In 2008, when we were considering purchasing the land for the Beethoven Four project, we noticed that there was a homeless shelter for families with minor children being planned down the block from us called the Upward Bound House. The project was going through the public hearing process at the time and many people came out in opposition against it. That made for some long and contentious public meetings. As residential developers, we also shared some of their concerns. We'd chosen this location because the Mar Vista neighborhood was desirable. Our vision was to create the first small lot subdivision project in the area that would offer flexible, open spaces with modern and contemporary design, but with each home occupying a smaller lot. In addition, our hope was to sell the units at a higher price than the existing detached homes which were on larger lots. We would be introducing a new product type at a higher price point than the area was used to in an uncertain economic climate. But, could we afford to take on the additional risk of being close to a homeless shelter? And, more importantly, would it reduce the value of the neighborhood and thereby dash our hopes?
Those were concerns that we had to resolve, so we set out to understand more about the organization and their facility in Santa Monica. It was well managed and their executive director, David Snow, was honest with us. Several other factors helped to assuage our fears. First, if we didn't know about it and just drove by, we’d probably never realize that there was a homeless shelter there. Secondly, we encountered neighbors during this period who were either previously skeptical of or had originally opposed the project and subsequently changed their minds in support of it. Another reason that gave us comfort was that an old motel that desperately needed a facelift was on the existing site, and we much preferred having the updated design of the Upward Bound House at that location.
We're glad we moved forward because the Upward Bound House turned out to be a success. It transformed the neighborhood for the better, along with Pitfire Pizza, and Rockenwagner Bakery. In fact, according to Trulia, Mar Vista is now one of the top 5 neighborhoods that Angelinos want to move to. David Snow, the executive director, gave us a tour of the shelter before they opened and it was an emotional experience. Each room was created by different designers who'd donated their time, while others gave to complete it. It was a beautiful example of a community coming together for a common cause. Before embarking on the project, we would not have believed that a homeless shelter could improve a neighborhood, but that's exactly what happened.
Our project was also well received. Despite the soft economy, all units were sold within 10 days and at higher prices than other homes in the neighborhood, as we’d hoped. Furthermore, we can say with pride that we were a part of the positive transformation of this neighborhood.