Residents at the new NoHo Senior Arts Colony are living in the warm glow of stage lights.
Located in North Hollywood, Calif., the development is believed to be the first in the nation to combine a 126-unit seniors housing community with a professional on-site theater.
Home to The Road Theatre Co., the approximately 80-seat space provides residents with not only an opportunity to enjoy performances but participate in a rich offering of arts-related programs.
“This new community will provide opportunities that are life changing,” says John Huskey, CEO of Meta Housing Corp., the developer behind the project.
Huskey has long believed in the power of the arts to create a healthy and fulfilling environment for his elderly residents. He points to studies showing that complex activities promote health and longevity.
Meta Housing received much attention for its nearby Burbank Senior Artists Colony, which was built in 2005. After touring that development, representatives of the Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles wanted one of their own, sparking discussions to create the new NoHo project.
North Hollywood, which is home to a number of actors and other artists, provides the right setting for the development.
In addition delivering new housing opportunities for seniors, the development is seen as a catalyst for the larger neighborhood, says Huskey. “The CRA realized that bringing people and resources to the NoHo area makes all the other theaters better,” he says.
NoHo Senior Arts Colony is an 80/20 development, meaning 80 percent of the units are market-rate and 20 percent are affordable. The affordable apartments are reserved for residents earning no more than 50 percent of the area median income.
The CRA purchased the land and has leased it to Meta Housing at a below-market rate and provided an $800,000 loan for the theater.
The $32 million development was financed with tax-exempt bonds and 4 percent low-income housing tax credits (LIHTCs).The $25 million tax-exempt bonds were issued by the California Statewide Communities Development Authority, with Red Mortgage Capital underwriting and processing the nonrecourse financing insured by the Federal Housing Administration.
The LIHTCs generated about $2.95 million. In an unusual move, the for-profit Meta Housing purchased the housing credits itself. Investors typically like a property to be owned by its developer rather than leased from another party, which added a wrinkle to the NoHo deal. Now that the property has been built and the development risks reduced, Meta may market the LIHTCs.
Designed by John Cotton Architects, the development features a visual arts studio, a digital arts studio, a fitness studio, a meditation garden, a larger terrace, and a swimming pool.
Meta Housing is collaborating with EngAGE, a Los Angeles-area nonprofit that will provide a full program of arts and wellness classes. Founder and Executive Director Tim Carpenter isn’t much of a fan of the bingo and doughnuts that are often the height of services at some seniors communities.
“This is the ultimate solution to that,” he says. “We are going to be providing multi-disciplinary arts programs—writing, theater, dance, music, and fine arts classes for painting and drawing. We will also provide wellness programs, including exercise and yoga, and lifelong learning classes.”
Some of the residents are actors, so having the theater on site gives them an opportunity to participate in productions.
Meta Housing believes in the philosophy behind the arts colony and puts its money where its mouth is to deliver a high level of programs, says Carpenter. In addition, EngAGE is a nonprofit and also raises money for its programs.
“The issue that we as Americans have with aging is we don’t like to look directly at it,” Carpenter says. “We pretend that it doesn’t exist and look the other way. The idea of changing that is looking at it as a natural next step in life development and looking at it as an opportunity.”