As the Vermont Corridor project in Koreatown approaches its countdown to completion in 2021, visitors were treated to a tour to view the project’s substantial progress. Approved by the Board of Supervisors in 2018, this project will serve as the future headquarters for the County of Los Angeles Departments of Mental Health (DMH) and Workforce Development, Aging, and Community Services (WDACS).
The new building will help enhance County service delivery while operating sustainably and integrating meaningful and culturally sensitive features of its surrounding community. Gensler, the project’s architect, has designed a state-of-the-art energy efficient glass façade with shading aluminum fins oriented in a diagonal pattern and a 360-degree view of Los Angeles at each office level of the 21-story building. The project is also designed to achieve LEED Silver Certification upon its completion.
The new $305M building that broke ground in 2018 reflects the County’s commitment to invest in the health and well-being of communities. The design ensures its constituents and employees alike can be surrounded by an environment that instills dignity, which is of utmost importance for providing community services such as mental health support. The lobby will host a peer resource center and walk-in mental health services ranging from prevention to recovery.
“The County of Los Angeles is part of the revitalization of communities. It means from an economic point of view, from a cultural point of view, and from the perspective of removing the stigma of mental health—this is a monument to self-esteem and self-worth,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, the lead author of the motion for this project.
“It makes a real statement about the importance of mental health—the mental health of our entire community—in particular those who have suffered for too long and have not had the dignity that a building like this and its resources would bring,” said Director of DMH, Dr. Jonathan Sherin, after the tour.
Participants of the tour were able to clearly envision the new opportunities that will be provided to engage the community with resources and support in a compelling environment. Notably, the new facility will enhance and streamline service delivery, particularly to the most vulnerable in the community that DMH and WDACS is committed to serving.
Having both DMH and WDACS headquartered at the same site will enable the departments to significantly improve operational efficiencies and generate cost savings for the County.
“Bringing administrative and programmatic offices in one single building allows for better communication,” said Otto Solarzano, Acting Director of WDACS. Solarzano also noted how this new environment will be conducive to generating creativity and extending the ability of County employees to provide services.
“I think it’s going to have a huge impact on the community,” said Johng Ho Song, President of the Korean Youth and Community Center as he highlighted how this project has spurred collaboration between the County, local non-profits, and the community. “I learned they are going to incorporate direct services in this building and we are going to have this building be a part of the community—I’m really looking forward to that,” commented Song.
Earlier this year, Korean American Artist Suzy Taekyung Kim received a major grant from the Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture to adorn the ground level with public art to provide a warm welcome to all who visit with her “Canopy of Blooms.” Kim’s art will convey the unique identity of Koreatown that celebrates multi-generational life stories and the endless cycle of life.
Since construction started, the project has employed over 2,400 construction workers with nearly half of the construction workers hired locally. One of these workers is Sylvia Lachapelle, who was recently featured in an installment of the Second District Essential worker series. Sylvia joined the tour and explained how her work to support the intricate electric needs of the building were part of the building’s progress, particularly in the office spaces that will house the work of County employees.
“I think it is a wonderful thing for them to be able to hire people straight from my local community. It feels amazing to be able to say I contributed to the community, and that it’s been a blast just to see how things go up and turn into something wonderful and beautiful that can serve the community,” said Lachapelle.
“This is a big shot in the arm from the economic development perspective,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas when speaking about thousands of jobs associated with this project. “That then will feed the environment with restaurants and other business opportunities.”
The next phases of the Vermont Corridor project will include much-needed affordable housing: 72-unit development and supportive services reserved for economically vulnerable seniors. Another feature of future senior housing project is a 12,500 square foot community center that will be operation by the YMCA. Additional market-rate housing and retail space will also be built to further activate the socioeconomically and culturally diverse neighborhood.