Transportation officials and nonprofit developer A Community of Friends (ACOF) broke ground last week on a long-stalled affordable housing development on Metro-owned property in Boyle Heights.

Known as Lorena Plaza, the project is located on the corner of 1st and Lorena Streets and will include 49 affordable housing units for unhoused and low-income families atop 7,500 square feet of commercial space.

Thirty-two of those apartments will go to unhoused individuals, 16 to low-income families. Half of these 48 units are set aside for veterans that can be unhoused or low-income. The project will also include one unit for a property manager, as well as supportive services to all future tenants.

Rendering of Lorena Plaza project. Courtesy of A Community of Friends.

At an estimated cost of $37 million, Lorena Plaza is expected to open in 2024.

“The housing crisis in this community of Boyle Heights is one that requires all of us to come together,” said L.A. County Supervisor and Metro board member Hilda Solís. “Lorena Plaza is just one example of how coming together to form partnerships can make a real difference in the lives of low-income Angelenos and those on our streets experiencing homelessness.”

The four-story apartment building will be located about a quarter mile from the Gold Line’s Indiana Station and the project will benefit from tax incentives related to the close vicinity. The project dates to a 2013 joint development deal between Metro and ACOF –but faced opposition for years from area residents, an adjacent business and a once-powerful member of the Los Angeles City Council.

“This project demonstrates what holistic approaches, strong partnerships and perseverance can achieve,” said Metro CEO Stephanie Wiggins. “We are grateful to the many members of the community that were involved in making this project a reality.”

Groundbreaking ceremony at Lorena Plaza. Photo by Alex Medina.

At Thursday’s ceremony, a Boyle Heights resident who preferred to remain anonymous shouted: “You people never listen to us. Why do you always come here? This is not for us” – a signal of lingering local opposition to the project.

For years, area residents demanded that the lot at First and Lorena, a staging site for Gold Line construction, be turned into a green space for community use. After the deal with ACOF was announced, community members rejected the nonprofit developer’s proposal to house veterans suffering from mental illnesses at the site.

The project faced vigorous opposition from former councilmember José Huízar, who originally voted against the joint development deal as a member of the Metro board and stalled it in the city’s planning committee which he presided, and from the owners of El Mercado, who claimed that an abandoned oil rig had polluted the lot and sued the city to stop the project.

The Los Angeles City Council finally gave the project its approval in 2018, but it took ACOF nearly four years to secure funding –which now includes County Measure HHH money. Earlier this year, the developer started recapping the abandoned oil well, at a cost of $1.7 million.

Crews working on the oil rig at Lorena and First in March. Photo by @lataino.

Lorena Plaza is one of several current or upcoming housing projects being built on Metro-owned land in Boyle Heights. In June, Metro held another groundbreaking at Los Lirios Apartments development at First and Soto –only a Gold Line station away from Lorena Plaza– set for completion in 2023.

Read more about the Lorena Plaza housing development:

Long-stalled housing project at First and Lorena readies to begin construction – March 17, 2022

Affordable housing in the works near Metro Gold Line – May 10, 2019

Times editorial calls on Huízar to act on 1st and Lorena development – April 25, 2017

Metro gives time to developers to plan affordable housing – Dec. 8, 2015

Neighborhood Council gives nod to controversial Lorena Plaza development – July 28, 2015

Boyle Heights residents express concerns over proposed mixed-use housing development – Feb. 17, 2014

Alex Medina

Alex Medina is a graduate of Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School and 2018 alumnus of the Boyle Heights Beat. He is a recent graduate of Hamilton College in Central New York where he majored in Hispanic...

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