In 2023, Omgivning embarked on its most exciting, complex, and personal project to date: a small mixed-use development project in which they are the developers for their new Omgivning home as well the creation of a new industry-based co-working company called söm co-space (Swedish for a “seam” to mean to come together). Located at 1301 N. Broadway in north Chinatown, Omgivning repurposed and reinvigorated a seemingly nondescript building, embodying the principles that have guided their work for the last 13 years: interconnectedness, sustainability, and human-centered design. It allows Omgivning to do what they do best, uncover potential, this time for themselves.
An ideal Omgivning project, söm allows designers, architects, developers, and anyone involved in the built environment to do their best and most inspirational work, creating an example for future projects. This work includes:
Creating healthy, sustainable, and beautiful environments Cultivating good design to bring more value Evolving, growing, and learning with each other and through their craft And building thriving communities.
This new project has seen Omgivning expanding into new realms within the architecture and development lifecycle: as a developer, an entrepreneur, and a designer.
By developing their first project, Omgivning has the opportunity to test their own principles and expand capabilities as a team, looking to what the future of Omgivning could be.
Why take this on? A few of Omgivning's staff have had a goal of expanding into small-scale development themselves. After more than two years of pandemic-living, Omgivning had both outgrown and underused its longtime headquarters on Spring Street in the Historic Core of downtown Los Angeles. They were ready for a new space. Omgivning had explored the idea of a community-based shared office for a long time and had wanted to curate their development project to incorporate that idea. A shared office model could also allow them to be creative about generating revenue and also flex their muscles as experts in the design of adaptive reuse projects.
So, where to locate this new passion project? From years of adaptive reuse work, Omgivning knows how to spot potential. They wanted a location that had good options for transportation, and walkability and wasn’t too hot just yet. They also wanted to find a building that might seem unremarkable to some but had the potential for transformation. Settling on the northern end of Chinatown, the team found a quiet part of a culturally important neighborhood experiencing a new moment of vibrancy. The neighborhood itself was originally founded in 1732 as the Tongva village of Yaanga, transforming over the years to become Sonoratown, then Little Italy, and eventually New Chinatown in 1938.
The building was designed in 1959 by Gilbert Leong, the first Chinese American to graduate from USC with a degree in architecture. After serving in the U.S. Army in WWII, Leong worked with the renowned architect Paul R. Williams, as well as with Harwell Hamilton Harris, and later opened his private practice. He also co-founded East West Bank in the 1970s to serve the Chinese-American community in Southern California. His designs helped shape much of modern Chinatown and many parts of postwar Los Angeles. The building Leong designed also included six rental units on the second floor above the 5,000-square-foot ground floor. The long-term tenants in those units will remain on the property. It's a perfect mixed-use project for Omgivning’s first development.
In addition to helping Omgivning realize a longtime goal of developing their own projects, it is also a model for sweat equity to ownership. Through the new project, a few of the staff have been able to dip their toes in the real estate market by using their time and skills, putting hours towards a percentage of ownership.
Where was Omgivning prior? Read their ode to the last office.