Story at a glance:

  • The Florence Mills Apartments is a 74-unit, mixed-use affordable housing development in LA.
  • Murals at Florence Mills celebrate the building’s namesake singer, dancer, and actress of the 1920s.
  • The Florence Mills Apartments is expected to achieve LEED Platinum certification.

“From the beginning we sought for the building to be open, engaging, and optimistic,” says John Arnold, partner at KFA, a full-service architecture and design firm based in LA. KFA recently completed The Florence Mills Apartments—a 74-unit, mixed-use affordable housing development for families at the southwest corner of Central Avenue and Jefferson Boulevard in LA.

Arnold says he’s proud of the “attitude of the building” and its entry toward the street. The new project embraces the community, rather than being self-protective or closed off. “The corner plaza, murals, building angles, balcony design, fenestration, and open corridors and stairs were all designed with this idea in mind,” he says.

Developed with Hollywood Community Housing Corporation (HCHC), the project also includes 5,000 square feet of commercial space along Central Avenue and an open landscaped public plaza.

Affordable projects always have a long road to completion, and Florence Mills was no exception. Funding hurdles, jurisdictional requirements, site issues, and Covid all played a role in extending the timeline to about 10 years from conceptual design to occupancy,” Arnold says. “Keeping the faith and vision is the name of the game to get through protracted schedules; affordable housing production is in a league of its own for patience being rewarded with the pleasure of seeing people who can least afford it move into a home.”

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Florence Mills’ murals by artist Myisha Arellanus greet you at the front of the building. “The murals started off in our office with the idea of, ‘What if we designed a building with blank walls specifically for murals and for maximum visibility?’ and from there they took on a life of their own,” Arnold says. The community was given 100% control over the design and choosing a local artist for the murals. Photo by Jim Simmons Photography

KFA envisioned for the project to connect with the diversity of the surrounding community and have the building’s location be the gateway to historic South Central Los Angeles. The four-story development was named in honor of Florence Mills, a Black vaudeville singer, dancer, and actress in the 1920s, who frequently performed in LA. The project is built where a theater named after her once stood.

Local artist Myisha Arellano was chosen through a community process to paint two large murals of Florence Mills on the outside of the building on prominent street-facing walls that were purposefully designed by KFA to accept large-scale art.

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Photo by Jim Simmons Photography

KFA designed the residential complex with a zig-zag plan to create many angles offering views to the street and creating a sense of openness that celebrates the corner

The building has 74 affordable housing units: 13 one-bedroom, 37 two-bedroom, and 24 three-bedroom apartments. Each unit has a balcony and large windows allowing for plenty of natural light. Site amenities include community and common areas, underground parking, four laundry rooms, and secure access to the building. The units will be restricted to households at the low-, very low-, and extremely low-income levels, with rents set between $507 and $1,171 per month.

The Florence Mills Apartments also features 5,000 square feet of commercial retail space that fronts the corner plaza with roll up doors. This space has been leased to the Young Musicians Foundation, who through an innovative partnership with HCHC, have developed a unique service model that includes providing Florence Mills apartment Residents with free music classes, a music technology and recording lab, concerts, workshops, and multi-disciplinary arts programming.

The plaza extends out toward Jefferson, incorporating new street trees, and allowing 24/7 access to the public. The building is within walking distance of grocery stores, shops, services, and transit.

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Photo by Jim Simmons Photography

The Florence Mills Apartments is expected to achieve LEED Platinum certification. Among many of its sustainability features, the Florence Mills Apartments incorporates drought tolerant landscaping, locally sourced materials, high-efficiency lighting and Energy Star appliances, and low flow fixtures. Native plantings are incorporated into the design to reduce landscape irrigation. Water conservation efforts are also being promoted through building operations and resident education.