Journal of Housing & Community Development

New Palace Hotel Puts Housing First

October 22, 2021
by Libby Miller

The San Diego Housing Commission (SDHC) won a 2020 Award of Excellence for Project Design for redeveloping a previous single-room occupancy (SRO) residential building into permanent supportive housing for seniors.  Nominated from among the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials Award of Merit winners each year, the Awards of Excellence winners are chosen by national juries and honored at the annual National Conference and Exhibition in November. They represent the very best in innovative programs in assisted housing and community development. 

It’s been more than two decades since the New Palace Hotel was renovated. Now thanks to SDHC, with the help of its nonprofit affiliate Housing Development Partners (HDP), the hotel has been converted into 79 affordable studio apartments for seniors who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Following the “Housing First” model of addressing homelessness, the New Palace Hotel offers residents federal rental assistance from SDHC and access to a variety of supportive services. 

 Supportive services and resources including healthcare, legal, entitlement and retirement benefits assistance, transportation, community events, and one-on-one support are provided to New Palace Hotel’s vulnerable residents by the nonprofit organization Serving Seniors, which operates the Gary and Mary West Senior Wellness Center located three blocks from the property. 

This is not the first time the New Palace Hotel has been rebuilt. The building was originally constructed in 1910, then destroyed by a fire almost 80 years later. SDHC’s rehabilitation of New Palace with HDP was the property’s first major renovation since it was rebuilt in 1991. Significant upgrades to New Palace included the addition of kitchenettes—complete with refrigerators, stoves, microwaves and garbage disposals—in each dwelling unit, along with all associated mechanical, electrical and plumbing requirements. These kitchenettes helped extend the building’s useful life and provided residents the opportunity to cook meals in their individual units. 

The final design gave the units a modern, fresher look, while staying true to the hotel’s origins. Additionally, site amenities were improved to allow for common areas to build a sense of community among residents. This includes the addition of a media and computer room, a patio and landscaped courtyard, office and conference space, on-site laundry, and a front desk.  

 The rehabilitation of New Palace provided new life into the building while maintaining its original architectural design components, enhancing the property’s exterior appearance and overall incorporation into the surrounding neighborhood. This affordable property blends in well with nearby market-rate residential buildings.  

Residents of New Palace were provided temporary relocation assistance while the property was repaired. SDHC invested a $3.1 million loan toward rehabilitation and the project received a $3 million CDBG grant from HUD. The total project cost was about $22.6 million.  

The rehabilitation of New Palace is an example of a public housing agency collaborating with public, private and nonprofit partners to preserve and enhance existing affordable housing for a vulnerable population while still maintaining a building’s aesthetic and historic integrity. The innovative design improvements at New Palace—from the addition of kitchenettes in each unit to enhanced common areas to the on-site supportive services—extended the property’s useful life and created homes for senior San Diegans experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness.   

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