Dave Adams

Vallejo, Calif., was hit hard by the Great Recession, with the city declaring bankruptcy in 2008. Among the casualties were two long-vacant landmark buildings slated for condo development that went into foreclosure the next year. Irvine, Calif.–based Domus Development salvaged the structures—the original City Hall, built in 1872, and the Masonic Temple, built in 1917—and renovated them as the mixed-use Temple Art Lofts.

Catering to the Bay Area’s artist community, the new development offers 29 affordably priced live–work lofts as well as a spacious community art studio, a performance hall, and ground-floor retail space. The restored property has played a central role in revitalizing Vallejo’s arts and entertainment district and downtown waterfront area.

Temple Art Lofts’ distinctive exterior reflects the project’s unique character as an example of diligent historic preservation. The development team faced the major challenge of bringing the buildings up to code while preserving their ornate Classical Revival (Masonic Temple) and Italianate (City Hall) architecture, a task further compounded by problems with theft and vermin while the buildings were unoccupied.

Despite initial neighborhood opposition, financing hurdles, and numerous change orders, Temple Art Lofts is a resounding success. In addition to the property’s multiple design awards, its affordable prices and up-and-coming location have drawn residents. The units are 100 percent leased, with a lengthy waiting list.