Patience Makes Perfect
For more than 16 years, the Oakland Housing Authority waited to assemble land parcels in downtown Oakland, Calif., adjacent to its administrative building, which includes affordable senior housing. Its goal was to construct additional rental apartments for the same demographic. By purchasing two adjoining sites, its nonprofit affiliate, Oakland Housing Initiatives (OHI), gained sufficient density for its new entity, Harrison Street Senior Housing, at the corner of Harrison and 17th streets.
Because of its experience forming public–private partnerships to develop affordable senior housing with government funds, OHI approached Oakland-based Christian Church Homes (CCH), another nonprofit that has long worked in the sector. Locally based Pyatok Architects conducted feasibility studies to maximize unit count while complementing the area’s low-rise scale. The result: an L-shaped, 67,000-square-foot, six-story building with 72 one-bedroom apartments.
The architects chose bold features, including vivid colors with complementary hues, to accentuate the building’s corner site. They also wanted to rival market-rate housing. To achieve a high GreenPoint rating from local green rater Build It Green, the former gas-station site was remediated and waste was diverted. The building was constructed from cement plaster over a concrete base; bays and recesses were built with cement board panels. To ensure safety, handrails were installed along hallways.
To encourage socializing, the team designated shared spaces throughout the building, among them a light-filled, Douglas fir–paneled lobby (above) with adjacent mailbox area and nearby community lounge. Landscape architect Chris Pattillo of PGA Designs in Oakland designed a small outdoor courtyard above the parking garage, and a two-story glass stairway connects indoor and outdoor areas physically and visually. Residents can garden in the courtyard, which includes a fountain and citrus trees.
More than 800 people applied to live at Harrison, with selections made by lottery. About 150 remain on a wait list. The building’s $22 million development cost was funded mostly by HUD’s Sec. 202 program, Supportive Housing for the Elderly, and Sec. 8, as well as federal low-income housing tax credits and the city of Oakland’s redevelopment funds. The project has reportedly improved the area because of its attractive building and stable population.