Development set to open along Walnut in Pasadena

By Luke Netzley

For architect Jon Kelly, walkability is the forefront of his architectural vision. It’s a philosophy that he says is infused in Tyler Kelly Architecture’s newest Pasadena project, MW Lofts.

The 115-unit, twin-building project commanding the corner of Walnut Street and El Molino Avenue will be a mixed-use development that includes commercial, retail and restaurant spaces on the ground floor as well as a widened walkway to increase the flow of pedestrians in and around the site.

“There’s an aspect of new urbanism that we really try to subscribe to for all of our projects,” Kelly says. “That’s the ability to function in your daily life and with your daily routines without the use of a car. So having restaurants and retail on the ground floor that are activated and used and then being able to go upstairs to your residence is a principal component to a lot of the projects that we work on.”

The MW Lofts project began in 2015 as a partnership between developer Prominent Investment; general contractor PGK Partners; civil engineer Tritech Engineering; structural and MEP engineer Gouvis Engineering Group; and design and fabrication firm Creative Machines, among others.

Originally, Tyler Kelly Architecture was only contracted to work on the site’s eastern building before the scope of the project increased to include the western parcel. In terms of the design aesthetic, Kelly says that the aim was not to create “identical twins, but more so fraternal twins.”

“They’d have similarities in their massing and in their character, but they would have some differences in how they’re perceived from the street,” Kelly explains. “The west building has a more vertical appearance, whereas the east building has a more horizontal appearance. In terms of the planning of both projects, we created an interior courtyard for the east building, and our circulation for the upper floors goes around that interior courtyard, whereas the west building’s principal exterior amenity is a rooftop terrace, which is something that isn’t normally seen in too many of these types of buildings. So we were very excited to be able to provide that opportunity for the residents.”

The site will also include a “loja” feature that covers the south side of both buildings to protect the walkways from the afternoon sun.

Another key feature of the MW Lofts development is that it is a density bonus project, which means that it possesses affordable units. Kelly explained that there are 10 “very low-income units” proposed for the site, which would afford MW Lofts with a relief on height restrictions. This would allow the development to be built up to six stories while the maximum height for most other buildings remains capped at five, giving MW Lofts the ability to house more penthouse units along with the rooftop amenity on the western building.

“This brings a taller building mass to the Walnut area,” Kelly says.

With the eastern building set for completion in March and the western building set to open by the end of the year, Kelly’s hope is that MW Lofts will not only improve the surrounding area’s walkability but also inspire others to consider building with the same tenets in mind.

“Walnut is an interesting street because it does have a lot of mixed-use developments that are beginning to rise in that area … so we were excited to be able to design on this site and give the community yet another cornerstone piece to continue the pedestrian experience along Walnut,” he says. “(MW Lofts) makes Walnut a very viable candidate for being … an artery within Pasadena. I think the legacy or the goal of this is … other developers will follow suit and will create a very vibrant active street for the future.”

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