A new, ‘first-class’ high-rise will house homeless people on L.A.’s skid row


Construction kicked off Tuesday on a 19-story homeless housing project designed to reshape a corner of skid row in the image of more well-to-do environs.


The 278-unit Weingart Tower will replace a parking lot at 555 S. Crocker St., around the corner from the Weingart Center, the project’s developer in collaboration with affordable housing developer Chelsea Investment Corp. The building is expected to open in December 2023.


Weingart Tower is the first stage of a project that will eventually comprise 382 units, dwarfing Weingart’s existing facility, in the 11-story former El Rey Hotel, which is already more than twice as tall as any other building around it.


The metal-and-glass high-rise will “improve the neighborhood through architecture,” Weingart Chief Executive Kevin Murray said in announcing the conceptual plan by Joseph Wong Design Associates in a 2017 interview. AXIS/GFA Architecture + Design is the project architect.


“One of the things we asked the architect is we don’t want it to look like a housing project,” Murray, a former state senator, said “We want it to look like one of these other first-class downtown apartments.”


The $160-million first phase will include 228 studio units and 47 one-bedroom units, all coupled to supportive services including case management, medical and mental health treatment services, client plan development, group meetings and a meals program. Three units will be for managers.


The project is receiving $32 million from Proposition HHH, the $1.2-billion bond measure approved by voters in 2016. The Weingart Foundation played a major role in getting HHH passed.


Other funding was obtained from Pacific Western Bank, tax credit equity invested by the Richman Group and funds from several state programs.


Mayor Eric Garcetti, addressing the crowd at a small groundbreaking ceremony, talked about the restaurants, sports arena and other developments that have opened downtown. The Weingart project symbolizes the “city of belonging” that’s accessible to all individuals, Garcetti said.


“We love seeing downtown revitalized over the last two decades,” the mayor said. But he added, “You shouldn’t have to be rich to enjoy it, you shouldn’t have had a lucky life to enjoy that.”


The mayor also suggested the city’s efforts to turn around the homeless crisis will soon pay off. “The next five years, you will see a dip in homelessness because of the work that we have laid out,” Garcetti said.


Times staff writer Dakota Smith contributed to this report.

Article Date: 
Tuesday, September 28, 2021