COLORADO AVE —The Santa Monica-based nonprofit Step Up On Second, which provides support for homeless people suffering from mental illnesses, broke ground Friday on a new, $14 million housing project called Step Up on Colorado.
The Colorado Avenue location near Fifth Street will add 34 units of affordable housing in the city by the sea. It’s a joint effort between Step Up and affordable housing provider Hollywood Community Housing Corporation (HCHC).
The Colorado Avenue building is financed through a mix of public, private, and philanthropic funds provided by City Hall, the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, and Wells Fargo Bank.
“I never got so excited by dirt as I did today,” said Step Up President and CEO Tod Lipka at the groundbreaking.
A 100-year-old two-story rooming house previously sat on the lot, which has been cleared except for the heavy construction machinery.
“I remember when we first walked through the building before we bought it and I was literally afraid to be on the second floor because the building was so rickety,” Lipka said. “I thought it was all going to fall in.”
He asked attendees to imagine the new building, which will be just a few blocks from the nonprofit’s headquarters on Second Street where all kinds of support, from meals to job training, is provided. The western-most stop on the incoming Expo Light Rail will be a half a block away. Another Step Up building, a 46-studio building called Step Up on Fifth, is right around the corner.
“For us it’s about creating a sense of community and a sense of belonging,” Lipka said. “You can’t do any better than that. To be surrounded by your friends and community living in this lower class community is so amazing.”
Local dignitaries, including Santa Monica Mayor Pam O’Connor and L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, donned hard hats to scoop some ceremonial dirt with gold painted shovels. Former Mayor Bobby Shriver, an advocate for more housing for the homeless, was also in attendance.
“Step Up on Colorado combines HCHC’s 25-year record of developing award-winning, service-enriched affordable housing with Step Up’s 30 years of providing recovery services for individuals experiencing mental health issues” said HCHC Executive Director Bill Harris.
Step Up uses a “housing-first” model, which focuses on moving homeless people from the streets into their own apartments. Other issues, Lipka said, can be addressed once their housing is set.
Killefer Flammang Architects (KFA), a Santa Monica architect, is designing the five-story building.
The space includes two community rooms with kitchens, a computer lounge, and library. The design incorporates a green approach which will result in a LEED Silver certification.
“The design strategy provides residents a variety of spaces to enjoy alone or in small groups, while still being part of the larger community,” said Lise Bornstein, senior associate at KFA.