Innovative gay retirement community said in works for Rancho Mirage

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Innovative gay retirement community said in works for Rancho Mirage

| architecture | February 16, 2011

Firm says it has plans for Rancho Mirage, but city says it’s news to them

Ten diverse architecture firms are collaborating with a Los Angeles-based real estate investment company in hopes of building a $250 million urban-village type retirement community primarily for gays on 100 acres in Rancho Mirage. / Submitted illustration

Ten diverse architecture firms are collaborating with a Los Angeles-based real estate investment company in hopes of building a $250 million urban-village type retirement community primarily for gays on 100 acres in Rancho Mirage.

Developers hope to break ground next year on 300 homes to be built in eight distinct neighborhoods — each designed by a different architect — said Matthias Hollwich, principal at New York-based Hollwich Kushner Architects.

The proposed development is news to Rancho Mirage planning officials, however. They only heard of it recently by receiving e-mails from residents after the project was made public on an architecture blog.

“No application has been submitted,” said Bud Kopp, Rancho Mirage senior planner. “I don’t know where it’s proposed to be. I would assume at some point they would come to talk to us. You have to get planning entitlements and approval of the (City) Council first.”

Hollwich said he could not yet reveal the exact location of the proposed project because negotiations are still under way.

A public workshop to seek input from Coachella Valley residents — whether they would want to live in the newly developed community or not — will be held in the area in about three months, Hollwich said.

Input also is being sought through the website boomforlife.com, designed by Toronto-based Bruce Mau Design.

Social media outlets such as Facebook are being used to take participants from a virtual community to one of bricks and mortar, developers said.

Plans call for pathways, plazas and walking trails; an entertainment complex; a boutique hotel; a gym and spa; and a wellness center.

Other features include restaurants, outdoor cafes, nightclubs, a meditation center, a “multi-generational funhouse,” parks, children’s playgrounds, a climbing wall, swimming pools, an outdoor movie theater and an open-air market.

A second phase to include 400 homes already is being conceptualized for the master- planned, pedestrian-oriented community.

Homes range from studios to four-bedroom single-family homes that can be shared.

Hollwich said prices for the units have yet to be set.

Inclusive mission

Boom Communities Inc., a 52-year-old real estate investment firm that is spearheading the project, was so adamant about creating a different kind of look and feel that it sought out only architects who had never worked on retirement communities or projects geared for aging populations.

“We wanted people who looked at the issue with really fresh eyes,” Hollwich said.

Architects range from well-known New York-based Diller Scofidio + Renfro to emerging firms such as Berlin-based Juergen Mayer H and Sadar + Vuga of Ljubljana, Slovenia.

Architects say the philosophy behind the development began with the notion of pioneering a space for gay retirees. It has since expanded into a community for all ages with the mission of inclusion, not seclusion, about living, not retiring.

“Like the Kibbutz we grew up on, our vision for (our) neighborhood allows you to have privacy when you want it upon entering your house,” said Lior Tsionov, principal with Tel Aviv, Israel-based architecture firm L2 Tsionov-Vitkon.

“But if you want social interaction, all you have to do is open the door and your neighbors and friends are all around.”

Architects will strive for “high design” that is far from the status quo of other retirement communities or assisted-living facilities, Hollwich said.

Firms for the Boom project also were chosen for their willingness to collaborate with the desert community as well as other architects, and for their progressive design, Hollwich said.

Architect Bostjan Vuga’s progressive design calls for a neighborhood called The Petals, where “homes flower upward and bloom outward to create and exist with a space that blurs the boundaries of public and private.”

Sadar + Vaga’s homes are comprised of two halves — an indoor home and an outdoor home, the latter blending into open space.

Joel Sanders, a New York- based architect chosen for the project, said “gay identity” is not singular, but multiple.

“Our hope is to design a spectrum of housing types that cater to and accommodate these diverse lifestyle needs,” Sanders said.

Several years ago, tennis legend Billie Jean King proposed the RainbowVision project, a gay retirement community that was to be built on 13 acres at East Palm Canyon Drive and Gene Autry Trail in Palm Springs. The project never took off, and the lender repurchased the land at a foreclosure auction.

A few of the features pitched as part of the proposed Boom project for Rancho Mirage: 

Pathways, plazas and walking trails; Entertainment complex; Boutique hotel; Restaurants and nightclubs; A “multi-generational funhouse”; Gym, spa and wellness center; Parks, children’s playgrounds, a climbing wall and swimming pools; Outdoor movie theater; An open-air market.

Boom community architects

Arakawa + Gins, New York
Diller Scofidio + Renfro, New York
Hollwich Kushner, New York
J. Mayer H., Berlin, Germany
Joel Sanders Architect, New York
L2 Tsionov- Vitkon, Tel Aviv, Israel
Lot-Ek, Naples, Italy and New York
Rudin Donner Design, West Hollywood
Sadar + Vuga, Ljubljana, Slovenia
Surfacedesign Inc., San Francisco

Via The Desert Sun



About the author

Drawing upon original ideas and extensive personal and professional experience in the field, David McFadden crafted this article to explore the untapped potential of making historic architectural masterpieces more sustainable. After working at various design practices—both full-time and freelance—and launching his design firm, David identified a significant gap in the industry. In 1984, he founded Consulting For Architects Inc. Careers, an expansive hub designed to align architects with hiring firms for mutual benefit. This platform enables architects to find impactful design work and frees hiring firms from the time-consuming cycles of recruitment and layoffs. David’s innovative approach to employer-employee relations has brought much-needed flexibility and adaptation to the industry. As the Founder and CEO, David has successfully guided his clients and staff through the challenges of four recessions—the early ’80s, early ’90s, early 2000s, the Great Recession, the pandemic, and the current slowdown due to inflation and high-interest rates.

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