In a move to revive the landscape of Boyle Heights, Los Angeles County has selected Centennial Partners, a collaboration between Primestor and Bayspring Development, to renovate and transform the historic L.A. County General Hospital. The 90-year-old architectural marvel flaunting grand Art Deco structure once housed medical breakthroughs. Famous as the birthplace of Marilyn Monroe, this iconic hospital is slated to become a mixed-use development project supporting local communities.
First District L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis has been a driving force behind the revival of Boyle Heights since 2017. She expressed her enthusiasm about the project’s potential impact. Emphasizing the pressing need for affordable housing, especially on the Eastside of Los Angeles, she stated, “This is a historic moment for our community.” According to the county’s Department of Economic Opportunity, Centennial Partners, the developer behind this project, boasts a robust portfolio of over 50 urban impact projects.
As outlined in a letter from DEO Director Kelly Lobianco, Centennial Partners proposed this project. The group envisions a multi-faceted transformation of the General Hospital into a vibrant community hub. Their proposed plan includes 800 to 1,000 housing units, with a commitment to dedicate at least 30% of the units to affordable housing. The project also encompasses hotels, medical offices, laboratories, retail space, community services, and substantial parking space.
A demand for more affordable housing units was made during the Board of Supervisors meeting. Eva Garcia, an organizer with the Community Power Collective, passionately advocated for 80% affordable housing, reflecting on the community’s urgent need.
In recent years, the Boyle Heights area has faced the challenges of gentrification, resulting in soaring rents and higher rates of homelessness. Repurposing the General Hospital into a restorative village is expected to address these issues. The iconic 19-story building has been non-operational since the 1994 Northridge earthquake. This abandoned property will require extensive restoration, including seismic retrofits, new windows, and other improvements.
Referring to the building’s historical significance, Supervisor Solis emphasized its potential role in alleviating the strain on emergency rooms and providing essential care and housing for vulnerable populations. The project’s vision extends beyond housing, as the Board of Supervisors also agreed to develop a mental health urgent care center, a residential withdrawal and management facility, and a mental health rehabilitation center within the complex.
Renowned actor and producer Edward James Olmos commended this move during the board meeting, highlighting the importance of upholding people’s dignity by repurposing the iconic county asset. Karen Law, a member of the Chinatown Community Land Trust, acknowledged the complexity of homelessness, shedding light on the need for comprehensive solutions.
The Los Angeles Conservancy endorsed the adaptive reuse of the Beaux-Arts building, highlighting its adaptability for humane, new uses. Adrian Scott Fine from the L.A. Conservancy emphasized the potential of the historic building to serve the community in innovative ways.
Estimated costs of the renovation project are expected to reach $1 billion and will be executed through a public-private partnership. Supervisor Solis secured $129 million for the General Hospital project that will combine state, federal, and county funds. While the current plan pledges at least 30% affordable housing, negotiations with the developer might lead to a more significant commitment. This shift would align with Supervisor Solis’ goal of addressing the homelessness crisis through more affordable housing units.