Wednesday, February 22 2017

Uncommon and “24”: Interview with Principals Jason Larian and Ryan Hekmat

IMG_4210 copyKFA 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.

Wednesday, February 22 2017

Uncommon’s “24” is Underway

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.

Q1 2017_Main story image_HRUncommon 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. “

Wednesday, November 16 2016

KFA Crawl 2016

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.

Monday, November 07 2016

MGA Campus : 24 : Uncommon Groundbreaking

Thursday, September 22 2016

5 KFA Teams Competed & Finished the 2016 Nautica Malibu Triathlon

5 KFA Teams competed and finished the 2016 Nautica Malibu Triathlon.
Awesome job!!

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 

Tuesday, September 20 2016


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

Thursday, September 08 2016

Paloma Terrace Grand Opening

Thursday, June 30 2016

AIACC Firm Award Lunch Celebration

IMG_3295To 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.

Wednesday, June 29 2016

Largest LA Multifamily Project Breaks Ground – Multi-Housing News

by Jeffrey Steele – Multi-Housing News

Next On Lex is a Killefer Flammang Architects-designed $280 million mixed-use transit-oriented development in Glendale, Calif.

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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.”

Tuesday, May 24 2016

A Talk With WHCHC’s Executive Director Robin Conerly on the Occasion of WHCHC’s 30th Anniversary

Interview conducted by West Hollywood Community Housing Corp.

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.

Robin Conerly signing SB Beam REVWe 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.