end of the age spectrum, transition age youth (TAY).
Our services are varied and tailored to the issues of each individual resident but they have a common goal, to assist individuals and families to thrive in WHCHC housing. We work with partner agencies to pro- vide specialized services. In order to provide this extensive menu of services we raise money not only from foundation and corporate grants but also from private individuals. It is my job working with our Board of Directors and Director of Resource Development to attract those funds to WHCHC.
What are some of your favorite moments?
It is so satisfying and gratifying when we open new buildings, people bring their belongings, they get their keys and open their door–and they see where they are going to live. It is life- changing.
What are your biggest challenges?
Development of affordable housing is an extremely challenging profession. Sources of financing are complex, difficult to put together and, over the past several years these sources have diminished greatly.
It is important that we stay in the forefront of real estate finance and develop creatively. We are constantly asking ourselves where can we locate new resources and then attract these sources to our development efforts. We have just begun to form partnerships with for-profit developers to build or ac- quire low income housing in market rate complexes.
This is a new way of doing business and fulfilling our mission in an era of diminishing resources.
An ever-present challenge, not only for us but for all developers of affordable housing, whether they are for-profit or non-profit, is what we call “nimby-ism” (not-in-my- back-yard). People are often afraid of change whether it be in the physical character of their community or the people who live there. Neighbors are apprehensive about who their new neighbors are going to be and how they will fit into the neighborhood culture.
Therefore we do a lot of communication with our neighbors during the development process to address their concerns. We show them our other buildings, we talk about our service programs, security protocols and parking considerations. We listen to the community’s design ideas and preferences and incorporate them wherever possible. It is our goal to be an enhancement to the neighborhood.
What kinds of impacts has WHCHC made?
WHCHC has had a significant impact on the availability of quality housing in West Hollywood. We also develop in larger cities like Glendale and the City of Los Angeles. Currently we have about 460 operating units and another 400 units in our development pipeline.
Right now we provide housing for over 700 residents in 17 buildings. But, over the years several thousand people have lived in our apartments. In some cases, families have actually moved out of our buildings and purchased their own homes. Our housing has given them the economic stability they need to transform their lives.
Of what are you most proud?
I am proud of everything we do, but three things stand out: One is of course the buildings. They are beautiful, safe, and they are designed with the residents needs in mind. The second is that we manage these buildings with all of their complex financing and regulation for the long run. The third is that we foster a positive and creative environment for our staff and Board. We have a wonderful group of people who work together and who communicate with each other to build the kinds of housing that is going to be enjoyed for many, many years by the residents we serve.
What do you see for the future of WHCHC?
Honestly, our ultimate goal is to put ourselves out of the real estate development business. One of the important pieces of our mission is to advocate strongly for both the creation of additional and the preservation of existing affordable housing for people and families with income challenges. If affordable housing was available for everyone who needed it–if we didn’t have to do this–it would mean that our mission and vision to have people sustainably housed in the greater Los Angeles area is fulfilled.
Unfortunately I don’t foresee that happening in the near future. In fact, Los Angeles appears to be heading in the opposite direction. But, certainly I predict that WHCHC will continue to grow in a thoughtful and responsible manner, and that we will provide additional and more varied resident services as well as building more housing. We will care for our buildings well into the future; each building has a life of at least 55 years, which provides stability not only to the residents but to the neighborhoods in which our apartment communities are located.
There is a vast collaborative network of housing providers whose missions are similar to ours. We join with them in caring about people who struggle to find or maintain decent housing. We want residents to live happy, healthy lives with promise and fulfillment. The dedication we find throughout our profession is profoundly rewarding, and our mission now and for the future is to provide well designed housing with services for low and very low income individuals and families, many of whom are also challenged by a variety of disabilities and issues which prevent them from securing a decent place to live.
An Interview with Thomas W. Wulf of Lowe Enterprises
Ivy Station is a complicated, mixed-use project. What has been the biggest challenge and the greatest opportunity?
Clearly, it is more exciting to me to consider the greatest opportunity, and in this case, we collectively have the responsibility to create an activated, energetic, mixed-use development directly on one of LA’s newest light-rail transit lines, the EXPO line. Our mission is to build value in real estate by creating innovative and lasting environments for people to live, work and play. That is exactly our goal with Ivy Station.
The greatest challenge? Like any development project there are many constraints and stakeholders involved. Here, that is only magnified by the fact that the site has shared jurisdiction of both Culver City and Los Angeles. In addition, given the station proximity and transit parking, Metro rounds out the trifecta of agencies. Each of these bring along a multitude of requirements and site planning constraints. Layer this in with community, economic, constructability and market conditions, and there are many factors at work that must be managed and addressed.
How do you see TOD changing the way Los Angeles is growing?
I look at demand for residential and commercial space, and we see the growing desire from tenants to eliminate the commute and live in walkable, pedestrian oriented environments. This trend, combined with the significant investment in infrastructure throughout LA (the rail system is doubling in size), is changing the face of development and the landscape of the Los Angeles area. Properties surrounding transit stations are the new “freeway off-ramp” location that are in great demand. The challenge is that most locations directly adjacent to the transit stations are small in scale making it difficult to create meaningful impacts. Thankfully at Ivy Station we have the size to create a true destination and a mix of uses.
How different is creating place in Culver City compared with, say, DTLA?
I don’t think it is significantly different between the two locations. It is more site specific and relating to the context of the neighborhood in either location. Both Culver City and DTLA both have an existing fabric of commercial uses, a strong history and access to transit. In Culver City, we have the difference that we have more area to work with and can therefore create a more meaningful space within the development. It also relates to the demographics; in downtown we see a younger resident, while Culver City brings an established neighborhood of families and a broad range of residents.
How do you see Culver City changing in the next 5 years given the current wave of development?
Culver City has always been a desirable location – on the Westside with easy and convenient access to both downtown LA and the beach areas. Now that access is only magnified with the addition of the EXPO line. I see responsible and balanced development that will enhance the walkability of the community and provide a mix of uses (residential, commercial, hotel & retail) that will only foster additional vibrancy of the area. The area will be home to more residential development as well as commercial space. More than anything, I see Culver City being linked together more than ever before. The TOD area will be the hinge that will link downtown to Helms and the Arts District and Hayden Tract.
Do you think our communities understand the value of design?
Absolutely, although some communities value it more than others. Good design certainly adds value to properties although it must be a balanced approach as additional costs must create additional revenue or we will never be able to build it. It’s no doubt that good design is recognized and rewarded once complete. Sometimes the challenge is presenting and convincing others in the planning stages to take the additional risk in order to reap the rewards. Nothing is certain, but quality design and attention to details are essential for success.
What still gets you excited about doing what you do?
The most important thing about what I do every day, and keeps me excited, is the ability to create. The ability to dream, coordinate and create high quality places for us all to live, work and play. There are not many fields where you have the ability to touch ones’ senses in so many ways and impact lives for a generation to come. Sure there are the challenges, the process and the headaches along the way – those are exciting too – just in a different way! The process is exciting, but the finished product is the true reward.
The highly-anticipated Ivy Station development will be 500,000 SF of high quality, state-of-the-art office, residences, hotel, stores and restaurants within a landmark, destination-oriented environment. With the opening of the Metro Expo Line in June 2012, excitement about the area has substantially gained interest. This development is located at the intersections of Venice, Washington and National Boulevards. Just adjacent to the terminus of the Metro Expo Line of Culver City, this area is expected to become an energetic center of life for residents and visitors alike.
Ivy Station is a mixed-use transit-oriented development that provides a mix of retail, office, hotel and residential uses surrounding a large central open space and conveniently served by light rail and bus transit in Culver City. The project includes a stand-alone 5-story office building with retail and restaurant space on the ground floor and offices located on all levels. In addition, two interconnected 5 to 6-story buildings atop a single-level podium include a 200-unit residential building and a 148-room boutique hotel building, both of which will have ground floor retail and restaurant space. The three buildings are built over a three level subterranean parking structure. The project scale will reflect the surrounding area with additional building setbacks, step backs and offsets to create visual interest in the building design.
The Metro Expo Line connects the Westside by rail to Downtown L.A., Hollywood, the South Bay, Long Beach, Pasadena and dozens of points in between, making the ride from Culver City to Downtown less than 30 minutes. With a convenient stop at Ivy Station, commuters will have easy access to the businesses, residences and retail of the area. Subterranean parking for Metro riders will also be provided.
Ivy Station includes a total of approximately 136,000 SF feet of public and private outdoor open spaces, gateways, landscape treatments, and amenity spaces all designed in collaboration with Melendrez. This includes a Great Lawn and Central Plaza that will be a programmed for occasional daytime or evening special events. Concerts, movie nights, wine & cheese festivals, fitness classes, holiday craft fairs and seasonal activities are just some of the activities planned for the park. The Great Lawn and Central Plaza will be accessible from the train, office, retail areas, hotel and residential units, creating a dynamic place for the public, commuters, hotel guests and residents to enjoy. Retail and café uses will line the park area and the transit plaza providing opportunities for shopping and dining experiences.
The project’s landscape and streetscape design are key elements that will help promote a more livable, accessible, and vibrant neighborhood. Streetscape improvements around the site are intended to promote area revitalization through the implementation of pedestrian-friendly streetscape enhancements including canopy street trees, street furniture, graphics, and new crosswalk paving.
Private open spaces include a residential pool courtyard, a landscaped residential courtyard, a club room terrace, a gym deck, and a roof terrace. The hotel will provide public open space including a hotel courtyard space provided on the second level podium. The hotel will also have a 6th floor, rooftop pool deck.
Ivy Station includes a Transit Plaza extending from Venice Blvd. on the west to the Expo Station platform, and provides gathering spaces to serve commuters, project residents, employees and the local community, including locations for commuter related retail. Envisioned as a natural extension of the existing space beneath the platform, this public space offers a hardscape and landscaped place to linger for transit riders travelling both to and from the escalator, elevator and stairs that access the platform. The Transit Plaza also provides an appropriately civic space within which Metro’s Bike Rental Hub can reside, maximizing its visibility, and complimenting it with additional short-term bike parking at its edges.
The office building, designed by Ehrlich Architects, features generous amenities and indoor-outdoor spaces that take advantage of the complex’s high visibility and urban location. The office building will serve as the “Front Door” to the project and the Expo station. Balconies on the south façade of the office building will overlook the Great Lawn and Central Plaza below. The ground floor will provide restaurant and retail spaces, enhancing the pedestrian experience and taking advantage of the complex’s high visibility and urban location.
The Hotel at Ivy Station will be a 5-6 story boutique style hotel with 148 rooms. The hotel places significant focus on creating memorable public spaces in the lobby, lounge and the restaurant to appeal to hotel guests and local residents. Hotel amenities will include a gym, outdoor terrace, ballroom, meeting space and a board-room, and a pool and spa deck located on the roof.
The Residential Building is 5-6 stories and will include 200 residential units. Similar to the hotel building, the massing of the residential building is carefully designed to maximize views out and create a varied streetscape experience. The residential building has three different roof levels. The ground level of the residential building will have retail and restaurant storefronts along National Boulevard, the interior open space area and the paseo parallel to the Expo platform. Amenities will include a pool with courtyard space, a landscaped courtyard, gym, clubroom, and outdoor terraces.
RESIDENTIAL + HOTEL BUILDING POSITIONING
The residences are contained within two buildings on a single podium. On top of the podium will sit a series of sculpted, v-shaped courtyards providing as much natural light as possible, views out for internal units and privacy for the residential pool courtyard. The building massing is an exciting, geometric response to the courtyards, plazas and open space and creates a striking approach to the train station for passengers. The residential and hotel buildings are designed to interact as one dynamic building form while at the same time providing a clear horizontal separation.
Our office is bustling with new faces and we are excited about opportunities to collaborate as we grow. We interviewed our newest freshman class and asked each of them to give us a brief introduction:
Veronica Castro, AIA is a Puerto Rican architect who moved to L.A. after earning her Bachelor of Architecture from Syracuse University. All of her favorite activities involve getting friends together to spend time outdoors – she spends most of her weekends either surfing, skiing, or exploring L.A.’s local hikes and bike paths. During the week, she likes to wind down after work by cooking any sort of interesting recipe she can get her hands on. After living in L.A., she has developed an appreciation for the make-up of the city and the idea of small, diverse neighborhoods forming a metropolis that has something to offer to everyone, regardless of where you come from.
Lee Cooper, AIA earned his BA from Auburn University, completing his thesis with The Rural Studio. After stints in Chicago and Austin, he spent the past several years in his hometown of Birmingham working on various healthcare and higher education projects before deciding to relocate to Los Angeles to learn more about multi-family. Both he and his wife are enjoying exploring their new environs and can most often be found peddling back from the beach with a breakfast burrito in their bike basket.
Jeff DeWitt was raised in the topographically diverse, beautiful state of Michigan. He attended the University of Michigan, where he received a BS in Architecture in April 2015. He moved to LA shortly after to join the fantastic team at KFA. Outside of work, he watches a lot of Netflix and peruses Facebook. On rare occasions, he also has been known to go biking, run in the mountains, play the piano, sing, act, eat, pray, read, sleep, ponder, visit movie studios, go to the Westin Bonaventure Hotel (his favorite building in LA) and to the movies.
Christina Hackett graduated with her BA in Architecture from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo in 2012. Having grown up in the scenic foothills near the Sequoia National Forrest, she moved to the Los Angeles shortly after graduation to pursue her passion of architecture and sustainable design. Outside of the office she enjoys night bike rides along the beach path, TRX classes and spending time with family.
Jeehyun Joo is a native of Seoul, South Korea where she attended Kookmin University to earn her B.Arch. degree. She moved to Los Angeles to attend the M.Arch degree program at the University of Southern California. After graduation, Jeehyun joined the KFA team to further her career as an architect. Personally she likes challenges—she is finally learning how to swim to get over her fear of water.
Elizabeth Kang received her Bachelor degree in Environmental Design from Texas A&M and went on to earn her M.Arch from Cornell University. Although originally from Texas, she lived in South Korea for awhile and then moved to Los Angeles in 2014 after graduating from Cornell. The complex nature of LA’s architecture is one of the reasons why she moved to LA. As an architect, the “chaos” in this case is not necessarily a negative thing but rather an exciting challenge. To her, the richness of the culture means endless possibilities. Elizabeth enjoys exploring nearby California locations while taking weekend trips with family and friends. She also enjoys photography, crafting, discovering new hole in the wall restaurants and especially going to markets in foreign cities.
Pedro Melis, AIA is a native from Caracas, Venezuela, where he earned his Bachelor’s degree in Architecture. He moved to the US to pursue a Master’s degree from the University of Michigan and soon after graduation, he relocated to Chicago where he spent more than a decade practicing Architecture. Destiny (and weather) brought him to LA and he is excited to be part of the KFA family. Pedro is an amateur (but enthusiastic) filmmaker, an avid traveler, and he can cook one of the best mushroom risottos you will ever taste.
Li Shan graduated from the University of Southern California with an M.Arch degree. She has worked on multiple residential projects in California and Hawaii. Shan enjoys exploring new adventures and traveling has always been one of her passions. She loves to take challenges and believes the only way to understand a place is by being there. Shan has a strong desire to learn, and is now on her way to becoming an architect.
Raymond Vuong received his Bachelor of Architecture degree from California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo, where he gained an understanding of Building Information Modeling and the vital role it would have within the field of Architecture. His past work experience has enabled him to continue developing design execution from conception to construction observation, ranging from small to large-scale facilities. Raymond brings experience from a variety of projects that include residential, commercial, retail, automotive dealerships, tenant improvements, and high-rise buildings.
Adam Zhang was born into a family of architects and has dreamt of becoming an architect since childhood. He began his journey in architecture at the Shandong University of Architecture, and then attended the Bauhaus in Germany for further architectural studies. Adam moved to LA, a city of beautiful sunshine, beaches, and Hollywood movies, which greatly appealed to him. He graduated from UCLA’s M.Arch program where he was commended for his Hyperloop presentation. Soon after, he joined the KFA family to further pursue professional goals of becoming an architect and creating a better Los Angeles.
New Partner Jonathan Watts Joins Longtime KFA Principals John Arnold and Lise Bornstein
Santa Monica, CA — KFA (Killefer Flammang Architects), Los Angeles’ full-service, award-winning architecture firm, has announced three new partners. Joining founders Wade Killefer and Barbara Flammang as partners are John Arnold, AIA, Lise Bornstein, AIA and Jonathan Watts, AIA. Arnold and Bornstein are longtime KFA Principals while Watts is former Principal of Cuningham Group Architecture. The three expand the diverse legacy KFA established over the past 40 years in reshaping the Los Angeles cityscape.
“Coming off KFA’s 40th anniversary, we are excited to announce leadership for the next decade and beyond,” said Founder Wade Killefer. “Our new partners are innovators in many different architectural disciplines. They are poised to create more places that help make Los Angeles one of the world’s great cities.”
KFA has brought to fruition innumerable landmarks and important projects in the realms of educational and public buildings, multi-family housing, affordable housing (designing approximately 3,500 affordable units in Southern California), adaptive reuse (including some of Los Angeles’ greatest historical buildings), hospitality and many others.
“Barbara and I have tremendous confidence in our new generation of leadership,” he said. “This team is immersed in placemaking that draws from the city’s great past while projecting a future that it needs and desires. KFA will continue to have a lasting imprint on Los Angeles.”
Watts has been practicing architecture and land-use planning for 30 years in Los Angeles. His passion for great design and livable communities has led to work in many different cities and on many different building types, including mixed-use urban infill, multi-family housing, hotel, office, retail and entertainment.
“Design is the real value architects bring to clients and communities,” said Watts. “It is essential to creating beautiful, sustainable environments as well as high-functioning, profitable projects for the clients that commission them. That has been the firm’s calling card and I am excited to continue strengthening the KFA design process, especially for new buildings.”
Among Watts’ work is the complex and transformational Ivy Station. This highly-anticipated Culver City development adjacent to the Metro Expo Line will be an energetic center for residents and visitors, with 500,000 square feet of state-of-the-art office, apartments, a hotel, stores and restaurants within a landmark environment.
Bornstein has been with KFA since 2001 and sees her Partner role as a continuation of the firm’s redefining Los Angeles density.
“We are active community participants, creating elegant, original and sustainable urban infill,” she said. “And our clients are visionary in their own ways: They see the potential in typology of unit types and how the city’s demographics are shifting. They, and everyone on our team, exhibit passion and camaraderie that shows in the work we do.”
Bornstein applies this approach to KFA’s well-known affordable housing as well as a broad range of market-rate residential designs. Equally significant is her large-scale masterplan work, such as KFA’s collaboration with MGA Entertainment to transform an underutilized 24-acre site of the former L.A. Times Chatsworth printing facility into a vibrant campus. The existing 255,000-square-foot building will become creative office and production space, with the surrounding concrete and asphalt giving way to 660 housing units and retail.
With KFA since 1999, Arnold looks toward developing a new generation to carry on its design prowess and creative culture.
“Wade has often said we’re good listeners, and it’s true,” said Arnold. “We listen to what clients, the community and cities want, distilling that input with our wide experience to create projects that succeed on many levels. It’s a very positive ethic that filters all the way down to our friendly working environment and personal approach.”
Among Arnold’s current marquee projects are two high-profile but very different hospitality developments for Sydell Group: NoMad and Freehand, both in Downtown Los Angeles. For NoMad L.A. KFA is restoring a 12-story structure into a magnificent, 250-room luxury hotel with a grand lobby, retail space, a bar, restaurant, library, and rooftop event space and swimming pool. Freehand is a cutting-edge hostel/hotel brand that caters to group, international, and youth travelers.
Arnold also directs residential trends. The Micropolitan at Chandler will be a seven-story, 82-apartment, transit-oriented building at one end of a North Hollywood city park: “Our solution to this difficult site was to imagine a vertically accented mini-highrise, like a stylish Central Park apartment building, rather than a more-expected California courtyard building. This approach has been quite successful. We are applying equally innovative approaches to the new Seabluff condominiums in the heart of Playa Vista, creating unique, downtown loft-style spaces in that Westside urban setting.”
KFA by the Numbers
Over its first 40 years, KFA has designed over $4 billion of Los Angeles developments (project value, not billings, calculated in 2016 dollars):
151 housing projects
15,205 residential units
3,436 affordable housing units
904 units on Skid Row
4,416 adaptive reuse units
1,282 hotel rooms (built and soon to come)
30+ adaptive reuse projects
12 recreation projects
4 fire stations
11 project buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places
70 current projects – 56 are new-construction projects
7,426 units currently in the pipeline (residential and hotel; new and adaptive reuse)
Over 7,500,000 square feet of current projects (new and adaptive reuse)
Re-Imaging LA: How campus projects are re-shaping Los Angeles
1. How does the 201 Lexington Campus project play a part in reshaping/reimagining L.A.?
New urban infill mixed-use apartment buildings like 201 Lexington play a critical role in bringing housing to job centers with a residual effect of reducing peak-hour automobile traffic and commuting times. Many residents that live in new housing in the heart of downtown Glendale will either walk, bike, or take public transit to work. Those that still choose to drive their cars to work will likely have shorter commutes than they otherwise would have. This transit-oriented model is being followed in many of the urban centers of Los Angeles – most notably Downtown LA, Hollywood, and even Santa Monica to a certain extent.
2. How has the local/regional community received your development?
Community can also refer to the client’s industry/sector and/or social/cultural impact if applicable. Glendale city council and its Planning Department is a talented, forward-looking group – many municipalities would do well to follow their lead. They administer a creative Specific Plan that encourages appropriately scaled residential development near the existing job base. The Specific Plan also incentivizes sustainable development and the creation of open space. The result of our project will be the development of a 12,900 SF paseo, which will become a great public open space. Beyond creating great public space, this type of urban infill brings life to the downtown district 24/7.
3. What was the drive to create the project? What were the markets, opportunities, and services that were taken into consideration?
As with any of our projects, the key to Century West Partners’ interest in this site was its central location. Frequently, our projects are located on the edge of the urban core. 201 Lexington is in the center of the action in Glendale – with great access to jobs, the highway and Nordstrom and Whole Foods along with easy access to downtown LA.
4. Why this project? Why now?
Because we found a great architecture team that we enjoy working with.
KFA Moderates Adaptive Re-Use / Affordable Housing Panel Discussion at the 2015 SCANPH Conference
KFA moderated an important affordable housing discussion panel at the 2015 SCANPH Conference held at the JW Marriott hotel in Downtown Los Angeles last month. As an expert in adaptive reuse design, KFA Principal, John Arnold, AIA, lead the focused conversation on the topic of the conversion of underused commercial buildings into affordable housing projects. For over 20 years, KFA has been at the forefront of the adaptive reuse movement and has designed and assisted its clients in finding solutions for transforming historic buildings into modern affordable homes, market-rate residences, hotels, and retail establishments.
The panel showcased a few of KFA’s affordable housing clients and the projects they are developing and completing to provide safe, comfortable homes and permanent supportive housing for formerly homeless individuals, seniors, and individuals with special needs. The panel featured Maurice Ramirez, Executive Vice President, AMCAL Multi-Housing; Cristian Ahumada, Executive Director, Clifford Beers Housing; Jesse Slansky, Real Estate Director, West Hollywood Community Housing Corporation; and Sasha Truong, Project Manager, Skid Row Housing Trust. Each panelist spoke about their recently completed adaptive reuse affordable housing projects, and answered questions pertaining to trends, financing, design, development, politics, and overcoming unforeseen obstacles.
Cristian Ahumada presented Clifford Beers Housings’ 28th Street Apartments, a conversion of the historic South LA YMCA into 48 units of affordable housing. One of the obstacles he presented was the need to reduce the existing housing unit count in order to adhere to new square footage and unit amenity requirements, a process, which can be politically and publicly difficult to overcome. Reducing the unit count can reduce the affordability level for future tenants. Because of the building’s historic status, the historic building code was used to help mitigate some of the difficulties encountered.
Maurice Ramirez of AMCAL discussed the recently completed Hollenbeck Terrace Apartments, an adaptive reuse of the former Linda Vista Hospital into 120 modern senior residences with support services. He provided invaluable insight into the multiple construction issues they encountered during each phase of the project. Maurice also provided a detailed explanation of the budgetary process and further broke down the public and private funding sources available for sizeable adaptive reuse projects.
WHCHC’s Jesse Slansky presented the adaptive reuse of a vacant, substandard apartment building in West Hollywood that was transformed into the Hayworth House, an affordable housing community for low-income seniors. He explained the local political issues WHCHC faced during the development and construction of this adaptive reuse project. Together with KFA, they were collaboratively able to find solutions for universal design, accessibility, community spaces, modernization, and building and unit configurations.
Sasha Truong with Skid Row Housing Trust presented the New Pershing Apartments, which opened in 2015. This project is a reconstruction of a three-story Single Room Occupancy (SRO) Hotel at the southeast corner of 5th and Main. It is one of the last Victorian era buildings left in Downtown Los Angeles and was converted into 69 units of affordable housing for formerly homeless individuals who have special needs or require rehabilitative care. She discussed the importance of being committed to design equity and the environment in which tenants live as being vital to a person’s recovery and stabilization.
They all agreed that the adaptive reuse of historic structures for affordable housing can provide a great benefit to the residents, while preserving a valued building within a community by giving it new life and a greater purpose. Reused buildings encounter much less resistance in communities than new construction.
Generally, historic buildings have more common areas and outdoor open space than new construction. Residents benefit from the organized social interactions and conversations that spring up in the community gathering spaces such as a communal garden, courtyard, or community kitchen. Historically significant buildings used for adaptive reuse projects are often centrally located near urban cores with attractive amenities, as well as providing quick and easy access to major employment centers, public transit, schools and daycares, retail options, health facilities, and recreational opportunities. Close proximity to needed services is valuable to residents who cannot afford a vehicle or can no longer drive, and to children and teens who walk to school and to nearby community activities.
Adaptive reuse can also serve as a strategy to change attitudes and stereotypes that often accompany affordable housing development. By restoring a valued structure within the community, these projects can help the communities view affordable housing as an asset instead of a detriment. Further, adaptive reuse of historic buildings for affordable housing can increase community pride as it increases nearby property values. Adaptive reuse can further contribute to downtown revitalization efforts by restoring a unique sensibility and preserving character in the heart of a city.
All panelists agreed that adaptive reuse projects require complex funding streams, and that it is becoming increasingly difficult to put deals together. In the future, this will require more creativity in finding sites, and future rehabilitation projects for affordable housing may shift from adaptive reuse conversions to straight-up rehabs of existing multi-family buildings.
We appreciate our clients’ participation and the time they took to be panelists and answer difficult questions regarding the adaptive reuse process.
KFA (Killefer Flammang Architects) recently celebrated its 40th anniversary of design excellence at an outdoor party held in its parking lot at Olympic Blvd. and 17th St. in Santa Monica. Friends, family, clients, and other well-wishers were in abundance – as were the food trucks that catered the event.
The firm was started by husband-and-wife team Barbara Flammang and Wade Killefer, who met at UCLA when they were both getting their masters degrees in architecture. Flammang and Killefer live in Santa Monica and are active members of the community.
KFA has had a significant impact on the local architectural scene, having designed libraries, educational buildings, multifamily housing, and affordable housing.
KFA has played a leading role in securing affordable housing for low-income individuals, including the formerly homeless. KFA has designed approximately 3,500 units of affordable housing, including a dozen single room occupancy hotels and almost 1,000 units on Skid Row.
KFA has also been highly influential in the movement to adapt and re-use historical buildings, especially in Downtown Los Angeles.
Legacy projects include: the Old Bank District, Eastern Columbia building, Ace Hotel, Broadway Hollywood, Taft Building, Title Guarantee building, The Chapman, Rowan Building, Roosevelt Lofts, Pegasus, Pacific Electric lofts, 1010 Wilshire, and Grand Lofts.
This wave of renovations began with the 1999 passage of Los Angeles’ Adaptive Reuse ordinance, and included KFA’s transformative efforts in The Old Bank District.
“The Historic Core of Los Angeles experienced a huge renewal, as many of its stately but abandoned office buildings were repurposed to residential use,” Killefer said. “Downtown’s population increased five-fold and we rehabilitated over 40 historic buildings.”
Closer to home, KFA has made its mark in Santa Monica as well. KFA served as architects for: Pico 11, a 32-unit development on Pico Blvd. off 11th St., which is one of the few apartment projects to be approved by the City of Santa Monica this year; Step up on Colorado, planned permanent supportive housing for homeless individuals; and Seabluff in Playa Vista, new condominiums (construction will start soon).
“Over 40 years we have learned that the best architecture comes from the best clients. We have been lucky to draw inspiration from visionaries who set high goals and pushed us toward them,” Killefer said.
Killefer is on the board of the Santa Monica Boys and Girls Club. Flammang served as board president of the Westside YWCA.
The couple raised two children, Joe and Annie, in Santa Monica. Joe graduated from Loyola High School and later, Dartmouth College. He is now in the field of construction management and development and will marry Jennifer Dunn this October.
Annie, a graduate of Santa Monica High and Bard College, has a specialty in international conflict resolution and is now in Nepal providing post-earthquake relief. Earlier this year she did a stint for Oxfam in South Sudan.
Downtown Santa Monica is one of the few places in the city where any new housing gets built, including affordable housing. The Kaufmann Apartments at Step Up on Colorado is the latest project to open in the city’s thriving Downtown.
The new building, located less than a block from the Expo light rail stop in Downtown Santa Monica, provides 32 new homes for people who are experiencing homelessness and mental illness.
Lise Bornstein, a principal with KFA, said that the design was driven by desire to incorporate the building into the community fabric.
“We wanted people to feel like they have roots in their community,” she said. What happens beyond the unit is equally important to what happens in the unit.
A question that helped drive the design was, “How can we organize the building to promote integration into the community?”
To that end, Bornstein said, the design has semi-private balconies, common space within the building, and a front porch feel at the ground level.
“The tenants can sometimes feel isolated, so we wanted [the design] to give them an opportunity for community spaces and gathering spaces that look out into the city,” Bornstein said.
The building is designed to meet at least a LEED Gold — and possibly a LEED Platinum — designation from the U.S. Green Building Council for its sustainability features, including a solar-heated water system and the use of recycled water from the city’s urban runoff treatment facility (SMURF) for irrigation.
Providing well-designed housing for people experiencing chronic homelessness is just one facet of Step Up’s mission, however. It’s also about providing people who live in these buildings with community, said Carolyn Baker, vice president of community development for the nonprofit.
“Housing is healthcare,” she said. Making sure that people experiencing homelessness, many of whom struggle with mental health issues, have a safe place to live is a medical issue, she said.
Step Up buildings provide not only shelter for the most vulnerable members of our community, they also provide “a rich array of support services,” in which tenants can — but are not required to — participate, Baker said.
Those services include medical and mental health care, assistance in accessing whatever benefits tenants may be entitled to, access to whatever benefits they may eligible, job opportunities, vocational programs, and about 60 different types of tenant-driven groups, like art, creative writing, yoga, support circles.
Step Up also provides meals at hub locations, like Step Up on Vine (in Hollywood) — whose opening in 2013 was attended by former president Bill Clinton — and Step Up on Second, just a few blocks away from the new Kauffman Apartments.
The new building marks a milestone for the Santa Monica-based nonprofit. In 2010, when Step Up and Hollywood Community Housing Corporation opened its Step Up on Vine Street location to much fanfare — the ribbon cutting was attended by former president Bill Clinton — the nonprofit announced its commitment to build 200 units to house people experiencing homelessness.
The Kaufmann Apartments at Step Up on Colorado marks the achievement of that goal, said Baker. And, to celebrate the achievement, Step Up will hold an official opening ceremony for the new building on September 24.
But Step Up is not content to stop there, she said. Next, the nonprofit will be targeting homeless vets in Los Angeles and will set a new benchmark: 400 new permanent supportive homes for these vulnerable community members.
Step Up is one of the nonprofits working with the West L.A. Veterans Affairs (VA) campus as it undergoes a master plan design process in order to create new supportive housing for veterans who are experiencing homelessness.
Step Up was an early adopter of the “housing first” model of helping people who are experiencing homelessness. The idea behind the model is to get people into permanent supportive housing first in order to address the root causes that led to those people living on the streets.
Baker recalled one resident who, before moving into a Step Up building, was living in a cardboard box. When she moved into her new apartment, this woman brought the cardboard box with her because it was what she had become used to.
“We moved the box in with her and within a few months, she asked us to get rid of the box,” said Baker.
Step Up, which has about 140 housing units in Santa Monica alone, boasts about a 90 percent retention rate, which means that once they get people into safe homes, those people are likely to stay there, said Baker.
That’s good news, not only if you believe combating homelessness is a moral issue, but also it costs tax payers about 40 percent less to find homes for people than if those people remained without homes, Baker said.
Still, L.A. County has one of the largest population of people who are without homes in the country. While the majority of people experience homelessness for a short period of time, Baker said, there is a core group of about 6,000 people who experience chronic homelessness.
That core group is who Step Up tries to reach, going so far as to putting together “street outreach” teams that consist of medical professionals and people who formerly experienced homelessness. Those teams go out and speak to people living on the streets in order to try to connect them to the services they need.
Baker said, often times people think that those people experiencing homelessness are resistant to getting help. But, in reality, they aren’t “service resistant,” Baker said. They are “system resistant because the system isn’t really designed to meet them where they are.”
Housing first works, but only if there is enough housing. “It’s really a mass issue. There aren’t enough units available,” Baker said. But Step Up — and other nonprofits — are chipping away at the problem little by little.
Jason Islas is the editor of Santa Monica Next and the director of the Vote Local Campaign. Before joining Next in May 2014, Jason had covered land use, transit, politics and breaking news for The Lookout, the city’s oldest news website, since February 2011.
How I Made It: Architect Breathes New Life into L.A.’s Historic Core – LA TIMES – Sept. 6, 2015
How I Made It: Architect Breathes New Life into L.A.’s Historic Core Wade Killefer
By Roger Vincent
Architect Wade Killefer, an expert in converting old buildings to new uses, says he is most proud of his contributions toward creating residences for people of modest economic means. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)
The gig: Wade Killefer, who has always liked building things, has become one of the go-to architects for developers who want to convert historic buildings in downtown Los Angeles to new uses such as housing or hotels. Among his most prominent residential conversions are the Art Deco-style Eastern Columbia Building, a former department store on Broadway, and the Pegasus, a former oil company headquarters on Flower Street. But that’s just one specialty for an architect who has also designed single-family homes, libraries, schools and apartment buildings.
HistoricPlacesLA The Eastern Columbia Building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. (Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)
Early years: Killefer, 66, grew up in Washington, D.C., and earned a degree in English from Stanford University. Having no particular career in mind upon graduation, he joined a carpenters union to take part in its apprentice program. Soon he decided that his life interests came together in architecture. “Both writing and architecture are about having an idea and then supporting it. They’re just different means of expression,” Killefer said.
Getting launched: Killefer returned to school, securing a graduate degree in architecture at UCLA. There he met his wife and business partner, architect Barbara Flammang. “Barb was a classmate. We were both late to graduate school and had the two worst seats in the studio,” he recalled. Their Santa Monica firm Killefer Flammang Architects just celebrated its 40th anniversary.
Starting small: Many of Killefer’s first jobs involved designing and building houses, and he both drew and literally dug trenches. Soon there was enough demand for his design skills that the architect was able to put down his tool belt and concentrate solely on architecture. He designed a library for a friend and then a private school.
Making a mark: In 1990, the firm completed its first historic renovation, the Mary Andrews Clark Memorial Building on the edge of downtown. The elegant former YWCA residence for young women built in 1913 in the style of a French chateau was converted to housing for low-income single workers. That led to designing conversions of an old office building and the former luxury Town House hotel, both also near downtown, to affordable housing.
Lean years: During the real estate downturn of the 1990s, Killefer concentrated on libraries, schools and other public buildings, including fire stations. His firm became the campus architect for Loyola High School, a Jesuit preparatory school for young men that is one of the oldest schools in Los Angeles. “We’ve had a pretty varied practice,” Killefer said.
Finding a niche: Killefer’s expertise in converting old buildings to new uses made him a likely candidate to join Los Angeles developer Tom Gilmore’s pioneering plan to take advantage of the city’s Adaptive Reuse Ordinance of 1999. Gilmore surprised many real estate industry observers with his financially successful creation of housing, restaurants and shops in rundown former office buildings in downtown’s historic core. Other developers soon followed with similar projects. “Everybody thought Tom would fail,” Killefer said, “and then people said, ‘If that guy can do it, we can do it.'”
Priming the pump: Following that success, Killefer and his team walked the historic core of downtown and in 2001 created a list of buildings that would be suitable for adaptive reuse. Since then, his firm has designed the adaptive reuse of more than 40 downtown buildings. Among the latest downtown are the popular Ace Hotel and the NoMad and Freehand hotels, both under construction in long-vacant office buildings.
Exterior of the United Artists Theatre in the Ace Hotel at 937 S. Broadway in downtown Los Angeles. (Al Seib/Los Angeles Times)
Speed bumps: Business for architects ebbs and flows with real estate cycles. When the market goes cold, like it did during the last economic downturn, business dries up. Killefer and his wife didn’t take salaries from their firm during a tough year in the late 2000s. “Recessions are brutal,” he said.
Personal best: Killefer said he is most proud of his contributions toward creating residences for people of modest economic means. His latest is the New Pershing Apartments, a 69-unit complex built by the Skid Row Housing Trust at 5th and Main streets in downtown L.A. Killefer’s design saved the three-story facade of the Charnock Block building erected there in 1889 that later became known as the Pershing Hotel. Family time: Killefer and Flammang live in Santa Monica, where their firm his based. In his off-hours, he likes to spend time outdoors, hiking and fishing. They have two grown children, a daughter who is doing earthquake relief work in Nepal and a son who is a real estate developer — a suprise career choice to Killefer. “When they were growng up, we took them around to look at buildings and they thought there was nothing more boring than that,” he said.
Design trends: The architect supports dense development, especially housing, in the blocks around transportation hubs such as train stations. Most recent buildings are three to seven stories, but Killefer would prefer taller buildings with open space around them. “I hope the next generation will be taller, thinner buildings,” he said.
At the Los Angeles Business Council’s 2014 Mayoral Housing, Transportation & Jobs Summit, Mayor Eric Garcetti challenged the City to build 100,000 new housing units and outlined new strategies to achieve this ambitious goal in an effort to address both population expansion and the increasing housing shortage. With LA County’s population already totaling over 10M people (1/3 of the entire state), the Mayor’s call-to-action is all the more significant as projections estimate an increase of about 634,000 new residents by 2021.
L.A.’s story is one of successive waves of growth spread out over its distinctively vast, open landscape. As we look to the next wave of urban development, it’s clear that significant growth in transportation infrastructure, evolving mobility plans, live/work balance and sustainability are all factors reshaping the ways in which we will inhabit this City.
This month, KFA spotlights three campus projects currently in design that provide their own uniquely integrated solutions to the Mayor’s request for additional housing. These new developments are reimagining density by offering occupants more than just housing. By taking advantage of urban centers or creating their own, these pedestrian-friendly sites paint an emerging portrait of L.A.
LGBT Center: Urban Mosaic Campus
Welcoming a remarkable 45,000 client visits per month, the Los Angeles LGBT Center is building a new campus in Hollywood that will provide housing and supportive services to the especially vulnerable LGBT community. The Center is partnering with Thomas Safran & Associates to provide 140 housing units for seniors and young adults and 100 beds for homeless youth, creating the first ground up LGBT center in the country. This unique project, centered on providing a holistic approach to homelessness with a combination of housing and support services, explore a concept of community that extends beyond a geographical definition and endeavors to become a prototype for other cause-driven organizations throughout the U.S.
Designed by Leong Leong Architecture with KFA as executive architect, The LGBT Center will weave together multiple sites over a city block into a comprehensive campus that will serve as a focal point for the LGBT Center’s efforts in Los Angeles, and a model for centers throughout the country. Expanding upon the existing arts and cultural Village at Ed Gould Plaza, the new development will include multiple educational and multi-generational transitional and permanent housing programs along with healthcare, family services, and administrative spaces and neighborhood retail.
MGA Campus: Creating a There there?
Call it the influence of the Millennials, or their parents, the baby boomers, the last decade has seen an increasing demand for work life balance. Some have even redefined this as ‘work-life integration’ – insisting on flexible programs and culture in the workplace. Coupled with this are the congruent trends by renters for environmental sustainability, increased transit options, and a focus on a localized, walk-able lifestyle. Many developers have picked up on this trend by offering amenity-rich living; and spaces such as dog runs, gyms and roof decks have become a staple for new projects.
When faced with a 24 acre underutilized site of a former LA Times printing plant, the owner of MGA Entertainment looked to the future development potential in the Valley, creating a vision for the MGA Campus by doing away with acres of surface parking and imagining in its place an interwoven campus where the new MGA headquarters and 660 residential units would share over 290,000 SF of open space. Designed with a variety of spaces throughout the site that promote wellness, community and gathering, the pedestrian experience and on-site amenities are anticipated to attract and keep innovative industry talent, while offering a unique and vibrant place to draw local residents.
Bringing higher density to the right location in the Valley, the MGA campus will create a thriving community where acres of surface parking once reined king.
Glendale – Adding to an already thriving urban site
201 Lexington follows a more traditional urban infill approach to development – but on a much bigger scale. Like the MGA Campus project, 201 Lexington promotes a “live-where-you-work” philosophy, acknowledging that shorter commutes are associated with a higher degree of happiness. However, instead of creating a destination, the project uses the City as its amenity, taking advantage of an already flourishing neighborhood and proximity to major employment centers.
Conveniently located in the heart of downtown Glendale’s Orange-Central district, Century West Partner’s 201 Lexington development embeds itself into the already existing commercial fabric of the neighborhood, adding 494 units and over 8,000 SF of retail to the area, and offering its residents a pedestrian’s dream-a plethora of retail and dining experiences, all within walking distance.
Reimaging LA: How campus projects are re-shaping Los Angeles
A Discussion with Stephen Burn, Project Manager, Los Angeles LGBT Center
The Los Angeles LGBT Center is designing a new 183,700 SF campus to better meet the growing demand and need for the Center’s services. The campus will include 140 units of new housing for seniors and young adults, 100 beds for homeless youth, a new senior center, retail space, a new homeless youth center, and a new administrative headquarters. Campuses like the newly designed LGBT are helping to meet current housing demands, as well as becoming another model for developing future residential campuses. The new LGBT Center will be playing its part in reimaging LA as one of the new landmarks in the City. Stephen Burn, Project Manager, Los Angeles LGBT Center, discusses how campus projects are transformational and influential to the City as whole, as well as being impactful to their local neighborhoods.
How does the McCadden Campus project play a part in reshaping/reimagining L.A.?
The Los Angeles LGBT Center has grown from an organization meeting in coffee shops and living rooms to a multi-million dollar operation employing more than 500 people. Our new Campus will open to coincide with 50 years of service to the city and its LGBT residents.
The development will become the site of our new headquarters but also a home, crucially an affordable home, to low-income seniors and youth. In addition, emergency overnight beds for the homeless will be offered along with a diverse range of services for clients in need of legal, financial, educational, health, social and cultural services.
The Center is the world’s largest LGBT services organization and the McCadden Campus will become a beacon to visitors from around the world hoping to replicate the work being done in LA in their own communities.
In the last five decades, the rights of LGBT people have changed dramatically. The new Campus will reflect that change by being open and accessible to all. It will sit proudly on Santa Monica Boulevard, providing a safe space for clients and a welcome to local residents and visitors irrespective of their sexual orientation. As LA adapts to reflect its diverse communities, so too will the Center as it proudly sets about building a Campus that confidently champions the pride and identity of donors, staff, clients, residents and visitors.
How do you see your project influencing or transforming Los Angeles into the future? Do you consider McCadden Campus to be a model for other similar campus developments (not necessarily by the LGBT Center but by others as well)? How so?
The range of on-site services and the diversity of our clients provides a unique model for other LGBT organizations to mirror and follow. We’re seeking to pool resources and benefit from economies of scale that will help guarantee support and services for decades to come. By combining property we already own, on the western side of the street, with the newly acquired land on the eastern side of McCadden, we’ll create a Campus that will be a world’s first for our community.
The organization’s current HQ on Schrader Boulevard will continue to operate but do so as a four-story Federally Qualified Health Center. A mile away from McCadden, the Schrader Building offers primary care, mental health services, a pharmacy and a sexual health clinic to all clients including those who will be based at McCadden. It is situated close to a 100 unit affordable housing block for LGBT seniors, which we oversee. In addition, the Center also operates an HIV AIDS drop in clinic on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood and Mi Centro, a services center in East LA aimed at the Hispanic community.
While the organization’s footprint spreads throughout the city, the new Campus will become the focal point for much of our activities. However, while centralizing some services it remains important to have locations throughout LA providing services to clients in their own neighborhoods.
Why was it especially important for the McCadden Campus to be situated in this particular location?
Staff at the Center, like kids with their noses against the glass of a candy store, looked longingly across the street at an under-utilized state-owned property. We own and operate a property called The Village on the west side of McCadden and for five years tried to persuade the state to sell us land they owned directly opposite. Eventually, several years and $12.7m after first showing an interest, the land changed hands.
Hollywood attracts people from all over the country and, indeed, around the world. Over the years, it’s become home to many of our most vulnerable clients who all too often find that their dreams don’t work out and they’re in need of help and support.
The new Campus is situated in an area known to and used by many of our clients. Providing in place services to those clients is an essential part of what we do. So, being able to acquire land in a location directly opposite a property we already own and in an area we know has great demand for our services, seems like the right thing to do.
How has your development been received by the local/regional community?
On the whole, the local community is supportive of what we’re proposing to do and elsewhere in the City the backing has been substantial. In the immediate vicinity, some residents are concerned that providing 100 beds for homeless youth and increased services for clients might attract more problem behavior to the area. Our current youth center, situated on Highland Avenue and backing on to McCadden, provides services to clients who, some residents allege, are responsible for an increase in sex worker activity in the area.
While recognizing the need to provide a safe place and supportive services for vulnerable clients, the local community is working with us to ensure the new Campus will feature a design and operate in ways that don’t become a magnet for the areas sex workers or homeless population not receiving services at the Center.
On a broader level, the community support for the project has been phenomenal. The LGBT community is reaching deep into its pockets to help with our Capital Campaign. After initial successes, the target figure for that campaign has been upped from $25m to $30m and we’re well on our way to hitting that number.
Why this project? Why now?
Three words – need, need and need. At the Center, we currently handle 42,000 client visits a month. Demand for our services continues to increase as we better equip ourselves to respond to what it is a client requires.
Our existing affordable housing development for seniors, Triangle Square, may have 100 residents but there are thousands of people on a waiting list to get a place. Our health centers and clinics are bursting at the seams, and clearing out those locations of admin and other staff will enable an expansion of health care services to clients currently at the end of sometimes lengthy waiting lists.
In what ways will the McCadden Campus project integrate the larger community to provide visibility for the LGBT Center?
The Campus will welcome all visitors including those who don’t readily identify as members of the LGBT community. The buildings will be designed to be porous and open at a street level with courtyards, terraces and a plaza providing attractive spaces to mix or shelter from the sun.
At the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and McCadden, we’re hoping to provide a retail outlet that will appeal to clients and non-clients of the Center. The current plan is to open a coffee shop combined with a bike shop, enabling customers to have their bikes serviced or purchase cycling gear while relaxing with a beverage or snack.
Additionally, we’re creating an area we’re calling a Flex Space at the heart of the Campus. In here, there’ll be visual representations of the LGBT community’s history and heritage. This will become a visible reminder that the Center was built on the shoulders of many who went before.
What are the Center’s plans for encouraging multigenerational interaction between the youth, seniors, and other members of the LGBT community?
The Center has a mentoring scheme now where youth and seniors work together on a number of initiatives. The new Campus will allow us to do this on a larger scale. Shared activities include life and social skills, computer classes, arts projects and mentoring programs.
In what ways would you like to see McCadden Campus flourish? And the surrounding community?
The Campus will flourish only if our clients flourish. It is essential that the building becomes an iconic project because of the way it works with clients. What we don’t want is a complex that looks fabulous in an architecture magazine but is a nightmare to work in.
If we can provide somewhere in which our clients feel safe and respected and which staff are proud to work at then we will be on our way to succeeding.
Helping the general area become a place where anyone can walk in comfort, at any time, without the threat of intimidation or violence hanging in the air, would also count has us having helped the local area to flourish.
An Interview with Jon Blanchard of BLVD Hospitality
KFA principal John Arnold, AIA spoke to LA developer Jon Blanchard of BLVD Hospitality (the Ace Hotel and SoHo House) about trends in design and adaptive reuse, and the future of Downtown LA.
What do you see trending in Downtown LA?
Condos are definitely coming back. People really want to own a piece of Downtown. Millenials, for lack of a better term, want to have everything in their lives be walkable, and Downtown offers this. I think that living car-free in Los Angeles is happening now, and will only get easier in the future. Downtown is going to be it for a long time. LA’s land costs are still significantly cheaper than places like New York, and this is attracting a lot of American and foreign capital to Downtown.
Are there any other areas that are competing with Downtown to be THE walkable urban center of LA County?
I don’t think so. Downtown LA has the infrastructure in place – amenities, grocery stores, restaurants and especially transportation – that gives it an edge over other places like Glendale and Pasadena. Downtown has an ease of connectivity that is less prevalent in other parts of the City. Also, the City is trending pro-growth and making development easier and smoother – LADBS, the Planning Department, and the Mayor have been really stepping up lately to make the process better and quicker. Santa Monica will always have its appeal, especially with the Expo Line opening, but the opportunities for growth are so limited there.
What do you see happening Downtown in the next 10 years?
I see the Convention Center expanding, which will spur more hospitality and retail growth in South Park and south of the historic core all the way to the I-10. I think the industrial areas between the Arts District and the I-10 will continue to be developed as the land there becomes more valuable for residential, creative office, and retail uses, with industrial uses moving south towards Vernon. The one-story warehouses that give the Arts District its character will continue to be turned into galleries, retail, and food and beverage venues. The connection between Downtown and the Arts District will become stronger through Skid Row, which will have a mix of development there that will include housing and services for the less fortunate.
What are some of the more exciting current developments Downtown?
The possible extension of the Red Line into the Arts District would have a huge impact. I think the new Sixth Street bridge is also a big positive, and could help extend opportunities further eastward into Boyle Heights, which I think could become LA’s Williamsburg. There is a lot of real estate activity east of Chinatown towards the river, and extending towards Lincoln Heights. I’m hoping that Downtown will have bike sharing soon like other big cities already have.
Do you see development extending west of the 110?
Yes, towards MacArthur Park especially, and the areas closest to the Convention Center in Pico Union.
What’s happening with city planning policies to preserve the industrial lands by the river and in the Arts District?
I think there is a split at City Hall about that. There are some council members and planners who see that the land closest to Downtown is more valuable for residential, creative office, hospitality, and retail than it is for low-rise industrial, and the potential there for tax revenue. There are some politicians that are still fighting to keep the land industrial, but I think the writing is in on the wall for greater density and non-industrial development.
What’s the future of adaptive reuse?
I think within the next 10 years all the big adaptive reuse opportunities in Downtown will be gone. There will only be small ones remaining for boutique development as the current owners gradually give them up for rehabilitation.
Vertical. Downtown will keep going up and up.
Is Type III construction on its way out in Downtown?
I think so. I think once high-rise construction starts penciling out as land costs go up, mid-rise construction will start to become less attractive to developers.
What are your favorite places Downtown?
I know I’m biased, but I think the Ace Hotel is fantastic and has already had a huge impact on the area south of 9th St. As you know, I love Bar Ama [in the Old Bank District], as well as Bestia [in the Arts District]. I’ll give Bottega Louie a special shout out for being a big catalyst on 7th St. I think the Last Remaining Bookstore is an awesome, unique space Downtown – it’s such a cool place.
Do you think LA has a signature design aesthetic that isn’t handed down from New York?
Yes, and it will only become more distinct. There are the typical ideas in LA about light, the great weather, and indoor-outdoor living that drive design more than they do in New York, Chicago and San Francisco. LA is more open, lighter, and friendlier, which is a departure from the darker, more inward-looking design aesthetic of New York. Roof top venues exist in the other cities, but they are at their best in LA. Developers and hospitality operators know that design is competitive and that they aren’t the only cool kids on the block. Everyone is looking for the next big idea beyond what has already been done in New York or down the street. This competition will inevitably lead to fresh design, and a lot of it will be tailored to take advantage of Downtown’s unique assets, including its historic nature. I do see design in LA becoming more formal and sophisticated. LA’s food culture will also continue to advance and be distinctive from other cities.
Speaking of fresh ideas, do you have any development secrets to share?
I’m not going to tell too many secrets, but we are working with our partners on some hospitality concepts that will be truly unique to the market, and driven by Southern California culture. That’s all I have to say.
In 1999, the City of Los Angeles passed the Adaptive Reuse Ordinance providing flexibility within some portions of the planning and building codes that had made it prohibitively expensive to rehabilitate older historic buildings. KFA designed the first projects to take advantage of the ordinance in the Old Bank District, transforming the San Fernando, Hellman and Continental from dated office buildings into residential lofts. The population of DTLA increased five-fold over the next several years, and with over 40 development and rehabilitation projects, KFA has been a central player in the Downtown revival. It wasn’t until the great recession of the late 2000’s that enthusiasm for development downtown waned.
In 2011, Greenfield Partners and Ace Hotels saw a great opportunity in rehabilitating the abandoned United Artists Theater Building and former Texaco offices, commissioned by Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and Charlie Chaplin and built in 1927, into a boutique destination. Naysayers doubted the viability of a hotel south of the historic core, but since the Ace Hotel Link opened in January of 2014, its rooms, bars and restaurants have been packed, and it is credited with starting the boom that is currently happening south of 9th Street.
Identified by many as having an extreme shortage in hotel rooms, the City is now witnessing the development of previously overlooked DTLA historic buildings into hotels using some of the provisions allowed by the Adaptive Reuse Ordinance. Of KFA’s 1000+ designed boutique guest rooms in Los Angeles, over 75% of them take advantage of the ARO. Buildings that may be less viable as apartments have become opportunities for hotel developers, with accommodations ranging from luxury hotel rooms to sleeping rooms in a private club to hostel style bunk rooms.
Development of existing buildings in Downtown Los Angeles offers locations within walking distance to hundreds of entertainment, convention, and restaurant venues, faster approval timelines through LADBS, and design opportunities for a unique, daring, and innovative product that challenges the hotel norms. KFA is excited to again be on the forefront of this second wave of adaptive reuse in DTLA.
Sydell Group is transforming the Commercial Exchange building at 8th and Olive into Freehand LA, a 226 key hotel that caters to the young international traveler with a range of room types from standard king rooms to rooms that accommodate up to 8 bunks.
The Giannini Building also being developed by Sydell Group, is a long vacant centerpiece of the 7th street corridor that will become NoMad, a luxury hotel with a different design experience in each guest room.
On the outskirts of the Arts District, a 1920s warehouse will become the latest SoHo House, an artist-focused haven with a range of ground floor retail and members-only club amenities.
The development of these ARO projects and others to be announced in 2015 and 2016 represent a solution to the hospitality shortage in Los Angeles that is creative, innovative, and perfectly Angeleno.