CITY HALL — In 2004, City Hall began looking for the right design-build team to complete its vision of a mixed-use apartment and retail complex that would integrate seamlessly into the fabric of the wider plan for the Civic Center.
The complex, overlooking the expanse of the Pacific Ocean, would lie on municipal property adjacent to not only the brand new Palisades Garden Walk Park, but also near the center of public life itself, City Hall.
After seven years of planning and false starts because of problems securing financing during the economic downturn, the public process began to make that vision a reality.
Last Monday, the Architectural Review Board had the opportunity to weigh in on The Village, a 325-unit complex spread across three addresses on the 1700 block of Ocean Avenue.
The complex, being developed by Related Companies, will be split into sites — entitled A, B and C — each with distinct architecture, colors and materials.
Site A will be comprised of two, six-story buildings oriented east-west and connected by a floating glass sky bridge at the fifth floor.
The site will use lighter colors and a smooth, plaster finish to complement the nearby City Hall and County Courthouse buildings to the east, and the bottom level will gleam with a bit of modernism from the aluminum-framed retail spaces.
“It’s color-inspired architecture,” said John Ruble, of architectural firm Moore Rubel and Yudell (MRY). The company completed the design on the two market-rate sites of the project, labeled A and C.
Angled walls and stepbacks lessen the mass of the building, and exterior balconies and walkways help to make the outside more visually engaging.
Plans include a mix of stucco, composite cement and laminated glass panels to provide a “mixture of textures and colors,” according to the staff report.
With site C, Ruble told board members, the thought was less to the colors, and more to the materials used in the design, which will age gracefully with the building.
Site C is separated from A and B, next to an existing four-story office building. It has only 93 condominiums in its 10 stories.
“With 1733 Ocean Ave. on one side and the Viceroy Hotel on the other, in terms of scale and transition, we saw an opportunity for a different approach on materiality,” Ruble said. “What we were drawn to is a set of natural materials that will age. It wasn’t color choices so much as material choices.”
On the C site, the retail component has an even stronger presence, 17 feet floor-to-floor rather than 15 feet on site A.
Above the retail, residential elements like balconies and windows will have a medium-sized look, Ruble said, with large open spaces between.
“The warm colors of the building materials will be complemented by the cool colors of the glass,” he said.
Site B, designed by Koning Eizenberg Architecture, is home to all 160 affordable housing units in the project, including 10 loft-style artist live-work units, which are located on the ground floor facing Ocean Avenue and the “Living Street,” a public open space that connects sites A and B.
The buildings with artists units have dark vertical metal panels on the upper floors that contrast with the stone seen on higher levels. Site B’s design also comes with solar panels, to improve the projects eco-footprint.
Two of site B’s three buildings measure five and six stories in height, while the smallest of the three goes up only four stories, according to the staff report.
The differences in height create a “step down” effect, and let more light onto the walkway below.
Living quarters are arranged around a series of courtyard gardens and activity spaces for residents and guests.
Part of the goal of the design was to make a place that was both a residential community and a vibrant public space that connected to the nearby Palisades Garden Walk, said Pooja Bhagat, project manager with MYR.
“It’s a very interesting urban fabric and public open space that everyone can go through and becomes a public open space,” Bhagat said.
Board members complimented the two groups on their use of a variety of materials that kept the buildings engaging without letting them get garish.
“To have this much visual variety is what makes it successful in my mind,” said Board member Lynn Robb.
Chair Michael Folonis, an architect, praised Koning Eizenberg for its work on the affordable housing units.
“People think it’s a step below the way it looks for market rate,” he said. “This is clearly not the condition in this situation. I applaud the architect for the effort and creativity placed in the affordable housing.”
Folonis admitted that while the condominium building on site C hadn’t impressed him originally, he embraced the project as presented.
“There’s an incredible amount of articulation,” he said. “The material change, color change, all sorts of things going on with that particular elevation.”
The board voted unanimously to approve the design, excluding the landscaping, which board members felt they had not had time to adequately explore.
That came as a relief to Bhagat, who has been living and breathing the project since 2004, when MYR first put in its opening letter of interest.
“We’re so excited that it’s going to break ground and move forward,” Bhagat said. “We take a lot of pride in where we live. We’re happy to not only live in Santa Monica, but to be contributing to the urban facade.”