A $30-million project under construction on Main Street in Venice will combine shops, luxury condominiums and low-cost housing for senior citizens in what officials and community leaders see as a model for development in cities that favor slow growth.
The 140,000-square-foot Venice Renaissance project at the corner of Main Street and Rose Avenue was proposed in 1985 as a 4-story retail and condominium complex with five low-rent apartments for seniors. But community concerns and the emergence of the slow-growth political movement persuaded developer Harlan Lee and Associates to provide more parking and add 18 apartments for senior citizens.
The project received final approval from the City Council last summer, and construction began soon thereafter. Lee said last week that the project is 50% complete and is expected to open March 1, 1989.
66 Luxury Condominiums
In addition to the senior citizen apartments, the complex will include 30,000 square feet of retail space, 426 underground parking spaces and 66 luxury condominiums ranging in price from $230,000 to $350,000. Eight of the senior citizen units will rent for $100 a month, eight will rent for $200 a month and seven will go for $300 a month, Lee said.
"I think Harlan Lee is one of the developers (who) does understand the new era that he is a part of," said Rick Ruiz, spokesman for Los Angeles Councilwoman Ruth Galanter, who represents Venice. "He understands that the community has to get something if the developer is going to get something. Five years ago, that attitude was considered radical."
Ruiz added, however, that the community, not the developer, was responsible for ensuring that the project would be compatible with the area. The Venice Town Council and the Venice Chamber of Commerce, traditionally at odds over development, insisted that Lee provide the additional senior citizen apartments and add extra parking for the use of nearby residents.
"Frankly, without the housing and extra parking, Lee's project has little to offer the community in exchange for the problems it will cause," Galanter said in a statement last week. "But with it, the community benefits."
Loss of Affordable Housing
Galanter said local developers who do not provide affordable apartments to replace the ones they destroy will have a difficult time obtaining approvals for their projects. Gentrification has already led to a loss of affordable housing in Venice, she said.
The project will also feature art exhibits as well as permanent large-scale sculptures by Jonathan Borofsky and Guy Dill, both of whom live in Venice and have had their works displayed internationally. Borofsky has been commissioned to create a 25-foot, mixed-media sculpture to be installed above street level at Main Street and Rose Avenue. Dill's steel sculpture will function as the entrance to the building's motor court on Navy Street.
"We are the art capital of the West Coast," said Eliane Gans, a fine art consultant for the project. "We're determined to bring international art to Venice."