Last month, residents and elected leaders gathered for a street party in the Wilmington neighborhood of Los Angeles to celebrate the opening of 176 new affordable homes. Mercy Housing and Abode Communities developed this last phase of homes together, bookending a public housing rebuilding effort that began nearly 18 years ago.
Back in 2000, the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA) embarked on an ambitious goal to transform a 20-acre public housing site once used as temporary military housing in the port‐based neighborhood of Wilmington. The site included dilapidated buildings with 384 severely distressed homes. With almost no structural integrity remaining in the buildings due to termite damage, dry rot, and limited maintenance, the homes were in disrepair. Homes had no kitchen countertops, exposed water heaters, no bathroom showers, and poor visibility of open space and parking areas. The dire combination of poor building siting and inadequate visibility resulted in a community ridden with crime, gang activity, and heavy vandalism.
Mercy Housing and Abode Communities played key roles in those early days, helping to create a community plan with residents of Dana Strand Village, neighbors, and the school district. The resulting vision focused on demolishing and rebuilding obsolete housing and using urban design to help address significant issues with crime. Mercy Housing and Abode Communities started to bring that vision to life back in 2003 with the construction of 236 homes, a new street grid, enhanced pedestrian thoroughfares and added architectural design features that brought “eyes to the street.”
With the completion of two final buildings, Camino del Mar and Vista del Mar, residents now enjoy walking paths, landscaped courtyards with playgrounds, two community rooms, and a resident center with computer stations. Standing in the shade of trees, watching children play outside while parents greet each other, it is hard to fathom that 20 years ago, this neighborhood was a truly sad and dangerous place to live.