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[IMGCAP(1)]SANTA MONICA, CA-Developer Neil Shekhter of NMS Properties thought small to create his recently opened Olympic Studios, a project of 165 two-story lofts where the units average 375 square feet and rent for $1,061 to $1,327. Shekhter has rented out 61 units of the 100-unit first phase since it opened in January, with the second phase slated to open in about six months.

Shekhter reasoned that the market for the lofts would be young single professionals, retirees with limited incomes and college students looking for rents that are affordable in the pricey Westside apartment market. Shekhter’s estimate has turned out to be on target, with about 70% of the units rented thus far occupied by young business people, a few retirees and the remainder college students.

[IMGCAP(2)]The Olympic Studios project, at 2001 Olympic Blvd., was designed by Santa Monica-based Killefer Flammang Architects and is a few blocks from Santa Monica College. Shekhter says that what makes his units economically viable is the project density, which is created by two-level living with kitchen, bath and dining/living areas on the ground floor and bedrooms on the upper levels. Killefer says that the designed was created to convey a sense of spaciousness despite the small size, thanks to 17-foot ceilings and clerestory windows.

The project comprises two four-level structures close to public transportation and shopping. Based on city guidelines, preference is given to those who live and/or work in Santa Monica, he added, with maximum allowable annual income requirements set by the city range of $42,450 to $60,600. Shekhter says he hopes to take his small, affordable housing concept to other parts of the county.

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