For over two decades, developers have sought to revitalize West Hollywood’s western gateway by bringing to life the Melrose Triangle project, which is planned for a 2.7-acre parcel of land bounded by Santa Monica Boulevard, Melrose Avenue and Almont Drive.
Last month, the Charles Company submitted its latest iteration of the proposed mixed-use project to the city, with this most recent version decreasing the number of housing units and increasing the amount of office space.
According to West Hollywood Planning Manager Jennifer Alkire, who worked on the project when it was approved by the City Council in 2014, this new iteration will likely go before the city’s Planning Commission in spring.
“Right now, they’re bumping up the amount of office [space] in the building. That’s the biggest theme of the changes,” said Alkire, noting that she was unaware of specific office space needs in the city. “The number of square feet in the overall project didn’t change significantly.”
She said the original approval for the Gensler-designed project was for 137,000 square feet of office space, with the new plan seeking 245,000 square feet of office space. The project will now include 41 housing units – down from 76. It will still include 16 affordable units, and the other 25 units will be for workforce housing. According to Alkire, workforce housing is priced more affordably than market rate housing. The revised project also includes 66,000 square feet of commercial space and 525 subterranean parking spaces.
She said the project is currently going through the environmental review process and will subsequently head to the Planning Commission’s design review subcommittee before being heard by the full commission.
In revising the project, the development team said the project will better balance the city’s need for live-work spaces, while adding more outdoor dining space, as well as more low-rise office space.
In a statement about the changes, Jack Kurchian, project manager for System LLC, an affiliate of the Charles Co., underscored that today’s development market is markedly different than it was in 2014.
“As we have all seen during the COVID pandemic and the challenges it has presented for virtually every type of business, it is essential to be able to adapt to meet future demands,” Kurchian said. “The revised project, which stays true to our original vision, improves important areas like design, public open space and affordable housing without adding [floor area].”
“The modifications we are seeking will enhance the project’s attractiveness for tenants and neighbors alike and will improve on the benefits that will accrue to the community as a whole,” he added.
For the West Hollywood West Residents Association, which represents approximately 1,000 households, the development is a long time coming.
“We just want something built at this point,” said resident Patrick Shandrick, who has been involved with the project since he first moved a block away from the site in 2001. “It’s a sad area. It’s a dead zone. It would be great if people lived there and there were some amenities that either residents or workers could use.”
He said many residents felt it was “tragic” that the project approved seven years ago was never built after so much community input had been given to create something that the neighbors supported. After the project was approved in 2014, the Los Angeles Conservancy challenged the EIR on the basis that it failed to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act in proposing to demolish a building on the site from the 1930s, the onetime Jones Dog & Cat Hospital.
Given that in the intervening years after the issue was resolved the building had been taken down – after a fire destroyed much of it – Alkire said it was unlikely that the L.A. Conservancy would again challenge the project on similar grounds.
In anticipation of moving forward in the process, the development team is scheduled to attend a WHWRA Zoom meeting on Feb. 21 at 2 p.m.
“I think we’ll take some sort of position [after the meeting],” said Manny Rodriquez, vice president of the association’s board. “It’s a big enough project right on the edges of our neighborhood.”
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