Los Angeles-based Kadre Architects has transformed a run-down motel complex in the San Fernando Valley into a colorful and welcoming residential space for homeless families, especially single mothers. The former Woodland Hills motel now provides one hundred transitional housing units for families who are experiencing homelessness. The project is a collaboration with LA-based charity “Hope the Mission” and Los Angeles County.
“The Woodlands” is part of Project Homekey 2.0, an emergency California-wide initiative in which dilapidated, underused hotels are purchased and rapidly transformed into both interim and permanent housing for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. (Los Angeles County secured funding for the conversion of fourteen hotels and motels as part of Project Homekey 2.0 — the County previously transformed ten properties as part of Homekey 1.0.) “This new prototype for rapid conversion of existing hotel stock into transitional housing shatters construction stereotypes by delivering a massive project — from start of design to end of construction — in under eight months,” says Kadre Architects. This is made possible by the concerted efforts of the owner, architect, and contractor.
The former Woodland Hills motel site:
The Woodlands now:
The Woodlands is Kadre Architects’ second Project Homekey motel conversion, following redevelopment of The Alvarado hotel close to LA’s MacArthur Park (which opened to families in early 2023). The Woodlands “demonstrated a bigger challenge than The Alvarado in terms of creating an inviting and connected community space out of the existing empty and expansive asphalt parking lot [car park],” says the architect.
Kadre Architects made use of its signature graphic application of color to reimagine the uninviting asphalt parking lot as a wonderfully multicolored gathering and play space. “Shades of bright green are complemented with touches of yellow, pink, ochre, and cobalt blue to create a playful, welcoming, and uplifting campus environment, contrasting with the airy and bright white exterior of the building,” says the architect.
The central plaza, with its gleaming candy stripes of color and thoughtful landscaping, connects housing on one side with a community center on the other. The former motel’s doors are painted pink, this simple step adding to the sense of safety and vitality. The overall effect is both cheering and inviting — the colors are particularly positive, their combined use signifying physical tranquillity, harmony, optimism, and trust.
A key part of Kadre Architects’ Project Homekey work is to make the buildings energy neutral, by implementing what it describes as “aggressive sustainability initiatives.” In The Alvarado, the studio removed the use of fossil fuels in their entirety from the 43-unit property. At the 100-unit Woodlands, photovoltaics provide 50 percent of the building’s energy requirements. “Pending approval of a sustainability grant,” says the studio, “there is a plan to provide 100 percent renewable energy and a switch to electric fuel only.” The use of low-cost and high-impact design techniques such as color and xeriscaping, reduces the ability of asphalt to absorb heat thus lessening the urban heat island effect. Nerin Kadribegovic, founder of Kadre Architects, sees Project Homekey as an opportunity to provide much needed accommodation to homeless families and as a way to revitalize the city: “to lift these aging, tired buildings, [taking] them from blight to light and into a green future."
The Woodlands is now providing shelter and support to 100 families. Kadre Architects is working to refurbish a former Denny’s restaurant on the site. The space will become a dedicated preschool for tenants’ children, allowing their parents to go to work knowing their kids are safe. The studio is currently working with Hope the Mission on a third complex in Lancaster, California, which is due for completion in September 2023.