Affordable housing renovation

Keller Plaza is home to many low-income Eritrean and Ethiopian families and seniors in Oakland’s diverse Temescal neighborhood, where affordable housing is in high demand. In this occupied renovation we addressed the property’s capital repair needs, dramatically improved energy efficiency and accessibility, created more welcoming community spaces, and better connected the development with its surroundings.

Originally built in 1973, the development has 201 apartments in seven buildings, with ample open space. This $17 million occupied renovation combines Low Income Housing Tax Credits with Project Based Section 8 and HUD Green Retrofit Program funds from the Federal ARRA act, and was designed to meet Green Point Rated requirements.

Our design was informed by a resident-led process that established community priorities:

  • Reconfigure the community building to create a welcoming space for computer use, training, and tutoring.
  • Remedy flooding in courtyard green space with new drainage systems and native plant landscaping.
  • Create secure and central bicycle parking.
  • Make the site, parking lot, community building, and 10 apartments accessible for the first time to tenants with disabilities.
  • Improve exterior cladding and enclose open-air corridors to remedy flooding and water intrusion in hallways.

As we addressed security issues, we removed foreboding, spiked black fencing in favor of new, non-climbable guard rails and fencing that complement the facades and provide syncopation to the long site boundaries. We sought to transform the experience of passersby through the use of vibrant color, making a statement to the neighborhood that the development was rejuvenated.

Universal design for aging in place

Our design team looked beyond accessible code requirements to weave universal design concepts into all aspects of the renovation. The design concept used building color to improve wayfinding throughout the development. We also installed a main gate entry map, provided doorway colors to improve the marking of building and unit entries, and improved visibility at corridors with solar-tube natural daylighting. A graciously wide ramp at the entry gate provided seating for residents seeking a resting spot. And tripping hazards were reduced by replacing damaged concrete and eliminated slipping hazards in corridors prone to flooding.