I’ve said it before and the Los Angeles Business Journal (LABJ) wants to say it again: the Long Beach Senior Arts Colony is an incredible project and the LABJ has named it the Best Multi-Family Project of the year.
The awesome 286,379 sq. ft. building at Anaheim and Long Beach Boulevard alters the way in which senior and affordable housing is approached—and that is bridging, not widening, the gap between the affluent and less affluent. And in order to do that, one must engage in interaction—and for this project, that means building a 12-story market rate unit tower right next to the Colony.
“There should be a place to live for everyone of all cultures and backgrounds in the urban landscape,” Michael Bohn, principal at Studio One Eleve, once said to me. “If we were to just make one tower the centerpiece, that is, the market rate tower, we could make these other buildings senior and affordable housing areas. And then we have not just mixed income, but an intergenerational space—and that is something that hasn’t been done before in Long Beach.”
“Imagine when you have a space where people are, for the most part, required to interact… One on hand, the senior is provided with a higher purpose and on the other, a younger generation who understands their elderly community rather than seeing them shipped to pasture.”
Studio One Eleven aimed for mixed-use that not only provides commercial space below the units—a common theme amongst today’s developers—but also provide community and recreational space that span between all buildings through interconnected pathways. Take, for example, the alignment of art studios that line the sidewalk below the Senior Arts Colony; this will not only encourage activity, but people on the sidewalk will pass by and seen said activity, increasing their curiosity and engagement.
To top it all off, the units are own-able—and even more, with accessibility to transit and parks around them, seniors and other residents feel and act as true stakeholders rather than stand-bys. Bohn noted the residential interest in upgrading and up keeping the 14th Street park nearby.
Even more, the project intelligently uses cheaper materials to make a beautifully well-made product.
Take, for example, its use of concrete blocks to simulate wood, even down to the reflection and varnish. Or, how the six-story building towers over the central, south facing courtyard. A developer building for market rate would typically set the top story or two back, providing dimension that would make the courtyard feel more open and less encapsulated. However, Studio One Eleven opted for a much more nimble approach by simply painting the top floor a differing coloring, giving the illusion that the sixth floor is actually set back.
“The endgame is this,” Bohn said. “To have mixed-use, mixed-income, intergenerational facilities that people can cross-pollinate ideas, lives, and interactions. Imagine when you have a space where people are, for the most part, required to interact because you have a 99-seat theatre over here in the senior space where a young couple wants to go see something or the recreational space over in The Annex [the other affordable housing building]. This young couple then meets seniors and people from different backgrounds, begins to know them, empathizes with them, and maybe even perhaps seeks them out as babysitters or friends. One on hand, the senior is provided with a higher purpose and on the other, a younger generation who understands their elderly community rather than seeing them shipped to pasture.”