La Placita Cinco
- Project Location:
2239 West 5th Street, Santa Ana, CA 92703
- Project Description:
La Placita Cinco repurposes the prototypical auto-oriented strip mall into a neighborhood-serving, inclusive community consisting of family-oriented affordable homes, outdoor amenities, and reinvigorated commercial center. Located in the Artesia Pilar neighborhood of Santa Ana near the planned OC Streetcar, the affordable housing and community development leverages the under-utilized land area of inefficient surface parking lot and a dormant gas station to develop fifty affordable apartment homes oriented around a common courtyard, with community amenities and services on the ground floor.
The site, formerly called Tiny Tim Plaza, is a 2.25-acre property located at the northeast corner of Fifth and Hawley Streets situated between a residential neighborhood to the north and east, and industrial and commercial uses to the south and west. The original half-century old retail center consisted of 2 single-story commercial buildings along the north and east edges of the property, set back from the street behind a large surface parking lot and former gas station. The asphalt surface area encompassed over two thirds of the property with ill-defined edges that blended into the pedestrian walkways in front of the building storefronts and adjacent public sidewalks.
The new development, renamed La Placita Cinco, replaces the former gas station and large portion of the parking lot with a new residential building and a pedestrian-friendly park and plaza, while preserving and improving the existing commercial buildings. The new 4-story building, encompassing a third of the overall property, provides 51 two- three- and four-bedroom apartment homes around a central courtyard, above ground floor community space. The massing of the building provides a strong urban edge along the Fifth Street commercial corridor, while responding to the Hawley Street residential connector by opening its courtyard and stepping down the building height going north.
The two commercial buildings and all their tenants remain and are integrated into a reimagined site plan that is anchored by the three buildings. The commercial buildings are reinvigorated by the complete transformation of the building facades with new architecture, signage, and enhanced pedestrian [ADA] access. This also included addressing long deferred maintenance of the buildings including roof repairs, storefronts, and access.
The original asphalt parking area was fully re-imagined with a pedestrian focus while still maintaining a vehicle access lane for delivery, refuse, and emergency services and commercial parking spaces. Wide, landscaped plazas were added along the retail facades, allowing the businesses to extend their operations outdoors, including outdoor dining, and to support pop-up programming such as farmers markets and special events. Between the two retail buildings, a mini park was added to accommodate a variety of uses, from fitness programs and concerts, to a welcoming place to meet a friend or let children play while running errands). The former service alley along the north property line is transformed into an urban farm that can provide farm-to-table produce for several on-site businesses.
La Placita Cinco remained open for its retail tenants throughout the duration of construction and the affordable housing building is fully leased and occupied as of March 2021
- Project Justification:
The project resulted from substantial collaboration between the developer, design team members, contractors, and community. Development of a vacant gas station and parking lot to a new transit-oriented multifamily housing complex will help drive additional investment and improvements for the neighboring properties lining the future OC Streetcar.
There were many site conditions, project features, and complexities that set this project apart:
• Community engagement throughout planning, design, and construction
• Demolition, removal, and cleanup of vacant gas station
• Partnership between design team members, especially structural and geotechnical engineer, to evaluate liquefaction potential and mitigate impacts, leading to a significant optimization of the foundation design.
• Phasing construction so existing business could remain open, including customer parking, allowing the business to continue making money and employ their staff, while also providing essential services for the surrounding community
• Engaged local artists to design and paint murals on the new buildings to help tie the complex to the community and provide an even greater sense of pride in the new development.
The project also incorporates sustainability and environmentally friendly aspects.
The design team incorporated solutions to address community concerns related to traffic safety and future plans for active transportation to coincide with the OC Streetcar that travels past the project site. The project’s transportation enhancements improve safety and improve pedestrian and bicyclist access to the site, which diversify mobility options for residents and business patrons leading to reductions in automobile generated greenhouse gas emissions. This also included installing a significant amount of secured and convenient bicycle parking. The existing utilities were also undergrounded as part of the development, addressing community concerns about visual blight from infrastructure.
La Placita Cinco is environmentally restorative through a variety of embedded and added elements from site design to building construction and systems. The former Tiny Tim Plaza was an impermeable 2.25-acre site complete with a dark surface asphalt parking lot encompassing two thirds of the overall area. The project reduced that paved parking area to a small fraction of its former self, replacing it with landscape areas, permeable surfaces, buildings, and sustainable stormwater management facilities that retains and treats all runoff on-site. The combination of light-pigment paving, landscape areas, new tree canopy, and white roofs also substantially reduce the local urban heat island. The new mixed-use building will also be LEED Certified.
- Special Circumstances:
Collaboration between the surrounding residents, existing business owners, affordable housing developer (Community Development Partners), resident services provider (Mercy House), along with the design team and contractor to provide an extremely impactful project for the area.
Recent awards from other organizations include:
• Affordable Housing Finance, Jack Kemp Excellence in Affordable and Workforce Housing Finance Awards (2021)
• Southern California Association of Nonprofit Housing (SCANPH), Homes Within Reach Awards, 2021 Development of the Year
• Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) 2021 Sustainability Awards, Housing Innovation Category, Honorable Mention
• PCBC Annual Gold Nugget Awards, Best Affordable Housing Community, Award of Merit (2021)
- Project Attachments:
- Award Citation::
La Placita Cinco is a great example of what happens when a developer, design team, and contractor partner with the community to create a housing development. Located near the planned OC Streetcar, the design team optimized the design to leverage the under-utilized parking lot and dormant gas station to develop fifty affordable apartment homes and re-energize existing storefronts.
- Suggested Award Summary:
La Placita Cinco is a great example of what happens when a developer, design team, and contractor partner with the community to create a new housing development that benefits both the new residents and the surrounding area. The project repurposed an aging strip mall into a neighborhood-serving, inclusive community consisting of family-oriented affordable homes, outdoor amenities, and reinvigorated commercial center. Located in the Artesia Pilar neighborhood of Santa Ana near the planned OC Streetcar, the affordable housing and community development leveraged the under-utilized parking lot and dormant gas station to develop fifty affordable apartment homes and provide a fresh façade for the existing commercial spaces, while prioritizing the businesses’ need to stay open throughout construction.
Understanding the budget sensitivity of affordable housing projects, the project’s architects, engineers, and contractor collaborated with the Community Development Partners’ leadership from initial planning through construction to provide practical cost-efficient approaches for the design and development of the housing community. The project team addressed complexities such as potentially liquefiable soil, restrictive utility easements, and construction phasing constraints to bring the new vibrant residential facility to reality while limiting the impact to, and ultimately improving, the surrounding existing businesses.