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HOLLYWOOD-The Community Redevelopment Agency has approved a plan for a $27 million, 70-unit multifamily development called the Villages at Gower that will be designed to house the formerly homeless and will be developed by A Community of Friends (ACOF) and PATH Ventures. The CRA considers the project “a highly unusual affordable housing development for formerly homeless persons that provides comprehensive support services in a campus setting.”

Pending approval by the Los Angeles City Council approval, the project will be built on CRA/LA land at 1726 N. Gower St. The CRA sees the new project as one way of “delivering on (Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s) commitment to build permanent supportive housing for the homeless,”says Cecilia V. Estolano, CRA’s chief executive officer. The project, expected to be mainly financed by tax credits, supplemented by a variety of public and private funding, is slated to start construction in November.

The development is conceived as a “campus of hope for the homeless,” according to principal Wade Killefer of Santa Monica-based Killefer Flammang Architects, the designer for the project. Killefer is former chair of Lamp Community, an organization that develops housing specifically for the mentally ill homeless.

Composed of 15 studios, 20 two-bedroom and 35 one-bedroom units, the four-level building will include a community room and administrative facilities. Open space surrounding the building will provide ample opportunities for outdoor recreational activities, notes Killefer.

“The zinc-clad building, which is being designed to Silver LEED certification standards, will provide residents with lots of light and project a contemporary profile rather than an institutional setting, emphasizes Will Longyear, KFA designer and project manager. On-site services will include counseling, employment and training services, parenting classes, independent living skills, after-school tutoring and nutrition and cooking workshops. Off-site medical and mental health services also will be provided to residents.

Dora Leong Gallo, chief executive officer of ACOF, comments that the Villas at Gower will be closely observed by both the city and Los Angeles County officials because of its trend-setting nature. The project will serve adults and families who are homeless and have special needs, Gallo explains.

ACOF’s Gallo says that city and the county consider the Villas at Gower a pilot project and, possibly, a model for housing developments for homeless people with special needs. Besides its unusual campus setting and design, it will create permanent rather than the usual interim housing provided to the homeless–and it also will offer services which will equip the residents to become self-sufficient and live independently, Gallo adds.

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