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DOWNTOWN : Apartments Target Low-Income Tenants


Refurbished to the elegance of its heyday, the Young Apartments are providing affordable housing for working-class tenants--and a splash of class to an industrial Downtown neighborhood.

A nonprofit development company has restored the five-story brick and terra cotta building at 1621 Grand Ave., designated as a historic cultural monument by the city. The Classical Revival-style building was built in 1911, designed by Robert Brown Young, an architect responsible for many of the early commercial buildings along South Broadway.

By the early 1980s, the building had become so deteriorated that it was targeted by the city's Slum Housing Task Force, and residents referred to it as "Dracula's Castle." After years of court proceedings, the city's Community Redevelopment Agency acquired the building after it went into foreclosure. The building's tenants were relocated in 1989. The vacant building was purchased by the Los Angeles Community Design Center in 1990.

"It was heavily, heavily . . . vandalized, but physically, all the pieces were there," said Bill Huang, deputy director of Los Angeles Community Design Center, a Downtown-based architecture and affordable housing development corporation.

The graffiti was removed and the interior was refurbished with new heating, air-conditioning, plumbing and fire sprinklers. Historic wood paneling in the building's lobby was left intact.

"I think it was a nice building originally designed for an upper-class clientele," said Huang. "It was really convenient for Downtown before everyone had a lot of cars."

Since the building sits across the street from the Santa Monica Freeway, the 66 studio units were fitted with double-pane soundproof glass, Huang said.

Although the units rented quickly, Huang said 19 are still available. The building was marketed to low-income workers in the Downtown area who earn minimum wage, Huang said.

After 14 months of work, tenants began moving into the building in March. Rents at the 52,000-square foot building range from $250 to $371.

The project's $4-million cost was funded by loans from the state's Department of Housing and Community Development and the city's Community Redevelopment Agency.

The Young Apartments building is one of several planned affordable housing projects for the South Park area of Downtown, which is being developed by the city and private developers as a mixed-used commercial, retail and residential community. Those buildings include Casa Del Pueblo, an 81-unit complex on Hope Street, and Casa Esperanza, also on Hope Street, an 88-unit senior housing building.

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