R+D Concept | The Essential – KTGY Proposes Skid Row Project

Los Angeles Business Journal

July 31, 2023

Downtown-based architecture firm KTGY has created a proposal that could dramatically decrease the population of L.A.’s unhoused community if constructed. It’s a concept-only modular supportive design envisioned for Skid Row called “The Essential.”

It is intended to flexibly accommodate up to 4,690 formerly unhoused individuals by offering permanent shelter in hopes of lifting Angelenos off the streets.

“The housing crisis is upon us,” said David Senden, managing principal at KTGY’s L.A. office.

The Essential is comprised of a series of 12-story high-rise concrete buildings designated to fit 335 residents each. The buildings, which would be built from the ground-up on 14 different underutilized sites within Skid Row, would be made in a repetitive modular fashion – a method of construction in which building parts are constructed off-site and then transported in. 

This technique subsidizes the cost of construction and speeds up the process. Each building will be more-or-less mimicable in design, with the top nine floors reserved for residential units and the lower three floors for shared spaces. 

The ground plaza will function as an interface between public and private spaces, featuring amenities such as outdoor seating, bike parking and greenery. The indoor lobby will be equipped with a large mailroom, residential storage areas and a laundromat café. 

Level two is where supportive and administrative services will be located. 

“The idea is to get people off their feet,” Senden said. “It’s one thing to get a roof over people’s head, but there’s the underlying factors that put them in that spot in the first place that have to be solved.”

By offering on-site services such as vocational training, recuperative care, counseling services and a sobering center, KTGY aims to promote success by offering total support to the formerly unhoused individuals as they reintegrate back into society.

Why Skid Row?

Skid Row, an area of approximately 50 square blocks located within downtown L.A., has a deep history with the unhoused, dating back to as early as the mid-19th century when the area saw an influx of transient, immigrant men arrive, looking for work on the railroads. Work was scarce and a lot of people ended up on the streets.

Since then, the neighborhood has become synonymous with homelessness and poverty. In February 2022, a study done by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority found the point-in-time count of the unhoused population of Skid Row to be 4,402 individuals.

Rather than relocating the unhoused, KTGY wants to provide shelter within neighborhoods where the homeless population is already high. “The people are already there,” Senden said. 

While KTGY admits the project exists as merely a proposal, it has already begun the process of further consideration – including consultations with developers, representatives of the city, and stakeholder authorities such as social service agencies – with hopes of The Essential becoming a reality. 

The firm has already sourced 14 potential underutilized sites within the Skid Row area, the majority of which are parking lots.

KTGY expects the cost of a project of this size to be anywhere from $55 million to $60 million. The duration of construction would likely be 12-18 months.

“It’s not easy because we’re not the money people,” Senden said. “We’re idea people.” 

He added that in order for The Essential to become a reality, a lot of different players will need to come on board to make the funding possible. 

“Where we can find dollars and where we can find the political will, that’s what’s going to determine whether it becomes real or not,” he said. 

KTGY is responsible for designing the largest series of modular supportive housing developments in Los Angeles. Its Hope Project is a series of modular housing developments – including Hope on Alvarado and Hope on Broadway.