Jim Simmons Photography

In South Central Los Angeles, a new affordable housing development is celebrating the neighborhood’s vibrant history while providing sustainable and quality housing.

Florence Mills Apartments, which sits on the site of a former theater, pays tribute to the African-American vaudeville singer, dancer, and advocate of racial rights during the Jazz Age in the 1920s. Two murals of Mills by artist Myisha Arellanus grace the building’s façade, capturing the rich history and diversity of the neighborhood.

“Central Avenue has a rich history and fell into disrepair,” says Sarah Letts, executive director of Hollywood Community Housing Corp. (HCHC), the developer of Florence Mills Apartments. “We don’t want to displace people but want to have a ripple effect in a positive way.”

Jim Simmons Photography

The 74-unit development includes 54 units for families earning less than 60% of the area median income, 13 units for homeless veterans supported with HUD-VASH vouchers, and six units for homeless families supported with project-based vouchers.

The development takes a creative approach to serving the homeless populations by incorporating trauma-informed care principles in the on-site staff’s interaction with residents as well as into the design of the building.

The ground floor of the building will be utilized by the Young Musicians Foundation, a nonprofit that will provide free music instruction to residents at the property as well as HCHC’s adjacent Paul R. Williams Apartments, named after the first African-American elected as a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects.

The LEED Platinum-certified building incorporates design elements such as high-efficiency lighting and Energy Star appliances as well as low-flow water fixtures.

“It’s beautiful housing, healthy housing, affordable housing,” Letts says.

The $45.5 million development leveraged public and private funding sources, including support from the city of Los Angeles.