What's Beautiful, Green, Affordable, And In Skid Row?

San Francisco Chronicle urban design writer John King comments on the city's newest 'supportive housing' development, the eight-story Plaza Apartments, located in the heart of skid row, to open on March 15.
March 7, 2006, 6am PST | Irvin Dawid
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The project "adds a deceptively rich piece of contemporary design to a South of Market landscape where you're more likely to see someone passed out in an alleyway than pausing to survey the architecture."

"The $22 million complex was developed by the city's Redevelopment Agency to create housing for extremely low-income residents and then tweaked during construction to focus on a chronically homeless population, with space inside for social workers and medical care.

"The final priority at the Plaza is environmental. Concepts such as recycling and energy efficiency were folded into the design work from the start. The architecture and choice of materials were shaped by a desire to attain at least a silver rating from the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program. Whatever the final score, this would be the first residential building in the city to receive such certification.

"The quest for sustainability leaves its mark throughout the project -- from the courtyard that filters all its water runoff into the soil to the rooftop solar panels that provide the equivalent of 12 percent of the project's energy needs.

"In a dicey location such as Sixth Street, the Plaza Apartments could have been designed as a fortress. Instead, they're a vote of confidence in the future -- the future of the neighborhood, and a design future where environmentalism and architecture are fused together so tightly they can't be pulled apart."

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Published on Friday, March 3, 2006 in The San Francisco Chronicle
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