Last June, a new chapter for Los Angeles’ fast-rising South Park district was delivered when a $144 million, 362-unit multifamily community called WREN warmly greeted its first residents.
The glittering pair of seven-story buildings transform the skyline along Pico Boulevard through a series of innovations, including the city’s first Type III double-podium design. The project is earning rave reviews from the owner, tenants, city officials, and the designer community.
WREN launches a six-building, $1.2 billion South Park community that will ultimately add over 2,000 rental units to the city’s housing stock. “The owner has big plans. WREN brings the first phase of that vision to market quickly,” explains Matthew Cobo, AIA, associate principal of Togawa Smith Martin (TSM). TSM is an L.A.-based architect firm specializing in West Coast multifamily projects.
The TSM design faced the challenge of making a signature design statement that met the owner’s 195-units-per-acre density requirement. “We had to figure out how to hit density in 85 feet,” Cobo says.
They accomplished it through an innovative double-podium design supporting five levels of wood-framed structure, the first of its type after the city modified code.
Density wasn’t the only challenge. Because of site size and shape, the design necessitated deeper interlocking units that would showcase larger windows in a random pattern of framed punch-outs. Urban infill projects are often shaded by existing structures. WREN site lines had the advantage of open-sky access. Cobo and his team were determined to make the most of this property advantage.
Larger window openings add structural complexity. Wood proved to be the architect’s best friend in conversations with project engineers. Jay Zapata, AIA, TSM’s architect/job captain on the project, says “Wood is a forgiving material, it allows shear panels. Our chats with structural engineers required modifications. Wood is a material that lets you do that quickly.”
Meeting code proved to be an exceptionally positive experience. “The city was great,” Cobo reports. “They have a developer services group that brings together many city departments. Code compliance wasn’t an issue.”
The prospects of double-podium projects like WREN spreading throughout southern California excites Cobo and Zapata.
“New code language allowing multiple podium levels with Type III wood construction allows us to maximize the density and speed of wood construction,” Cobo says. For developers, that represents “bonus density” within Type III construction. For city leaders, it represents the possibility of safe, new housing.
Is southern California leading the way in multifamily double-podium design and innovation? There’s no shortage of opportunity and belief. “The city of Pasadena is now allowing double podium. We hope other cities will soon adopt the concept and offer bonus density,” Zapata says.
As for WREN, the owner couldn’t be happier. The amenity-filled complex was nearly 20 percent leased at opening. Full occupancy is expected within a year.
See more projects at http://www.rethinkwood.com/