2007 MFE Awards
Project of the Year: Best Reuse of Land
Forget the fact that gangs were roaming the blighted Lincoln Heights industrial wasteland where AMCAL Multi-Housing planned a 12-acre affordable and workforce housing complex just 2 miles from downtown Los Angeles. It was contaminated soil—not contaminated culture—that almost stopped this seminal transit-oriented development from breaking ground.
“We knew we had to do significant environmental remediation to the site,” says AMCAL president Percy Vaz. “Thankfully, we didn't run into any gangs, although we've dealt with that before as workforce developers in Los Angeles. We were prepared for that eventuality.” What AMCAL wasn't prepared for were 2-ton lead kilns buried underneath the site that unfortunately were not discovered until the process of demolition and construction had already begun. The kilns were so large that when excavators hit them, the team thought they had reached bedrock.
“We had done exhaustive environmental studies, and at the outset, our best estimates were that it was going to cost $800,000 to $1 million to remediate the soils,” Vaz explains. “It wasn't until we started digging that we were hitting things that obviously did not come up in the studies.” The remediation soon stretched seven months and eventually cost AMCAL $6.2 million. “A nasty surprise,” Vaz says.
After total development costs of $109 million, the now-completed Avenue 26 Master Plan development of 534 affordable and workforce apartments and condominiums nonetheless stands as marked achievement in land re-use, spurring development interest at four adjacent sites. Prior to Avenue 26, there had been no new development in Lincoln Heights for more than 20 years.
In addition to new residents, the neighborhood is getting plenty of visitors, as word of mouth of the landmark workforce community spreads. “We've been surprised by the number of tours—financial institutions, city planning staffs, the Urban Land Institute, non-profit groups, UCLA, and USC,” Paz says. “We might be able to finance our next project by charging $10 for the tour.”
Jokes aside, the financial upshot looks pretty good. After decades of decline, Paz says, Lincoln Heights is now outpacing all other L.A. County neighborhoods in property price appreciation. Part of that, he modestly supposes, is due to the success of Avenue 26.
Editor's note:Avenue 26 Master Plan also received the Editors' Choice Award, a best in show honor, at the MULTIFAMILY EXECUTIVE Awards Gala on Oct. 3, 2007.
- Builder: AMCAL General Contractors
- Developer: AMCAL Multi-Housing, Foundation for Affordable Housing, W.O.R.K.S.
- Architects: Van Tilburg, Banvard and Soderbergh; Newman, Garrison, Gilmour + Partners
- Opened: November 2006
- Units: 534
- Unit Mix: One-, two-, three-, and four-bedrooms
- Prices: $389 to $1,206 to rent; $249,000 to $530,000 to buy
Judge's Verdict“THE JUDGES WERE SO IMPRESSED WITH THE VISION THAT IT TOOK TO TRANSFORM THIS SITE FROM ITS FORMER USE INTO WHAT IT HAS BECOME TODAY. IT SHOWS THAT WITH A STRONG VISION, JUST ABOUT ANY NEIGHBORHOOD CAN BE TRANSFORMED.”
—Dave Woodward, CEO and managing partner, Laramar Communities