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First look at huge apartment complex planned for LA River

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419 apartments and commercial space

A developer wants to tear down a warehouse on the Los Angeles River, on the border of Atwater Village and Glassell Park, to build 419 apartments, a project the architect envisions as a gateway to 18 acres of green space.

"We want to give it some life," Mark Motonaga, a partner with Rios Clementi Hale Studios, told Curbed.

The complex is proposed at 2750 West Casitas Avenue, right next to the 2 freeway. Casitas is one of just two access points onto the Bowtie Parcel, a former rail yard purchased by the state in 2003 that has since been turned into a venue to camp and make art.

The apartments, 35 of which would be reserved for tenants with lower incomes, would be on the east side of the river, in five-story buildings that form a triangle shape. A parking garage would serve as a buffer between the units and the freeway. Plans call for 39,600 square feet of ground-floor commercial space, likely to translate into restaurants and a community center for artists.

"Obviously we have density," Motonaga said. So to make the complex appear lighter, on the upper floors, alternating units will be set back, creating space for shared courtyards. Motonaga said he took design inspiration from industrial warehouses of Frogtown and the modernist hillside homes of Silverlake.

Plans were filed Aug. 8 with the city. The developer is listed as 2800 Casitas LLC, which as the Real Deal has reported, is tied to New York-based Pan Am Equities, which "owns more than 85 buildings throughout Manhattan. This appears to be the developers first venture outside of New York City." Pan Am needs the city to grant a zoning change, because the site is earmarked for heavy manufacturing.

"With the river being such a hot bed of activity ... having heavy heavy industrial seems antithetical," Motonaga said.

Eastsider LA notes 50 apartments are under construction right now across the river from Bow Tie Yard.