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East Village development design exemplifies commitment to community

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"This isn't another market rate condo with a Starbucks on the corner," said Richard Benson, of Parkside, a 170,000-square-foot apartment complex located in San Diego's East Village.

"This development is truly unique and will serve the needs of the East Village community on many levels, literally," said the principal of Benson & Bohl Architects, a full-service architecture firm based in San Diego.

The 77 unit, six-story affordable housing project sits atop a new two-story, 11,000-square-foot facility for the East Village Community Church, an established neighborhood Baptist church that has occupied the property site since 1982 and which is undergoing a redevelopment of its own.

The two separate projects were both designed by Benson & Bohl Architects, creating a unique blend of uses while allowing for the two projects to maintain a similar and cohesive design aesthetic.

Located on the north side of Island between 13th and 14th avenues, only four blocks from Petco Park, these two developments broke ground in mid-April, and are expected to be completed in January 2010.

The projects' design provides distinct identities and entries for the apartments and the church, while focusing on creating a relationship with the surrounding community. The projects include both on-grade and two levels of subterranean parking.

The six-story affordable housing project sits atop a new two-story, 11,000-square-foot facility for the East Village Community Church.

The design also incorporates a church-operated cookie shop on Island Avenue.

"This was a complex and challenging design process that required constant communication between the affordable housing developer and the church," said Randall Bohl, principal of Benson & Bohl Architects.

The Parkside development is located on a 20,000-square-foot site and provides one-, two- and three-bedroom affordable housing apartments for low- and very low-income families. The units have been set aside for individuals or families whose income is 50 percent of the area median. Studios will begin at approximately $587 per month and three-bedroom units will be priced at approximately $1,036 per month.

The two-story church facility includes a 250-seat sanctuary, multipurpose room, nursery, classrooms and offices.

The project faces a new 60,000-square-foot East Village City park, to be located on 14th Avenue. The park will be visible from the church's rooftop terrace.

Taking this "parkside" location as inspiration, the affordable housing development incorporates a novel art piece at the corner of Island Avenue and 13th Street designed by local artist Artist Nina Karavasiles, which includes a series of three-dimensional organic branching forms rising from street level to the fifth story of the project -- more than 40 feet in the air.

The main elements in the art piece are shadows formed from both natural and artificial light with variations in light during the day and the change in shadow positions at night. The artwork also will include animal and bird shadows that will be cast on the building's surface.

"As a developer, it is very important to us to include some sense of art or history into our projects," said Ken Sauder, president of Wakeland Housing, which has developed eight affordable housing projects in San Diego. "We want the residents as well as the church and community members to be able to enjoy the building, not only physically but visually."

Amenities at the project include resident services programs such as youth, adult and senior programs, health and wellness education, financial education, recreation and social activities.

"By providing our residents with these types of programs we can help them reach greater levels of economic stability and personal growth," Sauder said. "We want them to have access, free of charge, to services that meet their needs and interests."

The design team assembled by Benson & Bohl Architects for the Parkside project includes The Poggemeyer Design Group (structural), Fard Engineers (mechanical and electrical), and the project site design was provided by Nasland Engineering and Ivy Landscape Architects. Harper Construction will be the general contractor for Parkside, as well as for the redevelopment of the church.

In addition to Parkside, Benson & Bohl Architects has also provided design services for numerous projects in downtown San Diego, such as Gaslamp Pacific Theatres and Market Street Village, which includes East Village's first Albertsons.

Kovach is a senior account manager with TW2 Marketing Inc.

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