This mixed-use project, currently under construction, addresses an unusually complex program. Located in a redeveloping urban area, it combines commercial uses at street level with 250 affordable rental units above, including 63 apartments for elderly tenants and 25 for young adults formerly in foster care. Design architect Eric Naslund says that the team worked around the realities of having to design for two different groups of people, both of whom needed special services.“It’s like having two neighborhoods in one building,” says Ernesto Vasquez, architect of record, who adds that getting the project off the ground required an all-fronts effort to secure funding, generate neighborhood support, and solve the technical problems of building on a tight urban infill site (half an acre).

“The design is based on this question,” says Naslund. “How do you put a sustainably-designed high-rise into a neighborhood that already has fabric and scale? How do you make sure that the building takes advantage of San Diego’s ideal climate and downtown streetlife?” The building’s ability to blend in with adjacent structures, its tower inset, and its rooftop outdoor spaces (“that roof is where all the gardens are”), all contribute to its being “highly amentized,” says Naslund—a term more often used by luxury developers than by designers of affordable housing. 

The high-rise structure consists of a “plinth,” scaled to match surrounding historic buildings, and a tower that steps back from the street-front façade. The tower’s smaller footprint serves “to activate the base to address its urban responsibilities and contribute to the street life of the area,” Vasquez says. While including separate entrances for elders and youth, the building also provides outdoor terraces where the groups can mingle.

The apartments include micro units as small as 350 square feet, but high ceilings and city views will lend a spacious feeling. The building’s transit-friendly location, limited parking, natural ventilation, and efficient systems will minimize environmental impact. “We’re shooting for at least a LEED Silver level,” Vasquez says. Windows face southwest (to shield the openings from the setting western sun) and offer views across the ballpark to the bay and the ocean beyond. A veil of solar panels drapes across the top of the structure and down its side, providing “a very direct view of how the thing is producing its own energy,” says Naslund. “We didn’t try to hide the panels. We celebrated them.” Underneath the solar veil on the building’s 15th floor is carved a terrace--common space that offers downtown and ocean views to all residents. The jury praised the project for serving disparate user groups while conveying a “high-end” feeling.

On Site Due to the small site, the tower crane used during construction stood inside the building footprint, on a footing that was required to be designed and permitted as part of the permanent foundation.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: San Diego, CA, Los Angeles, CA.