Martin Luther King-Marcus Garvey Square Co-op Apts., Project of the Year: Apartment Renovation
Treve Johnson Martin Luther King-Marcus Garvey Square Co-op Apts., Project of the Year: Apartment Renovation

The Martin Luther King-Marcus Garvey Square Cooperative Apartments in San Francisco was one of the first developments of its kind in the late 1960s—it provided the opportunity for low-income individuals to build equity and stake ownership in their community. By 2008, however, the development was in poor condition and risked losing its Sec. 8 status and being foreclosed upon. Irvine, Calif.–based developer Related California not only renovated the complex, but also brought the community back to life with new amenities and a bright aesthetic, all while facing difficult financial challenges along the way.

“The project required private financing … just as the financial crisis was cresting. This, combined with a lawsuit filed by a dissident shareholder, created enormous obstacles,” says Steve Wraight, director of design at Related California. “Even though this is affordable housing, no low-­income housing tax credits were used, because the project is, and wanted to remain, a co-op, not a rental.”

Construction choices made during the renovation ensure that the life of the buildings will be more sustainable than the original structures.

“[There will be] much less [upkeep] than before, as we have introduced numerous energy-efficiency features,” Wraight says. “Materials such as galvanized metal deck railings, and tube steel for treillage were chosen for their durability and easy care.”

All the interior finishes in the units were redone, but the most significant changes occurred in the elevations and grounds. The hues chosen for the exteriors were inspired by the history of the Bay Area’s colorful homes, and a modern version of the historical San Francisco bay window was incorporated in the building fronts, providing a solution to a water intrusion problem caused by small exterior plant shelves in the original structures. The developer also built a community center, tennis court, playground, and courtyard, to foster a renewed sense of community.

Related continued to add value to the community by installing a new light-fixture pattern, security surveillance, and access-controlled gates.

“The renovation project transformed the property from a blighting influence on the community to a neighborhood asset and center of community,” Wraight says. —C.O.

MLK-Garvey received the 2012 Editors’ Choice Award for displaying the paramount achievements exemplified by all our winners—creative land use and financing, fine architecture, and sustainable construction.