Across the street from my loft in the Arts District of Downtown Los Angeles, there used to be an undeveloped field bounded by East Third Street, Santa Fe Avenue, and Traction Avenue. Taken on June 3, 2017, this photo documents the beginning of the construction on what eventually became what is now Aliso Apartments. In the mid-1990s, Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) sought to convert the 15-acre triangle-shaped site into a warehouse for its buses. Community members successfully fought that use, and in 1999, Dynamic Builders purchased the lot. In 2000, the quarter-mile building (built in 1907 as a railroad freight depot) on the property was secured by Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc), which was converted into SCI-Arc’s new campus over a period of about two years. Since the school couldn’t raise the $25 million needed to buy the depot and the other parcels that made up the triangle, developers Richard Meruelo and Daniel D. Villanueva purchased the remaining portion of the property in 2004 for $12.5 million. They had planned the construction of two 40-story apartment towers, each containing 384 luxury apartments, thereby eliminating SCI-Arc’s plans for adjacent dormitories. However, their plans were dashed by 2011, when SCI-Arc was able to purchase a portion of the lot plus the historic building (it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2006). Ultimately, Legendary Developments, Legacy Partners and Fairfield Residential bought the remaining bulk of the property (5.85 acres), and in 2018, their Aliso Apartments development with 472 residential units opened for leasing.

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