IT'S HARD TO IMAGINE THAT THIS VIBRANT infill community was a gritty, rundown parking lot in a former life. Today, the affordable neighborhood has traded its drab hues for a more lively palette—one that reflects the cultural influences of its Asian and Latino residents. Brightly colored planters and water fountains are adorned with tile work by local artisans, and the rhythmic architecture plays on California tradition.
The nonprofit Unity Council, which spearheaded the project, realized early on that the site was an ideal spot for revitalization. Its proximity to an existing BART station made it a draw not just for residents, but also for retailers hoping to capitalize on the natural flow of pedestrian traffic. The 10-acre transit village is now home to 30,000 square feet of retail space, 60,000 square feet of office space, a health clinic, a community resource center, a library, and 47 live/work units.
There is a vertical logic to the architecture. Retail is anchored at ground level, with community facilities on the second level and residential loft housing up top. Because the land parcel is an island in an urban sea, “it was important for it to be welcoming and visible from all sides, without having the appearance of a ‘back side,'” notes architect Ernesto Vasquez. The 360-degree visibility makes the enclave not just more beautiful, but more secure. All told, it's a whimsical place where safety doesn't take a back seat to affordability.
Category: Infill community; Entrant/Architect/ Land planner: McLarand Vasquez Emsiek & Partners, Irvine, Calif.; Builder: James E. Roberts-Obayashi Corp., Danville, Calif.; Developer: Unity Council, Oakland, Calif.; Landscape architect: PGA Design, Oakland
Learn more about markets featured in this article: Los Angeles, CA.