Paul Revere Williams, FAIA, is a name that carries a lot of weight in the Los Angeles architectural community. The first African-American member of the AIA and a popular home designer among movie stars and celebrities, Williams broke barriers and designed nearly 3,000 buildings during a storied career that began in the 1920s and reached into the 1970s.

While most of the structures that bear his name were built in wealthier areas of the city, Williams always remained dedicated to his home in South Los Angeles. In 1926, he designed the 28th Street YMCA, which for decades provided affordable housing and services to a community in need. In 2006, it was added to the City of Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monuments List, and in 2009 it was added to the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places.

However, while the 28th Street YMCA’s history was not in doubt, its future was. The building fell into disrepair and the YMCA could no longer maintain it. The space was passed off to the nonprofit group Clifford Beers Housing, whose mission is to provide housing for low-income people. The organization sought to revitalize the building so that it could serve its role in the community once more.

Los Angeles design firm Koning Eizenberg Architecture was brought on board to do a sustainable retrofit and historic preservation of the aging building to transform it into the 28th Street Apartments. The architects quickly discovered what the building meant to the community. “Whenever I went over there, people would stop in their cars and say, ‘Hey, it’s really great what you’re doing, but be careful about this or that,’ ” recalls Julie Eizenberg, AIA, principal of Koning Eizenberg. “If people get out of their cars to tell you things, they’re clearly invested in the building’s turnaround.”

The original structure underwent a major internal overhaul, with efficiency upgrades made to the building’s envelope, as well as its HVAC and mechanical systems. A cool roof, demand control ventilation, solar thermal, and a PV array are part of an energy-efficiency strategy that exceeds California’s Title 24 energy standard by 24 percent. Along with the retrofit of the existing building, more occupant space was provided with the addition of a new five-story building connected to the main building at the south end of the lot. It features a green roof that serves as a rooftop deck.

“We wanted to respect the historic value of the building, but also alter it and do an adaptive reuse to produce real housing,” explains Jim Bonar, the executive director of Clifford Beers Housing at the time of the 28th Street Apartments project. “[We sought LEED Gold] because, in addition to wanting to do good, we used some public money from the California Department of Housing and Community Development and the Los Angeles Housing Department. You get to go to the front of the line if you put in sustainable features.”

The renovated 28th Street Apartments opened in 2012 and has been well received by the community. Along with providing 49 affordable housing units that have been tested for optimum occupant comfort, the building shares space with the Coalition for Responsible Community Development, a nonprofit that offers job training and other neighborhood revitalization services.

“There is a whole lot of history tied up here, so we were very careful and respectful about that,” Eizenberg says. “It wasn’t just about providing housing and community programs again, it was about re-establishing the dignity of the building. With our environmental strategy, we always think about how we can get the most social benefit from any move we make. We are making something that builds community.”

Green Team
Owner and client: Clifford Beers Housing, Cristian Ahumada
Architect, landscape architect: Koning Eizenberg Architects, Brian Lane
Preservation Architect: Historic Resources Group, Peyton Hall
Contractor: Alpha Construction Co., Louis Laxineta
Construction manager: AMJ Construction, Jack Wickersham
Architectural conservator: Williams Art Conservation, Donna Williams
Structural engineer: Parker Resnick Structural Engineers, Bruce Resnick
Mechanical/plumbing engineer: Khalifeh & Associates, Arah Khalifeh
Electrical engineer: OMB Electrical Engineers, Dennis McVay
Irrigation: Atomic Irrigation, Mark Susser
Lighting: Lighting Design Alliance: Patrick Salmons
Environmental graphics: Newsom Design, Lucy Gonzales
LEED: Green Dinosaur, Jason Lorcher
Land use: Brown/Meschul, Mark Brown
Soils: Geotechnologies, Edward Hill
Historical restoration contractor: Spectra Co., Ray Adamyk

Exterior cladding masonry: Angelus CMU
Metal panels: Tinco Sheet Metal
Precast concrete: Spectra Co.
Moisture barrier: Jumbotex
Storefront: Arcadia
Steel-troweled plaster: Shamrock Stucco applied by Ken Harges Plastering Co.
Perforated metal screen: C.R. Lawrence Company.
Paint: Sherwin Williams, Carboline
Roofing: Seaman’s Corp; Parex; (E)Historic Clay Tiles; GAF Materials Corp
Windows: Spectra Company; Arcadia installed by Zaun Glass Co.; Milgard
Glazing: PPG; Oldcastle; Glas Pro; (E) skylights Spectra Co.; Glas Pro
Doors: Spectra Co.; Arcadia installed by Zaun Glass Co.; Spectra Co.; Davila Custom Cabinet; Bravo; Taylor Trim; Total Door System; Smoke Guard; Cookson
Door hardware: Schlage; Von Duprin; LCN Closers; Trimco; DoorKing Entry System
Security devices: GE; Hero; VBrick
Ceilings: Tectum; Alpro
Cabinetwork and custom woodwork: Davila Custom Cabinet; Commercial Wood Products Co.
Paints and stains: Sherwin-Williams
Wall coverings: Forbo
Paneling: Homasote Co.; Spectra Co.
Solid surfacing: Corian
Special surfacing: Daltile
Concrete floor sealer: SealKrete
Resilient flooring: Forbo
Carpet: Interface FLOR
Roller Window Shades: Hunter Douglas
Office furniture: Haworth
Housing units, community room and reception furniture: Collaborative House
Seating: Davila Custom Cabinet; Haworth; Room and Board; Russell Woodard; Eames; Spark
Tables: Vivaterra; Crate & Barrel; Room & Board; KEA
Interior ambient lighting: Birchwood Lighting Pendants; Progress Lighting; American Fluorescent; Cooper Lighting; Gammalux
Downlights: Hess America Messina
Fan lights in units: The Modern Fan Co.
Task lighting: Elio
Exterior: Hevi Lite; Lumascape; B-K Lighting; Primus Decostring; Kenall Enviroseal; Lumenton; Shaper; Pinnacle; Cooper Industries
Dimming system or other lighting controls: Lutron; LC&D
Elevators/escalators: Kone
Plumbing: Haws; Kohler; Delta
Photovoltaic system: Sunpower
Solar hotwater: Sun Earth
Structural and misc. steel: Dragon Steel
Historic cast stone recreations, Batchelder tile restoration, historic restoration: Spectra Co.
Historic window grill recreations: The Patrician Group
Graphics: SG/K Signs
Signage: Z-Products
Doorbell Buttons: Spore True