Developers Introduced at Metro Open House to Reshape Empty Lots

Unidentified man browses presentations at Metro’s open house of its properties in Boyle Heights. Kris Fortin/LAStreetsblog

Developers and Metro representatives came to the Boyle Heights Technology and Youth Center on Tuesday for an open house to update the community on Metro-owned lots in Boyle Heights. This is the first time developers McCormack Baron Salazar, for lots at Cesar Chavez Avenue/Fickett Street and the Southwest Corner of First Street/Boyle Avenue, and A Community of Friends on First Street/Lorena Street, were available to answer questions and receive comments from community members.

While the majority of the information was the same from Metro’s December presentation to the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council, there have been tweaks to proposals. Here are some highlights:

  • Southwest First/Boyle: 80 units of affordable housing apartments, 3000-4000 square feet of retail space, decreased from 98 affordable housing units and 5000 square feet of retail as reported in Metro’s December report.
  • First/Lorena: proposed 10 more affordable units totaling 53 affordable apartments (half permanent housing, half supportive housing for special needs), and 5000 square feet of retail space, a decrease from the 6000 square feet proposed in Metro’s December report.
  • MBS is looking to put a 23,000 square foot grocery store on the Chavez and Fickett lot.

The Metro Board of Directors approved design guidelines last month for lots at Mariachi Plaza/Pennsylvania and Bailey, First and Soto Streets, and Cesar Chavez Avenue and Soto Streets. Those lots will be sent out for requests for proposals, but the date was not specified in the presentation.

Martha Cisneros, 58-year-old Boyle Heights resident, said that she was concerned the proposed affordable housing would add to the overpopulation in the neighborhood. “We want oversight (on applicants), and hard working families,” said Cisneros.

Image from Metro

While the First/Lorena lot will remain affordable housing, it is more flexible on what types of retail will be there, said Dora Leong Gallo, CEO of A Community of Friends. Some residents mentioned a craft store or juice bar would be good retail for the site.

Though it’s affordable housing, the First and Lorena building won’t be a high rise.

“It’s not appropriate. We want it to be at a level that makes sense for the community, and it’s walkable, and it activates the space,” added Gallo.

Antonio Bermúdez, project  manager of McCormack, Baron Salazar, said that many of the residents wanted a Latino-friendly grocery store like Vallarta or Northgate at the Fickett/Chavez lot. Yet, it’s up to the market, he said, to determine if that kind of project is feasible for them — Northgate grocery has a location only a few blocks away on Fourth Street.

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