KTGY proposes modular buildings on Skid Row for LA’s homeless

Architecture firm’s The Essential would have estimated construction costs of $500 psf

David Senden and a rendering of The Essential
KTGY's David Senden and a rendering of The Essential (KTGY)

Architecture firm KTGY has designed 14 apartment buildings that could house 4,690 people on L.A.’s Skid Row, the epicenter of the homeless crisis.

The Essential would consist of high-rise buildings which would rise up to 12 stories. Each could house 335 residents with amenities such as libraries and vocational training centers in the building’s lower floors, according to stories first reported in Los Angeles Business Journal and Fast Company.

Construction at 166 Alvarado Street could come faster and cheaper with modular buildings, because parts of the building would be constructed off-site and transported into the development site, according to media reports. KTGY forecasts the cost of building a modular high-rise for The Essential would come to between $55 million and $60 million. Mark Oberholzer, a KTGY principal, said modular techniques could cut construction costs to about $500 a square foot. The construction timeline for an Essential high-rise could span from a year to 18 months.

The Essential would not serve as cookie-cutter housing, said David Senden, another KTGY principal. “This isn’t a whole bunch of little boxes that people will go into, that’s not the way this is designed. We think of it as a vertical cul-de-sac, where each floor is its own neighborhood,” he said.

KTGY executives have not formally pitched The Essential to any branch of the Los Angeles city government.

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Mayor Karen Bass made a campaign to end homelessness a focus of her administration, but 

the need for more permanent supportive housing and affordable housing has increased in urgency since the recent collapse of The Skid Row Housing Trust, which was a major provider of housing for the unsheltered in downtown Los Angeles. While the City of Los Angeles has appointed a new receiver to resuscitate Skid Row Housing Trust, Amy Turk, CEO of Downtown Women’s Center, told Fast Company that new ideas are crucial. 

“We have to go to scale, and we have to build differently, so anything that provides a permanent housing solution in this community is so obviously needed,” Turk said.

Andrew Asch

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