Proposals for Old City Jail Include Mix of Housing and Retail

By Megan Razzetti, Exclusive to EGP

Close to 200 people attended a community meeting last Thursday to hear presentations from the three finalists hoping to win city approval for their vision to bring new life to the dilapitated but historically significant Lincoln Heights Jail.

The city received nine proposals in response to its Request for Proposals (RFP) for the Lincoln Heights Jail Adaptive Reuse Project, but narrowed the list down to three. The RFP required respondents to include ideas that would serve the community and also provide economic growth within Lincoln Heights, along with other criteria.

“The city has really been looking at its assets through a different lens,” explained Gerald Gubatan, planning deputy for First District Councilman Gil Cedillo at the start of the meeting.

“There’s now a process where we can look at city properties, not necessarily as surplus,” but as major economic opportunity sites for the city, he said, adding that the City Council has declared the Lincoln Heights Jail one of those sites.

The three finalists include real estate investor and developer CIM Group, the nonprofit WORKS (Women Organizing Resources Knowledge and Services), and real estate developers Lincoln Properties and 15 Group.

Located on Avenue 19 near the Los Angeles River, the Lincoln Heights Jail is conveniently located within five to 10 minutes of six major freeways. Built in 1931, it boasts an Art Deco design. In 1993, the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission designated the building City Historic-Cultural Monument (No. 587), giving it local “Landmark Status.”

The city stopped using the facility as a jail in 1965. It would go on to house a number of nonprofit groups before being closed in 2014 due to safety and environmental concerns.

While each of the finalists has a distinct vision for how to redevelop the site, all three proposals call for a mixed-use approach that includes housing, retail space and green space, among other uses.

CIM’s proposal for “The Linc” envisions a multi-functional space incorporating commercial space and housing, some of which would be low-income. The plan also features restaurants, retail stores and a community garden to serve the residents of the area.

Three finalists hoping to win the bid to redevelop the vacant Lincoln Heights Jail, presented their projects during a public meeting on Aug. 13. (photo by Jay Cortez)

Three finalists hoping to win the bid to redevelop the vacant Lincoln Heights Jail, presented their projects during a public meeting on Aug. 13. (photo by Jay Cortez)

There are also plans to partner with L.A.-based Alma Backyard Farms, a social enterprise “focused on food education, job training for the formerly incarcerated and fresh food access to the local community,” said Helen Leung, co-executive director of LA Mas, a nonprofit group working with CIM.

“Las Alturas,” the proposal from WORKS, a nonprofit organization that supports women and affordable housing, has the support of former CD-1 councilman Ed Reyes. It features low-income housing, an art center, daycare, and gardens along the L.A River to accommodate seniors and children. The facility would also include 47 moderate-income homes and 66 permanent supportive housing units.

“What you see here today is a change of image, when you remove the iron bars and put them outside to allow green to grow, you’re talking about rebirth,” Reyes said in response to questioning from panelists. “We talk about access for the people who can afford to live here, that’s what this building needs. So yes, we want more development along the river, but we can’t forget for who.”

The final project, presented by the Lincoln Properties/Fifteen Group team and titled “The Makers District,” illustrated the developer’s vision for a more accessible district for pedestrians and bicyclists. The’ plan includes direct connections to the L.A. River and would create a “festival street,” where a part of adjacent Avenue 19  would be closed off and traffic rerouted for special events.

Many of those in the audience who spoke during public comment appeared to favor the WORKS’ proposal. Residents also expressed their concerns about gentrification and housing for the homeless.

The WORKS’ project gives more value to the community, said Northeast Los Angeles resident Eunissess Hernandez. “This project really values human life … there are retail opportunities but there’s also daycare,” Hernandez said. “Think about all the people that don’t see their families because they work two or three jobs to maintain their house.”

Each team was questioned by a Community Advisory Panel appointed by First District Councilman Gil Cedillo. The panel, according to Gubaton, includes a diverse mix of representatives from the Lincoln Heights community and public sector.

It includes Laura Acalla with city of Anaheim Community and Economic Development Dept., three members of the Lincoln Heights Neighborhood Council, Richard Larsen. Mario Marrufo and Mike Montes, John Menchaca, president and CEO of nonprofit El Arca, and educator and resident Leslie Olmos.

A 40-year resident of Lincoln Heights, Montes complained that the projects did not show enough concern for area youth.

“One of the biggest problems we have is engagement of 16-20 year old youth that don’t feel like they’re apart of the community,” Montes said during his questioning of Lincoln Properties’ proposal. “What actual plans do you have to make them feel that they are a part of something and that this isn’t just going to be a new island in Lincoln Heights, but an actual part of Lincoln Heights?” he said.

In response, the representative from Lincoln Properties said the developer is committed to working with community organizations, adding that the project wouldn’t be successful without a partnership with the community.

Meeting participants were able to fill out and submit comment cards which the panel will take under advisement when it makes it final decision on which project it will recommend to the city council for approval.

In an email Tuesday, Friends of the L.A River Executive Director Marissa Christensen said FOLAR has reviewed all three proposals to determine which is best aligned with criteria in the ARBOR Study and the LA River Revitalization Master Plan, as well as FOLAR’s recently developed set of river-adjacent development criteria.

“In viewing these proposals through that lens, we were elated to see that at least one of the proposals was strong in these categories,” Christensen said.

However, according to FOLAR communications and impact manager Michael Atkins, the group is not yet ready to say which proposal it prefers, but will be releasing a statement in the next few weeks giving more details.

 

Update 11/15/2017 to include Lincoln Properties’ partner in the proposal, real estate developer Fifteen Group.

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August 16, 2017  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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