Late last week, the LA Times reported that one of Downtown LA’s most beautiful examples of Victorian architecture (the kind we usually associate with San Francisco with those lovely bay windows and ornate facade details) will be receiving some major positive upgrades. Located at 5th and Main, the Victorian beauty known as the Pershing Hotel that was built in 1889 by real estate developer Charles Charnock, will be converted to 69 units of affordable housing for the homeless or very low income population and will be called the New Pershing Apartments. The $15 million project will be designed by Killefer Flammang Architects and take about one year to complete.
Construction began this week with green construction fencing wrapping around the perimeter of the structure along 5th and Main Street. The current 3-story Pershing Hotel, owned by Skid Row Housing Trust, will retain the original Victorian facade through a “shoring process” while a brand new 5-story structure housing 69 affordable units (65 studios and 4 one bedrooms) will be incorporated behind the facade along with 3,800 square feet of retail space on the ground floor. The process of incorporating new with old into a single structure, referred to as “facadectomy,” is a common practice in older cities with a large stock of historic structures, especially along the East Coast.
“To reduce the impact on the existing facades, the top two floors of the new building will be stepped back,” said Michael Alvidrez, who is the Executive Director of the Skid Row Housing Trust.
In addition, exterior materials for the new building will include brick, tile and plaster drawing from the Victorian and surrounding historic context according to Killefer Flammang. A landscaped 2,200 square-foot courtyard will serve as a “tranquil assembly area” and patio space with resident gardens will highlight the fourth and fifth levels.
Part of the solution to Downtown LA’s biggest challenge to clean up the gritty streets of the Historic Core depends on housing many of the area’s destitute in permanent supportive housing. I view this as a very positive step forward toward reaching that ultimate goal, which some view as the holy grail of the Downtown LA urban revitalization.
Cleaning up 5th and Main, in particular, is a very important step as this intersection has been known to be a troublesome spot for not only the destitute but for the new residents and businesses of the Historic Core as well. With all that said, our eventual goal should not be to house all the area’s poor in one concentrated location, as this will inevitably turn the area into “the projects,” but should be interspersed with market rate developments to help balance out the neighborhood, which is already happening.