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Wednesday, Jun 7, 2023

Vet Housing in AV

Ascarcity of veteran housing exists throughout L.A. County, so Relativity Architects, a boutique firm which juggles commercial and public projects, has partnered with non-profit Abbey Road and Penny Lane Centers to build affordable housing in the tough economic market of the Antelope Valley. Antelope Valley Apartments for Homeless Veterans and Families, a 75-unit structure in Lancaster, also known as Imagine Village I, will benefit 180 low-income residents. “This project addresses the housing needs of a variety of populations,” Los Angeles Community Development Commission Executive Director Sean Rogan said circa the June 2017 ground-breaking. “Once completed in 2018, veterans, low-income families and persons with special needs will have a great place to call home, surrounded by a multitude of supportive services.” In 2014, Hatch+Colasuonno Studio — led by Harriett Hatch and Luis Colasuonno, an adjunct professor at Burbank’s Woodbury University — brought Relativity onto Imagine Village I, with its March 2019 completion date. In Pacoima, Relativity completed the contemporary Moonlight Villas: 27 units of affordable housing for Penny Lane Centers and Los Angeles Housing Partnership. The commission provided $2.7 million in Affordable Housing Trust Funds for acquisition and permanent financing while the Housing Authority of the County of Los Angeles committed 17 project-based vouchers, and 33 Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing vouchers, to ensure the complex’s rent remains affordable. Imagine Village I will dedicate 33 units to homeless veterans, 17 units to homeless, 14 units to Los Angeles County Department of Health Services users, and 10 units to low-income families. Tima Bell — who for 10 years has lived with his wife and two kids in Van Nuys — formed Relativity Architects with Scott Sullivan of Santa Monica. Abode Communities will manage the three-story residential development features one-, two-, and three-bedroom homes as well as 6,000 square feet of commercial space. “This project embodies our vision,” said Penny Lane Centers Founder Ivelise Markovits in a statement. She believes statistics underscore a critical need for such housing. Nearly 30 percent of Lancaster residents live below the poverty line – more than double the national average – while 3,400 veterans call Antelope Valley home. For Relativity, working on affordable housing is different. “This is, in a way, part of doing it for our souls,” Bell said. Even though Antelope Valley’s square footage rates are relatively cheap, the project is not inexpensive because the government requires that workers be paid a prevailing wage. “You can’t go low-bid,” Bell continued. “Everybody makes (at least) $35 an hour.” Also, such projects entail a lot of paperwork. “Unlike commercial or market multifamily projects, affordable housing requires a significant amount of administration,” Sullivan said. Serpentine start Relativity formed five years ago with four full-time employees. Bell and Sullivan originally collaborated as master’s students at Southern California Institute of Architecture. With only $500, they created a pavilion for pre- and post-graduation ceremonies at SCI-Arc’s Westchester campus. The duo went their separate ways professionally, with Bell tackling commercial design work while Sullivan pursued in residential, only to reunite professionally in 2013, when they founded Relativity. Sullivan, whose projects had won awards while he was a senior designer at (fer) Studio, Marmol-Radzinger and Crockett Architects, said he relishes affordable housing projects. “Affordable housing doesn’t have the budget to be high design, but we work with a series of small measures that help people call a place home,” Sullivan said. “On some projects, we place desks adjacent to the kitchens (allowing) kids to do homework while another family member cooks dinner.” Relativity is no stranger to Los Angeles’ valleys. The West Hollywood-based firm has taken on assignments in the San Fernando Valley, where it has designed the interiors of Jasmine Thai and Mother Nature’s Remedy in Woodland Hills; and shuttered businesses Andrei Duman Gallery at The Village at Topanga in Woodland Hills and R Lounge in Studio City. The firm also designed a Woodbury University courtyard shared by maintenance buildings and the Architecture Department’s FabLab. Relativity’s global projects have included a 102-unit senior living resort along Vietnam’s Vam Co Dong River; an 80-bed girls dormitory in Nigeria’s Oron region; and a partnership with a South Korean company. “This isn’t a truly international project,” Relativity Director of Design Ginna Nguyen said of the latter, “as we designed a cafe called Street Churros (for them) at Hollywood & Highland. This is, however, the flagship project in the states of a franchise that has exponential popularity in South Korea. We met with the company in Seoul and helped them bring their concept here to the U.S.” Relativity also designed extensions to Netflix’s and Buzzfeed’s respective studios in Hollywood. Bell and Sullivan are currently working on the 36-key Venice boutique V Hotel; a 300,000-square-foot Brooklyn, New York movie studio; and Metropolitan, the redevelopment of 1 million square feet of industrial space in Atlanta. However, it is projects such as Imagine Village I which fill Relativity’s founders with the most pride. “It is one of our most prized activities to be able to provide a home for people who may never have had one,” Sullivan said. “Nobody should be without a home,” Bell added.

Michael Aushenker
Michael Aushenker
A graduate of Cornell University, Michael covers commercial real estate for the San Fernando Valley Business Journal. Prior to the Business Journal, Michael covered the community and entertainment beats as a staff writer for various newspapers, including the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, The Palisadian-Post, The Argonaut and Acorn Newspapers. He has also freelanced for the Santa Barbara Independent, VC Reporter, Malibu Times and Los Feliz Ledger.

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