Open Letter to Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass from AIA + Omgivning

AIA Logo Letter REcommendations

An initiative of the AIA|LA Government Outreach Committee w/ the Leadership & Support of Omgivning

AIA Los Angeles is making on recommendations to the City of Los Angeles to prioritize housing production and preservation, and include specific solutions to address our ongoing housing and homelessness crisis.

With the help of Omgivning, an open letter has been crafted and sent to Mayor Karen Bass with Recommendations to Improve & Advance Adaptive Reuse Citywide.

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100 Years of Adaptive Reuse

San Jose Vintage exterior Del Carlo

Adaptive reuse is the repurposing of buildings that have outlived their original use. Through Adaptive Reuse, the rich architectural heritage of our buildings, many of which are cultural components of a city, can be preserved all while reinforcing sustainable principles. It's not just historic buildings that are candidates for adaptive reuse. Buildings from any period and any architectural style can be considered for adaptive reuse.

Presented are three examples of buildings from different eras. The three case studies examine the adaptive reuse conditions and challenges for California buildings built in the 1920s, the 1950s, and the 1980s from a commercial building to housing.

This is adaptive reuse in action.

Case Study #1 - 1920s - Lane Building Change of Use to Short Stay Residential Units

Case Study #2 - 1950s - San Jose City of Hall Change of Use to Affordable Residential Units

Case Study #3 - 1980s - 2 N. Lake Change of Use from Office to Residential Units

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Case Study: Memphis Main - Adaptive Reuse

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Adaptive Reuse Architecture breathes new life into existing structures by repurposing them for new use. This can mean converting their original use into something functional for the current surrounding area, such as housing, workspaces, community centers, or mixed-use creative venues. Combating climate change is an additional benefit of building reuse through sustainable practices. Omgivning believes that adaptive reuse of buildings can help solve housing issues and the climate crisis in cities everywhere.

100 North Main is a mid-century skyscraper in the city of Memphis, Tennessee, and presents itself as an ideal case study for large-scale adaptive reuse. This once-thriving building in a former bustling neighborhood has now seen better days (a common story in cities nationwide). Built in 1965, the tallest building in Memphis has been empty since 2016. Reusing this building can create a sense of place by reviving a forgotten part of downtown, energizing it with a modern aesthetic for both living and working.

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Case Study: Memphis Main - Creating Community

1 Street View Memphis main omgivning

Cities all over the country are grappling with an aging stock of high-rise buildings. The trend has been to move outward, creating urban sprawl which is defined as unrestricted growth in urban areas of housing, commercial development, and roads over large expanses of land, with little concern for urban planning. The pandemic did not help the situation, leaving center cities with very little action. Omgivning believes in revitalization by building back a thriving community and driving density back into once dense neighborhoods with the adaptive reuse of existing buildings.

Using the tallest building in Memphis, Tennessee as a case study, Omgivning takes a deep dive into activating an inactive block of downtown Memphis, realizing its potential as a diverse and vibrant community.

100 North Main
Built in 1965, 100 North Main is a 37-story, midcentury skyscraper. Once a bank and office building, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It has been vacant since 2016.

100NorthMain-rendering 1962

This building and the block surrounding is a canvas for rebuilding a community that can act as a catalyst for economic development throughout downtown Memphis. Omgivning and Development Group 18 Main explores turning this historic building into 542 affordable housing units, offering a broad range of unit types to support a diversity of user/family needs.

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Karin speaks to Alex Cohen on the Impact of Adaptive Reuse on Housing

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"Inside the Issues" is a show on Spectrum News 1 SoCal, hosted by Alex Cohen. In the May 2022 episode, Cohen interviews experts from across Southern California to discuss the state's growing housing affordability crisis. Omgivning Found and Principal, Karin Liljegren, FAIA is interviewed about the positive impact adaptive reuse has in sustainbility and in helping solve the Los Angeles housing crisis.

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USC Dornsife Discussion - Low Rise, High Stakes

USC Low rise High Stakes

Low Rise, High Stakes: What New State Laws Mean for Housing Policy, Residential Architecture, and Neighborhood Development in Los Angeles

Omgivning's Karin Liljegren and Albert Escobar presented in a discussion about California's SB9 and their award winning concept for low-rise density buildings. Watch this clip for Liljegren and Escobar's portion of the panel

Co-sponsored by Third LA and the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West, this panel features architects, housing experts, and city planners that will consider the impact of Senate Bill 9, which allows single-family lots to be subdivided to hold up to four residential units, as well as other new state housing legislation. The discussion focused on strategies to promote affordability, neighborhood cohesion, and multigenerational living as the City works to locate housing closer to transit lines and job centers.

Moderated by Christopher Hawthorne, Chief Design Officer for the City of Los Angeles and Director of the Third L.A. Series at USC Dornsife, the panel also featured Thomas Robinson and Michael Faulkner from LEVER Architecture; Matt Glesne and Sarah Molina-Pearson from Los Angeles Department of City Planning; and Alejandro Gonzalez from Genesis LA.

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Airtalk on KPCC 89.3 talks to Karin about Adaptive Reuse

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Could L.A.’s Empty Office Buildings Be Turned Into Housing? The Answer Is Complicated

With more Californians working from home during the pandemic - and with some companies planning to make that remote work permanent - a lot of Los Angeles office buildings are sitting vacant at the same time the city is in the midst of a severe housing crisis. Could the former be the solution to the latter? Enter adaptive reuse, the practice of repurposing existing buildings for new uses. The Metropolitan Building in downtown L.A. is one example: it originally contained medical offices and shops; now it’s home to loft apartments. However, not every office building is so easily adapted. The shape and design of the original space are all key factors that affect the viability of an adaptive reuse project. On this episode of AirTalk, Larry discusses the visions and challenges of adaptive reuse in Los Angeles with founder of the adaptive reuse architecture firm Omgivning, Karin Liljegren.

Listen below:

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FABRIC wins 2021 SCDF Design Award for Adaptive Reuse

FABRIC from Omgivning

FABRIC on Los Angeles St. in the Downtown Los Angeles Fashion District won the 2021 Southern California Development Forum (SCDF) Design Award in Adaptive Reuse.

This project was completed in 2021 in conjunction with developers Urban Offerings, Swinteron as the General Contractor, Lynch Eisinger as the Design Architect, and Omgivning as the Executive Architect and Architect of Record.

FABRIC award SCDF crew

The awards were in December 2021 at the California Club.
Pictured above with the Omgivning team Karin Liljegren, Benjamin Ferrarioli, Hana Ogita, Peter Rindelaub, with Dean Nucich of Urban Offerings and the crew at Swinerton.

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LAist's David Wagner Speaks to Karin About Converting Commercial Spaces to Housing

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"As Workers Stay Remote, Can LA Turn Empty Offices Into Housing?" by David Wagner for the LAist.

Many Californians have been working from home throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and some companies plan to let their workers stay fully remote.

So what happens to all those empty offices?

With Los Angeles in the midst of a severe housing crisis, some see promise in turning dormant office buildings into apartments through “adaptive reuse.”

“I definitely think that more and more office space will be turned into housing — and it should be,” said Karin Liljegren, founder and principal of L.A.-based architecture firm Omgivning, which specializes in adaptive reuse.

The audio version of this article can be heard below.

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PODCAST: Adaptive Reuse with CREative Media

Sears Rendering

CREative Media focuses on podcasts, webinars, and interviews about commercial real estate development, investment, and architecture. Our very own Roberto Vazquez was a guest on CREative Media's podcast. He was interviewed about our favorite subject, Adaptive Reuse. He talks about it's importance and it's benefits to the community that reaches beyond Los Angeles.

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