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A 'victory' for Koreatown, huge Vermont Corridor project moves forward

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New 13-story tower, a community center, retail, more than 200 units of housing

County supervisors unanimously approved Tuesday a plan to redevelop older buildings and parking lots along Vermont Avenue with new government offices, a community center, and housing. Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said the project will erase blight and called it "victory" for the Koreatown community.

Right now, county-owned land along Vermont Avenue between Fourth and Sixth streets house the department of mental health, parks and recreation, and community and senior services. In development plans, the properties are divided into three sites from which two new buildings—one for the county department of mental health and the other for affordable housing—will rise. One of the existing buildings will be transformed into a collection of market-rate residential units.

Site One houses the parks and rec office building, a parking lot, a red-tagged building, but will give way to a new, $270-million tower that will, "consolidate administration offices throughout the area and be the home to nearly 2,000 [department of mental health] employees." County documents indicate the building will rise 13 stories with 10,000 square feet of retail. Included in this site is a parking structure that would be built on an existing parking lot at Sixth Street and Shatto Place.

At the second site, the existing department of mental health and senior services building will be turned into market-rate housing. Trammell wouldn’t say which architects are working on the project, but Steinberg Architects says on its website that it is. The refurbished, 12-story building will be wrapped in "articulated bracing" that serves to help seismically reinforce the building while also giving it a cool, distinctive facade. According to county documents, the building will have 172 units and 4,700 square feet of retail space.

The third site houses the parks and rec offices now, but a proposal from the developer partnering with the county on the project, Trammel Crow Company, calls for a new complex with 72 units of affordable senior housing and a 12,500-square-foot community center.

Much of the public comment at the board’s meeting came out in strong support of the addition of the community center. (Originally, the county's request for development proposals had called for retail in that spot.) But some said that in the park-poor neighborhood, 12,500-square feet is not big enough. Many wanting more space cited the case of a YMCA that opened two years ago on Oxford and Third streets. After just two years, the center is has far exceeded the membership expectations. The president and CEO of the YMCA of Metropolitan Los Angeles, Alan Hostrup, acknowledged the center has far more members than it was designed to accommodate and described it as, "bustin’ at the seams."

This stage of the project "round one," Ridley-Thomas said. "We will do more. Count on it."

Developers are expected to spend 18 to 21 more months taking care of the pre-development work (e.g. environmental review, entitlements) before coming back to the county Board of Supervisors in April 2018 to discuss a ground lease and approval of the project budget.