Over the last couple of months, representatives of development firm Pacific Springs, LLC have been introducing local neighborhood associations in Hancock Park, La Brea-Hancock, and Sycamore Square to a new mixed-use development planned for the NW corner of the intersection of Wilshire Blvd. and Highland Ave. The site is currently occupied by a 2-story mini-mall, built in 1987 and home to outlets of the El Pollo Loco, Subway, and Fatburger chains, as well as a number of smaller businesses including a martial arts studio, tutoring services, a dental office, and more.
The new eight-story project, which would be built under the city’s Transit Oriented Communities guidelines (which provide construction bonuses in exchange for including a certain percentage of officially “affordable” housing units), would comprise 242 residential units (25 of them reserved for Extremely Low Income tenants), 10,000 square feet of ground floor commercial/retail space, and 18,000 square feet of private/internal open space on a roof deck, podium deck and balconies.
In addition to these fairly common elements, however, the project would also annex two lots behind the current mini-mall, which are now used as surface parking lots, and turn them into an extension of a “green belt,” that now runs from Citrus Ave. to Orange Drive, behind the Avalon Bay and former Carnation buildings just to the west of the new project site. The project would extend the green belt all the way to Highland Ave., for a total run of three blocks. Also, Carling Way, the alley that currently runs between the mini-mall and the parking lots north of the site, would be closed, and that space added to the green space, too, fully connecting it to the new development as an amenity for tenants as well as public community space.
In addition to the specifications above, other project details include:
- A mix of single, 1 BR and 2BR residential units
- The rear of the building will be set back (including the green belt space) about 60 feet from existing homes to the north of the project site.
- Additional development incentives requested from the city, beyond those included for all TOC projects, include “averaging” of the zoning allowances across the current commercial parcel along Wilshire and the current parking lots behind the building, and a “transitional height” allowance at the rear of the building.
- Building will be “LEED-equivalent” (at basic to “silver” levels), according to Pacific Springs representative Kim Paperin, though the developers do not plan to apply for actual LEED environmental certification.
- In addition to the vehicle parking spaces described in the “Project Details” graphic above, there will be 160 bike parking spaces (including both long-term bike parking for building residents, and short-term spaces for retail customers).
- The design goal for the building, according to Paperin, is a “timeless” style with “clean lines,” that fits in with other neighborhood developments (at least one of which, the Essex Wilshire-La Brea, was also designed by TCA Architects, the firm working on the design for this project).
So far, the presentations to various neighborhood groups have been very introductory and preliminary, and none of the groups have taken any formal positions or made any formal recommendations on the project (though we’ve heard a number of positive comments about the green space element). Of course, however, as one neighborhood representative noted, “the devil is in the details,” and items we’ve heard neighbors flag for further discussion and consideration so far include:
- Traffic-blocking on Citrus Ave. (how to best prevent cut-through car traffic without impeding emergency vehicle access to the residential area north of Wilshire)
- Green space security, particularly at night
- Building height (the project is one story lower than the former Carnation building to the west, and two or three stories lower than the office building at the NE corner of Wilshire and Highland…so it is not the tallest building in the immediate area, but it will block the remaining views of the Hollywood Hills and the iconic Hollywood sign for many neighbors to the south).
- Delivery access (neighbors have noted that least a couple of other newer area developments, which promised all commercial loading indoors, were built with height clearances too short for many delivery trucks)
- Size and rents for retail spaces, which neighbors would like to be small and affordable enough for neighborhood-serving mom-and-pop businesses, not just chain stores and restaurants
- Design details, and making sure that a design with “clean lines” doesn’t result in a bland “big box” facade
As the proposal moves forward, the developers will return to the local neighborhood groups for further discussions, and the project will also at some point also be reviewed by the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council’s Land Use Committee (and then the full GWNC board), though that discussion has not yet been scheduled.
About Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN but has lived in LA since 1991 - with deep roots in both the Sycamore Square and West Adams Heights-Sugar Hill neighborhoods. She spent 10 years with the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, volunteers at Wilshire Crest Elementary School, and is the co-owner/publisher of the Buzz.
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