A local homebuilder and architecture firm are leading the charge to redevelop a 6.4-acre collection of city-owned sites just over the Orange County border, in the city of Whittier.
Irvine-based City Ventures is heading a development group dubbed Uptown Community Partners, which aims to develop eight city parcels in the Gateway City of Los Angeles County into a mix of residential and commercial uses, with 344 homes and apartments, plus a small amount of retail and entertainment space.
City Ventures is leading the residential portion of the project with 229 for-sale units. The project will also include 115 low-income rental units developed by Brentwood-based Thomas Safran & Associates.
The development team for the project includes Santa Ana-based SVA Architects Inc. and Montebello-based Gentefy.
The developers put a $200 million value on the entire project. The city expects it will receive $15 million in funding as a result of the partnership, according to city planning documents.
2023 Start Eyed
The site is in uptown Whittier—a few miles from La Habra—north of Philadelphia Street and west of Bright Avenue. It includes a former Alpha Beta grocery store that shuttered nearly 30 years ago. The city purchased the property—which now largely holds a parking lot—in 2000.
Uptown Community Partners this month entered into a six-month exclusive negotiating agreement with the city.
A group led by Seal Beach homebuilder Olson Co. was named the backup developer by the city, in the event that the Uptown Community development team is unable to reach an agreement during the six-month period.
City Ventures Senior Vice President Ryan Aeh told sister publication Los Angeles Business Journal that construction is expected to start as early as next year.
“It was a really unique opportunity,” Aeh said. “Usually when a development opportunity becomes available it’s one single parcel and one developer looking at one product type. This was multiple parcels. It’s eight parcels that are all in uptown Whittier. It’s a really interesting, walkable suburban downtown.”
Aeh referred the project as “a shot in the arm to energize uptown Whittier.”
City Ventures currently owns and controls over 8,000 lots in California. It’s been an active builder in Santa Ana and Garden Grove over the past decade but does not have any active communities in OC.
The developer and homebuilder, whose main office is at the Park Place mixed-use campus near John Wayne Airport, largely builds in infill locations rather than creating larger master-planned communities.
Whittier city officials touted the Uptown group’s infill housing expertise, including market-rate and affordable condominiums and apartment development and its prior success landing federal grants for its projects, among the reasons it was selected for the project.
The housing being built by Uptown Community Partners will range from three to five stories. City Ventures will build 25 of the 229 ownership units for moderate-income households.
For the 115-unit rental portion, Thomas Safran & Associates will include 86 for very low-income households and 28 for moderate income households. TSA counts 6,000 luxury, affordable and mixed-use rental housing units in Southern California, including a 200-unit Santa Ana project.
“TSA currently owns and operates two affordable housing communities in Whittier,” President Jordan Pynes said in a statement. “We are delighted to continue this important work with the city and community to provide much needed affordable housing in Whittier.”
‘Jewel of Whittier’
Gentefy is heading the building with the commercial space, which will include seven micro-kitchens for local businesses, a performance stage, a courtyard and programming. Similar to the company’s BLVD MRKT in the LA County city of Montebello, three of the seven restaurants will be concepts headed by “underrepresented minorities from the local community who face socio-economic barriers that prevent them from opening a restaurant,” according to a press release.
SVA Architects is overseeing design of the project.
“One of the exciting opportunities for the Whittier development—with multiple sites spread throughout the area is the mission to create intentional spaces between buildings,” Ernesto Vasquez, chief executive of SVA Architects, said in a statement.
“We can create pedestrian corridors and cohesion from the street level. Wide sidewalks will be activated with public art, landscaping, and gathering spaces, allowing Uptown to become a place of human connection where community is built. We envision the Uptown district becoming the jewel of Whittier.”
Hannah Madans Welk, a real estate reporter with sister publication Los Angeles Business Journal, contributed to this article.