Adaptive Reuse: Building Community in a Parking Lot

This summer, our office is humming with creative and inspiring projects. Our new custom homes, full renovations and restorations are exciting challenges, but we are also committed to the well-being of our community and planet. If you follow our firm and blog, you’ll likely remember our work in 2018 and 2019 with My Friend’s Place (MFP), a Hollywood-based resource center that assists and inspires homeless youth to build self-sufficient lives. In the midst of the ongoing pandemic, a new need appeared: the ability for MFP to effectively offer its services outdoors. Where does TBA come in? We devised a plan to repurpose an exterior space the center’s rear parking lot into a useful area that will serve them for years to come.

Our design process began like any other project: speaking with our “homeowners”, who in this case are MFP’s Executive Director, Heather Carmichael; plus Frank Babich, Operations & Program Resource Manager; and Rachel Sanchez, Volunteer & Community Engagement Manager. “They use the parking lot in many different ways; for case management and client intake, individually meeting with youth, and also use it for classes, from painting to poetry writing; and for group gatherings or events, like barbecues,” shares David Stone, our Director of Operations, and a member of MFP’s Emerging Leaders Council. “That’s why we designed the moveable hedge walls, which can be arranged to function as individual pods or offices.” 

In this urban neighborhood, beauty, functionality and flexibility were must-haves, along with  sun protection and easy maintenance. We generated a SketchUp model of the existing lot, and 3-D visualizations of proposed plans. After a few iterations, we agreed upon a garden-like plan, featuring ample shade and greenery. Over the course of several weeks and three separate volunteer days, our team sponsored and constructed what is now a purposeful — and delightful — outdoor services area.

Planning: SketchUp models of one of the preliminary plans for the parking lot.

May 12, 2021: Our first task on site was to assemble moveable faux hedge walls on wheels, creating private, shaded pods to intake or meet with clients. When not in use, the walls can easily be rearranged to allow for parking, COVID-19 testing, etc.

June 2, 2021: During our staff’s second volunteer day at the parking lot, we covered the surrounding fence and storage POD with faux greenery, creating privacy from the nearby businesses and highway. Live trees were provided by Juan Camilo Ospina Londoño of Hoffman & Ospina Landscape Architecture.

June 12, 2021: We completed the space during our third visit to MFP, which included assembly of a large event tent to provide abundant shade.

MFP’s parking lot is an example of the ways we bring new life to older spaces and structures. In architecture lingo, this is “adaptive reuse”: the process of reusing an existing building or site for a purpose other than it was originally designed. This strategy not only honors the past, but also helps to protect our planet, reducing waste, conserving energy and resources. For the rest of 2021 and beyond, we challenge our team and our homeowners to help us impact lives, and our planet, for the better.