Interactive Design Corporation Unveils Award-Winning Affordable Housing Design for The Monarch Apartment Homes in Palm Springs

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Interactive Design Corporation (IDC), a Palm Springs-based architectural firm known for its focus on creating sustainable projects that address important social values, has unveiled the design for The Monarch Apartment Homes, a 60-unit, affordable housing community located in Palm Springs, CA. Developed by the Community Housing Opportunities Corporation (CHOC), an organization dedicated to the development of economically integrated housing, the design centers on a contemporary mid-century modern architectural style that creates an inviting, welcoming neighborhood for its residences.

“Our strategy is to increase the supply of beautifully designed, sustainable homes for low- and moderate-income families that serve the desert community,” emphasizes Joy Silver, regional director of CHOC. “This type of design integrates communities and transforms lives. The Monarch Apartment Homes is a prime example of how our cities can add well-designed, sustainable living environments for their residents.”

Located on a 3.62-acre vacant parcel of land at the Southeast corner of N. Indian Canyon and San Rafael Drive in the Upper Westside One Palm Springs neighborhood, the property is owned by the City of Palm Springs Successor Redevelopment Agency. In partnership with the City, CHOC will develop the land with rental apartments that offer one-, two- and three-bedroom apartment homes.

Since the neighboring properties on the east side of the complex are residential homes, most of which are mid-century in design, the east side buildings will be smaller, one-story, and one-bedroom units to respect the context of the neighborhood.

Much of the local mid-century designed homes in the adjacent neighborhoods were influenced by Donald Allen Wexler, an influential architect who practiced in the desert for almost 60 years. Trained under Richard Neutra, Wexler designed banks, schools, and even the Palm Springs airport, but he is known for his home designs, many of which are found throughout the surrounding community.

“The design of this complex demonstrates that high design and affordable housing can work hand in hand,” emphasized Maria Song, AIA, LEED AP, partner with IDC, known for its award-winning concepts specifically for affordable housing development. “We’ve incorporated mid-century design elements that weave the interaction of place, people, and community together, thus knitting it into the overall City itself as a thriving neighborhood for the working families who need affordable housing.”

The first affordable housing effort in Palm Spring in twelve years, 60 units of affordable housing — or 15 units to the acre — is required to be built based on California’s density bonus law.

“The Monarch Apartment Homes will provide critically needed affordable housing units for Palm Springs,” said Palm Springs Mayor Christy Holstege. “Just as important as the availability of affordable housing is the fact that the rents at the Monarch Apartments will remain affordable for at least 55 years. This will allow generations of families to establish themselves in the community without having to worry about housing security or paying large portions of their income towards rent. We’re very proud of what the Monarch Apartment Homes will bring to the City of Palm Springs.”

Creating a mini neighborhood

The design of the $31 million complex includes sloping rooftops that mimic the monarch butterfly. It also includes natural desert plants to blend into the surrounding communities.

The property itself is designed with a tree-lined thoroughfare, aptly named Main Street, to create a pedestrian plaza. Designed in 14 separate buildings clustered to create mini neighborhoods, each structure is topped with a sloping roofline mimicking the wings of the Monarch butterfly, which is known as a sign of rebirth. The name of the complex nods to the symbolism. Amenities include a dog park, a Monarch Park splash pad — which is a water feature with a deck area that is integrated into the main open space adjacent to a children’s play area, and two BBQ areas.

“These homes will become the community that our grocery store workers, clerks, caregivers, and more can live in and be proud of their homes,” added Song, who was invited to present this development at this year’s Modernism Week conference. “Creating housing affordability is the foundation to providing a stable, safe place for all of our residents to thrive. The design here proves that it can be done effectively, and residents will be proud to live here.”

To encourage a well-rounded living experience, all apartment homes will have patios or balconies with a community building with a computer classroom, a rental office, and a community lounge adjacent to a kitchen that can be used for group functions. A laundry room will also be centrally located in the community building. In the main driveway, parking is conveniently close to collector streets and offers both parallel parking and angled parking.

“The design of these homes compliments the surrounding community neighborhoods and offers a beautifully designed, mid-century modern look that blends in with the neighborhood, and even the upper-income enclaves,” adds Song.

Sustainability Factors

Sustainability was a key consideration in the creation of this property. Sustainability in construction was enhanced by making all of the indoor and outdoor systems electric.

In addition, the renewable energy system helps the complex work in unison and presents an opportunity for a solar panel system. The property will have efficient windows and appliances, reflective surfaces, and cool roofs that reflect about 76 percent of the sunray away from the building for added sustainability.

Understanding that the desert area sees high temperatures, the complex will be built with a double insulation system including framing with blown insulation and rigid insulation on the outside to help keep the air conditioning zones on the inside. Large roof overhangs also provide adequate shade throughout the property and over all the carports.

Based in Palm Springs, Song has seen a 29-degree drop in temperature in asphalt that is shaded, compared to those that are not. With this in mind, the property will also have many trees to create natural shade within the courtyard areas. The buildings are shaped so that the air can easily flow throughout the property, creating a passive cooling system.

IDC will submit The Monarch Apartment Homes for a GreenPoint Rated verification. The project is expected to break ground in early 2022.

About CHOC:

Founded in 1984, the Community Housing Opportunities Corporation (CHOC) is a non-profit, affordable housing developer based in Fairfield, California with offices in Palm Springs, that creates and manages communities for individuals, families, seniors and those with special needs. CHOC believes that economically integrated, affordable housing is key to self-sufficiency and is achievable with enriching, supportive programs that give pride to residents, stabilize families and improve local economies.