Friday, August 08 2014

Tarrah and Margot on Living in Adaptive Reuse Environments

TandM Collage_sm

Why did you choose to live in an Adaptive Reuse building/complex?

Tarrah: Being from Boston, I crave density and love historic buildings.  When I moved to Los Angeles, I was intrigued by all of the loft conversions that were happening in Downtown Los Angeles. It was only natural for me, a city girl at heart, to move to a place where I walk out my front door and see old buildings lining the streets.  Most importantly, I love living in a building that I think is beautiful, and in a neighborhood I have seen transform.

Margot: I wanted to live in a dense urban neighborhood and I found that ARO housing had the most flexible floor layout.  It also was the most affordable option per square foot, as well as the most prevalent option in the area.

What is it like living in one? What makes your building in particular special?

Tarrah: The amount of natural light is unreal in my loft.  My favorite things are the high ceilings and huge windows.  Also, the layout is unique and I feel like I have furnished it in a way that represents who I am.  I know that there is no other apartment like mine.  From the moment you walk into the lobby, my building feels like it has a story.  For example, a portion of the historic elevator lobby now partially creates a section of my bathroom.  About half of it is marble flooring, and the other half is concrete.

Do you think ARO properties in general are becoming more popular, or is it just something about bigger cities such as LA?

Margot: Yes, definitely! As the demand for urban housing continues to increase, the need to reuse the existing building stock is vital.  This is especially true if these buildings are abandoned or no longer serving their original commercial purpose.  Some of these existing buildings are sitting in prime real estate locations and can be fully reimagined for housing or mixed-use purposes.

Who currently lives in your building?

Margot: My neighbors range from college students to young professionals and families, as well.  ARO properties are great for people who may work at home and need flexible office or studio space.  My building seems to be particularly attractive to people want to be able to walk, bike or take public transit to work or school.

What are some of the benefits of living in an ARO property?  Did you expect these, or were they surprises?

Tarrah: The convenience and access to public transportation, local events, and bars and restaurants is something I expected. But what surprised me is how much people who live  downtown, LOVE living downtown. You can tell by the street art, the amount of locals you find at local bars, and the support of local businesses by residents.

As an architect, which building(s) do you think could benefit from going through an adaptive reuse process?

Tarrah: The Giannini Building at 7th and Olive is one of my favorites and I would love to explore how to bring back this beautiful building. It would be interesting to see the Bradbury Building, LA’s oldest office building, converted to housing.

Margot: I find warehouse ARO’s to be particularly interesting because the original requirements for the building are typically significantly different than those for housing.  This presents a unique challenge that often inspires a unique solution.

What are some of the changes that you or other residents have noticed in the community after your ARO was completed?

Tarrah: When I moved to Downtown LA in 2007, I noticed there were very few restaurants open on Sundays.  It is great to have seen this neighborhood grow to the point where the residents support a weekly farmers market, a plethora of restaurants staying open late every night, and of course, a Ross Dress for Less.  And I like hearing the rumblings about a new Trader Joes too!

Margot:  Since moving into my building a little over a year ago, several new restaurants and bars have opened in the area.  I have also noticed there are more people traveling to my neighborhood from other parts of LA to experience the buzz and excitement for themselves. The density of the ARO’s have encouraged the development of hip new food and event venues that are now attracting people from other parts of the City, as well.

Do you think that ARO is the answer for revitalizing urban centers?

Tarrah: Local businesses are thriving in Downtown LA due in large part to all the new ARO developments occurring throughout the area. I truly believe that none of this would have occurred without the vision of people who believe in Downtown, we would not have seen Bringing Back Broadway, the Historic Core BID, or even the Adaptive Reuse Ordinance. Los Angeles is not the only city experiencing a housing crisis, but the revitalization of its Downtown parallels the national trend towards urbanization.  Forward-thinking visionaries and developers didn’t see the Downtown of the 80’s and 90’s as an urban wasteland of abandoned, dilapidated commercial buildings, but rather thought of it as a blank slate—a place where they could reimagine the current building stock and revitalize the neighborhoods. Over the past year while living Downtown, I have noticed an increase in the care and up keep of public sidewalks and park areas, as well as the grand opening of several new restaurants, bars, boutiques, and groceries.

What are some of your recommended essentials living Downtown?

Tarrah: I can’t live without my bike (basket required), because it’s faster than driving around Downtown, and I always have VIP parking.  People seem to be amused by my beach cruiser downtown.  My grandma cart comes in handy because I would let my hands fall off before I would take two trips from my garage to my apartment. Good storage is essential, especially in my closets, and take full advantage of the high ceilings in my apartment for the extra storage space. Trips to the Rose Bowl flea market are also a fun way to find unique and eclectic furniture to add to my loft.

Margot: Having good tote bags are essential! I always take a few bags with me when going shopping. Another essential is a pair of heels you can walk in for miles.  My grey ankle boot wedges, despite their height, are actually very comfortable to walk in and are my go to shoes for a night out.  In that rare occasion that it rains, and in the much more common occasion that you are walking down the sidewalk right after its been hosed off, a tall comfy pair of heels keeps your toes and pants safe and dry. Finally, one must get a Tap Card! The Metro stop is only three blocks from my apartment, which allows me to get around LA anytime I want.  It also allows me to catch a cheap, stress-free ride home whenever I need it.