Building on the success of The Burbank Senior Artists Colony, Meta Housing Corporation is now banking on its innovative senior housing model to serve as an economic catalyst for the NoHo Arts District’s east side. The company is now building a similar art themed $42 million senior housing project on 10747 Magnolia Blvd. that is slated to open by mid 2012. “This is going to be a key part of redeveloping the NoHo Arts District,” said Aaron Mandel, vice president of Meta Housing Corporation, a company that has carved out a profitable niche developing affordable and mixed-income senior housing projects. Built in partnership with the Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles, the new NoHo Senior Artists Colony will consist of 126-units and will include 15,000 square feet of studio gallery and classroom space for seniors, as well as a 76-seat performance theater which will house a resident production company. “We believe this project will have a catalytic effect in this neighborhood and will help transform the area,” said Los Angeles City Community Redevelopment Agency Project Manager Gazala Pirzada, at a ground breaking ceremony Jan. 20. Pirzada said the CRA visited the Burbank Senior Artists Colony a few years ago and decided they wanted to incorporate a similar project in their redevelopment efforts in NoHo. The development would be a good way to advance the district’s recognition and reputation as a cultural, tourism destination area, she said, and so the CRA reached out to Meta Housing Corporation to carry out the project. The new art themed development hopes to lure artistically inclined residents older than 55 years of age who would not mind paying premium rents in exchange for services and amenities. Senior model Meta Housing Corporation, which got its start back in 1993 developing resort-style housing for seniors in the San Fernando Valley, has proved that the model is financially viable. “The Burbank Senior Artists Colony is 90-95 percent leased with rents higher than those in the surrounding neighborhood,” Mandel said. Opened in 2005, the Burbank complex offers one and two bedroom apartments that rent for up to $2,662. According to the developer, the Burbank colony has successfully gathered true artists and fancied ones- dancers, musicians, painters, sculptors, and writers- who have access to a video and film editing lab, two art studios and programming delivered by EngAGE, a non profit that offers on-site arts and cultural activities to residents. The programs, which are free for tenants, include yoga and aqua aerobics, as well as workshops that cover topics such as writing for television, drawing and acting. The new NoHo Senior Artists Colony will also partner with EngAGE to offer senior programming; however it goes a step further than the Burbank development by providing a professional grade theater in the premises. The Road Theatre Company, a non profit based at the Lankershim Art Center, which celebrated its 20th anniversary this year, will operate as The Road on Riverton theater within the apartment community. “The Road Theatre is a very valued cultural asset in the area,” said Pirzada. “This will mean improved access to cultural activities for the entire community that will live in and around this project.” Other amenities The project will also include open space within three landscaped courtyards, a swimming pool and a spa, a library, billiards room, a fitness center, art gallery and exhibit space, computer media center, digital video editing and filmmaking lab, radio recording and editing lab. The Burbank development, which the company claims was the nation’s first purpose-built senior artist community, followed the construction of The Piedmont on Vanowen and Whitsett in North Hollywood- a luxury senior apartment community built by Meta Housing Corp. in 2002. That apartment community did not have an arts theme, however it did partner with EngAGE to offer activities and programming to the senior residents. The Piedmont is also getting premium rents even in a difficult economy, according to Mandel. Rents for the new NoHo Colony have not been determined yet, as the project is still 18 months away from completion. Although Meta Housing Corp. has a proven track record of developing successful senior housing projects, getting the NoHo project off the ground was particularly complex especially as a result of the difficult credit markets. John Huskey, president of Meta Housing Corporation said the project often teetered on the edge of feasibility. To jumpstart the project CRA/LA purchased the property on Magnolia Boulevard for $5.8 million, provided a pre-development loan and leased the property to Meta Housing Corporation for 57 years. The project financing also includes $25.2 million in tax-exempt bonds from the California Statewide Communities Development Authority, $2 million in tax credits, and $3.4 million in developer equity and deferred fees. “At the darkest moments, this project couldn’t make it because mortgage rates were too high,” said Huskey. “But then, as part of the stimulus package the Obama administration put forth a program called the New Issue Bond Program that gave us 42 year money at about a percent and a half lower than market rate and that was key.” The project is being built by Glendale-based Optimus Construction Inc.