Special to the Sentinel
Strategically placed in the Ninth Council District in the City of Los Angeles is an historic campus of buildings, known since 1895 as Casa De Rosas. At a time when Councilman Curren Price, the proud public servant of the New Ninth is working tirelessly to increase the availability of affordable housing we can all be very excited that Casa De Rosas’ transformation to a home for 36 single parent Veteran families with a child. LA County First District Supervisor Hilda Solis, another champion for affordable housing, is excited that her district is one step closer to keeping pace with the need for this precious population – Veterans who have been rendered houseless. Also rejoicing is nationally recognized Los Angeles City Mayor Eric Garcetti’s whose goal of eliminating homelessness became a core mission of his Back to Basics approach and locally championed Measure HHH, yet has struggled to “get the pipeline going” is excited to checklist 36 fewer families who are houseless in the city of angels. For Ward Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), Inc. and Integral Veteran Village, LLC Casa De Rosas represents response to a “need” before it becomes a “crisis”.
WEDC and Integral have assembled a stellar development team to transform the historic Casa de Rosas that includes an outstanding local woman owned general contractor Curtom-Dunsmuir Construction – Brenda Curry and Ronnie Jones, MBE/WME and local business owners; M2A Architects – Tom Michali – small and local business owner; TelaCu Property Management – Jasmine Borrega – president; Tyler Construction Consulting Services (TCCS) – Thomas Tyler, minority and small business owner) and GTA Associates – Laura O’Neil – WBE historic. Together with Curtom-Dunsmuir, the Casa Development team has set a new standard for re-investment in community with 94% – MBE/WBE, 86% local hire and 1% women worker. In-spite strong outreach, the number of women did not meet our goal yet it exceeds the regional efforts.
The WEDC/Integral team was awarded the opportunity to develop this historic site that has been in disrepair for approximately ten years. There could be no better conversion of this 127-year old campus than to create community in a neighborhood that can return to its roots of providing innovative service by embracing and supporting the special needs of adult parents who need and deserve a second chance to parent and bond with their children. In fact, when built in 1893, Casa De Rosas was an innovative experiment in childcare. It is reported to have been one of the first private kindergartens at a time when education for younger children was a novel idea. As public kindergartens became popular, the campus became a site to prepare young women for college. That school later moved to the San Gabriel Valley as the neighborhood changed. Its “bones have been proven to withstand the ravages of time and weather condition”. Over the years, this campus has had varied uses – an inn and restaurant, a military barracks in World War II and the headquarters of L. Ron Hubbard’s Dianetics Foundation, before standing vacant until the end of World War II. In the 1950s, Essie Binkley West, who was dubbed “Angel of Skid Row”, purchased and converted the campus to “Sunshine Mission”, a shelter for homeless women. Unfortunately, the shelter closed in the early 2000s. Imagine, evolving from being a place serving the needs of children, educating young women, to serving as military barracks more than 100 years – then back to the future.
Casa De Rosas, originally slated to reopen in the Spring of 2020, now expects to open in December due to some COVID-19 construction delays. This 29,900 square foot complex is intended to be home for 36 Veteran families targeting the unique needs of single-parenting, career goal setting, job development, and a menu of supportive serves in a permanent supportive housing environment. Its grounds will include courtyards and fruit tree lined sidewalks along with onsite daycare operated by USC School for Early Childhood Education/Headstart. This fourteen million dollar ($14 million) project has the support of elected officials at all levels, but is principally a part of the vision of Councilmember Curren Price (Council District 9) who says, “This is a transformative project that will help to bring much needed services to a vulnerable population not only in our district, but in our city. The services that will be provided will reflect the history and legacy of this historic location.”
In order to be considered for residency interested applicants should enroll via the LA County Coordinated Entry System (CES). Several agencies will be collaborating in the programming of services, resident coaching, and other timely interventions. First-To-Serve Agency, LA County Patriotic Hall’s Veterans program, LA Trade Tech – Worksource Center, USC – Office of Civic and Community Relations, Mt. St Mary’s, US Veterans Administration, Veterans of Foreign Wards (VFW) lodges, HOPICS, faith groups and churches, US Veteran’s Administration, in-kind donations, and veterans who want to see Casa become a model for services to veterans with families.
Funding for the project comes from a combination of public, low-income housing tax credits/bond, and conventional loan dollars. Casa’s lenders include LA LISC – pre-development loan, and additional grant funds, California Bank and Trust – construction lender, and Royal Bank of Canada (City National Bank) and Royal Bank of Canada’s local arm –low income housing tax credits partner. It takes public funds to make projects like Casa affordable, so we are grateful for the voters in LA who authorized HHH funds that Casa has received. LA HCID administers HHH along with bond funds that are invested in Casa. Rounding out the funding team are LA Housing Authority with VASH Vouchers, and California HCD who funded Sunshine Mission and whose loan will be repaid from this project.
Grants and donations are vital to complete this comprehensive service plan for this project.
“WEDC has actively developed in this neighborhood for over 30 years – surviving two waves of gentrification. The stakeholders in this University Park area are excited that Casa De Rosas is being physically restored and its mission of shelter for “the least of these” is protected,” said Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker, WEDC founding President. “Our partnership with WEDC gives Integral one more opportunity to fulfill our mission of housing with excellence”, says Dalila Sotelo, Integral’s Vice President of Western Region.
“We appreciate Councilman Curren Price whose vision for diverse housing options to meet the needs of our veterans is fueling so many new opportunities in the new 9th District,” and his support for the Casa vision “continued Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker.