N. Hollywood senior housing complex caters to artistic tenants


As the real estate industry ponders ways to cater to an aging population, one company has come up with an unusual amenity for senior housing: a professional theater.

In fact, developers of an apartment complex catering to seniors with an artistic bent that has opened in North Hollywood think it may be the region’s first pairing of housing and live theater.

The $32-million NoHo Senior Arts Colony is intended for residents age 62 and over with interests in such artistic pursuits as singing, acting, photography and writing. Free classes in the arts will be offered, and the complex will include a 78-seat theater operated by the Road Theatre Co.

The developer, Meta Housing Corp., has staked out a niche making rental housing for Southern California seniors who enjoy the arts and want to be around like-minded souls.

The company also operates the Long Beach Senior Arts Colony and the Burbank Senior Artists Colony, where tenants can attend poetry workshops, learn to paint with watercolors or join the chorus.

“We are inviting artists and those who wish to be involved in or surrounded by the arts, to come and live in a community in which they will increase their artistic abilities and opportunities, as well as being surrounded by like-minded, arts-focused neighbors,” said John Huskey, chief executive of Meta Housing.

The 126-unit NoHo Senior Arts Colony is set apart by having a built-in professional theater that will sell tickets to public performances.

Several of the first would-be residents to seek apartments at the colony are actors with the Road Theatre, a North Hollywood troupe that will make its home at the Arts Colony when its theater is finished.

Another resident, 85-year-old writer Tony Calvetta, came to be among other creative folks and take part in big-city life.

“You get inspiration from other people,” he said. “Everyone helps one another and it inspires you.”

Calvetta had a business making doors and windows before he retired eight years ago. He came to Los Angeles because he got bored living in Sonoma near his son.

“It’s a little too quiet, too laid-back,” he said.

Now Brooklyn-born Calvetta is a full-time, if unpublished, author of short stories and novels.

“I caught the bug 15 years ago and have been addicted ever since,” he said.

With the enormous baby boom generation closing in on retirement, demand for senior housing will swell, industry experts said, but it’s unclear how best to serve them. Developers are uncertain how deep demand will be for apartment living and whether average boomers will be able to afford upscale rents of $2,000 a month or more.

Previous generations tended to stay in their homes rather than rent apartments because their mortgages were paid off and they were comfortable in their longtime neighborhoods, said Richard Green, director of the USC Lusk Center for Real Estate. Boomers are more likely to have substantial mortgages and may have to sell their homes to afford retirement.

“Each cohort behaves differently from the previous cohort,” Green said.

Boomers may prefer to retire in more urban settings than earlier generations did, but developers will be challenged to build housing in desirable locations where seniors can afford to rent, said real estate broker Craig Stevens of Lee & Associates.

The most desirable sites are around transportation hubs with shops and restaurants in easy walking distance. But those spots are also attractive to standard apartment developers, who can afford to pay more for property because they can charge higher rents than many seniors can pay.

“The problem is affordable land,” Stevens said. “I just don’t think you can do [senior housing] anymore without some sort of [public] redevelopment or housing funds.”

Rents at NoHo Senior Arts Colony, at 10747 Magnolia Blvd., range from $1,750 to $2,340 a month for one-bedroom or two-bedroom apartments. Other amenities at the complex include a visual arts studio, a digital arts center and a “meditation eco-garden.”