Santa Monica firm receives multiple design honors for mixed-use housing project
By Nicole Borgenicht
Over the years, Michael W. Folonis Architects has designed many affordable housing and senior complexes on the Westside. The full-service architecture firm in Santa Monica has also designed pro bono for homeless students in a partnership with UCLA and worked with Santa Monica-based nonprofit Community Corporation of Santa Monica to improve affordable housing lifestyles.
The firm was founded in 1983 by Michael W. Folonis, who is also a resident of Santa Monica. Serving on the Architectural Review Board (past chair) and a board member of Santa Monica Conservancy, Folonis has often addressed the need for affordable housing. He is also a current board member of the Los Angeles chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA).
“I’m also a Vietnam vet and am currently looking to partner with organizations that address homelessness among veterans,” Folonis said.
The firm’s Millennium East Village project in Santa Monica is a series of modern structures that balance smart architecture with market-rate and affordable living. It was transformed from an abandoned mobile home park into a community-oriented, five-story, 362-unit mixed-use complex, 10 percent of which is affordable housing.
Millennium East Village has garnered multiple recent design awards including a Westside Urban Forum Design Award, it was honored in the Multi-Residential (50+) category at the 2021 AIA Residential Design Awards, and it was named a Multi-Family winner at the 2021 AIA San Fernando Design Valley Awards.
Determined to improve the quality of life for people, Millennium East Village’s design structures enhance natural light and ventilation to every area.
“For Millennium East Village, we wanted to design something more community and neighborhood oriented than a monolithic box, which is an easy and uninspired housing solution,” Folonis said. “Our firm created four interlocking elements to make the 362-unit complex more open, accessible and inviting — to residents as well as to the neighborhood.”
The multi-complex design utilizes solar for outdoor spaces, and windows leading indoors are oriented for solar energy and certified LEED with forthcoming, increased energy efficiency.
The ground floor is designed for retail businesses such as a cafe, grocers and drycleaners. Additional amenities for residents include a pool, club house, gym, communal gardens, barbecue areas and outdoor play areas for children.
Millennium East Village supports three tiers of a new wave in development. Tenants that seek affordable living are one tier, retail businesses that want built-in clientele without being zoned are the second tier, and market-rate tenants are the third tier. Furthermore, enhancing the neighborhood with safe and affordable living and public spaces that engage new customers improves the quality of life for everyone.
“With more people working from home and the demand for commercial office space theoretically decreasing, rezoning commercial properties to include residential could be a solution for increasing affordable housing in the LA area,” Folonis said.
Michael W. Folonis Architects
1524 Cloverfield Blvd., Santa Monica