Skid Row Tower: Nice Design, Wrong Location

The Weingart Center, which for decades has provided meals, transitional housing and job training to Skid Row residents, hopes to build a 14-story tower adjacent to its San Pedro Street facility. The project would create 200 units of permanent supportive housing for homeless individuals.

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Weingart President and CEO Kevin Murray said he is poised to begin the process of filing paperwork with the city, and does not yet have financing lined up or a proposed budget. Still, he said he is committed to making the project happen.

 “I told the architects I didn’t want this to look like affordable housing — not some square, stucco box. I want this to look like a place you or I might live in,” he said.

Together with PATH Ventures, a nonprofit organization that provides long-term housing for those graduating from shelters and transitional housing programs, Murray aims to create a workforce development center that includes an outdoor courtyard and three floors of office space that would provide services for formerly homeless individuals. Apartments would be on the upper levels. Initial renderings by Gonzalez Goodale Architects of Pasadena show a “Sky Garden” with a rooftop deck. Current plans for the upscale structure on San Pedro and Crocker at Sixth streets call for units to have glass balconies.

The project will be a U-shaped structure, with a courtyard in the middle, the San Pedro Street side rising 13 stories, the middle section being 11 stories and the Crocker Street side climbing to 14 stories. Murray said the height is based upon creating approximately 200 apartments. He also said that the proposal puts the project in line with current urban planning theory that encourages density to maximize limited space.

The structure would rise where Weingart currently owns a one-story building used as a cafeteria for clients. Murray said he would like to help alter the way Skid Row looks.

 “I’d like to see a first-class looking building,” he said. “Let’s change the aesthetics of the environment and focus on job development and workforce training.”

The plan was presented on Tuesday, April 7 to the Central City East Association. Raquel Beard, the executive director of the CCEA, which runs the Los Angeles Downtown Industrial District Business Improvement District, said her board is still evaluating the project, but found the renderings impressive.

 “The building design is very modern and aesthetically pleasing,” she said. “It looks like most modern residential buildings that you see across Southern California. Housing is needed and this sophisticated project helps to address that need.”

However, Beard pointed out that while she and her board find the project appealing, it is the type of housing development that they would like to see spread throughout Los Angeles County, and not focused solely in Skid Row. Many stakeholders in Downtown have long called for a decentralization of supportive housing and homeless services, so that other parts of the county can alleviate the crush of homelessness in the Central City.

         donna@downtownnews.com

Twitter: @donnadowntown

© Los Angeles Downtown News 2015