|Montebello Downtown Plaza is a sight rarely seen in Southern California: a mixed-use strip mall.|
Image: Google Maps Street View
One project, dubbed Montebello Downtown Plaza, at the southwest corner of Montebello Boulevard and Cleveland Avenue gracefully combines these two elements. One building is a stand-alone row of stores behind a parking lot and the other combines stores and gated resident parking on the ground floor with three levels of apartments above, tapping the same surface parking lot for the stores. A very wide sidewalk that has trees, benches and a decent bus shelter complements it all very well. The genius of this project is that it looks like a strip mall, but it works like mixed-use urbanism. Motorists can see that there is a place to park, and residents are in super-convenient proximity to stores and bus lines that run both east-west and north-south.
|Montebello Senior Villas (center) has apartments above stores on the north side and relies on two surface parking lots.|
Image: Google Maps
A similar suburban-urban hybrid shows up again at Montebello Senior Villas at Whittier Boulevard and 21st Street. This large three-story complex is senior housing over a strip mall on the busier Whittier Boulevard side and residential only in back with courtyards providing open space on the interior. The parking plan is a bit different here, with two surface lots, one apparently for the stores, and a larger one in back apparently for residents and guests.
What does it all mean? As the baby boom generation ages in America senior housing is increasing in importance. While many seniors choose to age in place, many others choose to downsize and move. As people age, disabilities sometimes prevent them from driving safely. By taking advantage of mixed land uses and living close to transit, it can be easier for these folks to retain their independence. These projects are low-scale enough and look enough like car-oriented retail to fit into their suburban context, but are also urban enough to improve walkability and add to the potential for better transit service. Well done.