Santa Monica is one of California’s most successful cities for real estate. It consistently leads the region in commercial rent growth. Yet, it has a reputation for being very slow growth. But that reputation is belied by its booming downtown district along Broadway. The city has even revised its downtown plan to enhance its high-density, high-use appeal.
If it’s tough to build in other parts of the city, smartly-designed apartments are encouraged here, along with supporting infrastructure: The much-heralded Expo Light Rail begins service here May 20, 2016.
“Downtown Santa Monica has transformed from one of the city’s most neglected areas into a vibrant urban neighborhood over the last 30 years in large part due to intelligent, thoughtful planning,” says Jason Islas, editor of Santa Monica Next who is often quoted in international media about the city.
“The Downtown renaissance is visible throughout the district, but especially on Broadway. The recent increase of moderate-density housing combined with easy access to Big Blue Bus and Metro bus stops, highly-visible green bike lanes, a mix of neighborhood serving retail and restaurants, and, soon, Expo light rail, has created a thriving street life along this corridor. It’s a great example of what a livable, urban neighborhood can look like,” says Islas.
The newest multifamily delivery is the Sway apartments. Designed by Cuningham Group Architecture, Inc. and developed by Alliance Residential, Sway consists of 122 designer apartments in the city’s pedestrian- and bike-friendly multi-modal downtown, two blocks from the coming Expo Rail station. Its design reflects a very localized urbanism.
“In Santa Monica we have the ocean meeting the urban street grid against the backdrop of the Santa Monica Mountains,” says Cuningham Group Principal Amelia D Feichtner, AIA, LEED® AP BD+C. “We turned that into an original concept for the design of this building. The ground floor glazing reflects and shimmers like the ocean and the varied heights and materials of the residential units represents the urban form of the city against the backdrop of the full-height planted walls on the north end of the building.
This green wall – five stories tall – is one of the tallest “living walls” in Southern California. It flanks a row of six townhome apartments with individual entrances along Sixth Street.
“There are very few new residential projects in downtown Santa Monica where you can walk into a two-story home off the street,” says Feichtner. “It was important to provide a real pedestrian connection and activity on 6th.”
The project takes sustainability seriously with a portfolio of green strategies including sliding screens on west-facing windows and an attention to indoor air quality. The project targets LEED Silver certified.
“We took maximum advantage of incredible views and access to light and breeze with the orientation of the windows and balconies,” says Feichtner. “The higher residences are quieter and all about light and space. And all the environments at Sway – indoors and out – prove that Santa Monica is one of the most ideal settings for apartment living you can have.” —Jack Skelley