WILSHIRE BLVD. — More than a year-and-a-half after a trio of dormant buildings on the West L.A. Veterans Affairs campus were designated to house homeless services, a nonprofit provider has been selected to operate one of the facilities.

New York-based nonprofit Common Ground and McCormack Baron Salazar, a national developer of mixed-income urban neighborhoods, were chosen recently to rehabilitate Building 209 on the VA campus and operate therapeutic and supportive homeless housing services, according to a statement released by the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System.

“Both organizations are nationally recognized in the areas of housing development and community revitalization,” the statement read. “This project will bring much needed housing to our homeless veterans in the Los Angeles area.”

A 90-day contract negotiation and execution period for an enhanced sharing agreement — the lease — is expected to commence.

Common Ground, which has no affiliation with the Santa Monica nonprofit that goes by the same name, has provided homeless supportive services and housing in New York for the past 19 years and has worked with McCormack Baron Salazar on a similar project at the Hudson Valley VA campus in Montrose, N.Y.

“It’s thrilling that this world-class organization has been selected and they’re working with great developers” said Santa Monica City Councilmember Bobby Shriver, a local proponent who pushed the Building 209 Homeless Housing Project, which would convert three existing facilities on the VA grounds to support homeless services.

Shriver said the organization is known for taking over dilapidated buildings in New York and rebuilding them into a mixed-use complex that includes ground floor retail, housing both market rate residents and homeless individuals.

The announcement comes more than seven months after federal officials decided to extend the terms of the building leases from 40 to 55 years, making it more feasible for service providers to overcome their biggest obstacle — securing financing.

Concerns with financing arose in early 2008 when new legislation banning future commercial development on the VA, as well as enhanced-use leases, was enacted, shortening the terms to 40 years.

The facility is expected to accommodate anywhere from 60 to 70 people at any given time.

Common Ground has worked with Los Angeles County officials on their Project 50 program, which aims to house the 50 most vulnerable homeless individuals on the streets of Skid Row. Santa Monica City Hall also partnered with Common Ground to create a detailed registry of the most vulnerable.

“We were not part of the selection of the nonprofit but our experience with Common Ground has been excellent.” Flora Gil Krisiloff, the Westside senior field deputy for Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky’s office, said. Yaroslavsky’s district includes Santa Monica.

Shriver said he expects Building 205 will be the next to come online with a provider, followed by Building 208.

“We have to find out if (Building 209) is financable,” he said. “If that’s OK, then Building 205 will come right away.”


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