Historic L.A. Landmark To Be Preserved As Affordable Housing

This plan upgrades an historic building while it helps house the disadvantaged.

By James L. Knobloch November 7, 2016
Image courtesy Carrier Johnson + CULTURE via Twitter

Los Angeles is one of the most popular cities in the world—a hub for food, fashion, culture and celebrity, all colliding in a sometimes incongruous but still awesome blend. But like any big city, the City of Angels is also not without its problems.

A new project on Skid Row, however, aims to tackle two of those problems—affordable housing for the underserved population and the preservation of historic landmarks—in one fell swoop.

Related: Los Angeles: The Next Stop On The L Train—With Skyscrapers, Too

The century-old Panama Hotel, which has previously served as emergency temporary housing, is being converted into permanent supportive housing by low-income housing developer SRO Housing Corp. The conversion will all but gut the original interior layout when 219 cramped emergency housing units becomes 72 furnished micro-studio apartments—a move that reflects the recent trend of waning funding for emergency housing in favor of permanent supportive housing projects.

It is hoped that the new apartments, which will each have a private living area, bathroom, closet and small kitchenette, will “more adequately provide for the needs of the occupants and better create a sense of home by allowing them to bath and cook meals in the privacy of their own space” than the previous single room “dorm style” arrangement. The $12 million renovation will provide residents of the Panama Hotel with “common laundry and resident gathering areas, offices for on-site case workers, and a bicycle storage area,” which will provide “in-building access to caseworkers, counselors and other support resources.”

The project, from Carrier Johnson + Culture Architects, aims to “provide a safe, comfortable, and sustainable environment for the people who will live and work there while respecting the historic character of the existing structure.”

But wait, there’s more!

Related: Los Angeles: The Next Stop On The L Train—With Skyscrapers, Too

In addition to providing supportive affordable housing, and preserving much of the exterior’s historic charms (working within the guidelines proposed by the State Historic Preservation Officer), when completed, the new and improved Panama Hotel will not only have been raised to today’s building standards, but also made significantly more eco-friendly.

A solar thermal system will meet as much as half of the building’s heat and hot water needs, and a cooling roof design will provide efficient temperature control. And while the deteriorating brick envelope of the building will be repaired and preserved (including its vintage neon sign), the interior structures will be removed, and new systems built within the same shell to improve the “acoustic, thermal, and structural performance of the building.”

While this and similar projects aren’t exactly bringing back the area’s bygone days as a bustling center of hotels and restaurants, anchored by the long-gone Central station, whether you crusade for historic preservation, affordable housing, or even sustainable building practices, you can mark this project down as a “win.”

James L. Knobloch

ABOUT THE AUTHOR James L. Knobloch

ABOUT THE AUTHOR James L. Knobloch

A creative professional with a sharp tongue and a big smile, taking on city living one slightly-veiled sarcastic comment at a time. Born and raised just outside of New Orleans, James is a living testament to his own mantra, “Southern hospitality is a privilege, not a right,” giving his work a unique, dry humor meets charm perspective.

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