Vanessa Delgado made a promise to her grandmother when she was nine years old.
As a kid growing up in Boyle Heights, Delgado says she was always reading and writing, and her cousins would tease her sometimes, making her feel embarrassed. She recalls a summer day when she shared an intimate moment with her grandmother.
“She told me that my differences were going to be what was going to create opportunities for me,” Delgado says. “But I had to promise to use those opportunities to help others.”
She’s trying to uphold that promise. Last week, Delgado’s firm, Azure Development, kicked off construction on an affordable housing complex on the corner of Boyle Street and First Avenue, across from Mariachi Plaza, in the same neighborhood where she grew up. It will be called La Guadalupe, after her grandmother Guadalupe Arevalos.
When it opens in 2021, the $33.7 million project will hold 44 units, a parking garage, a communal area, and three retail tenants on the ground floor. The communal area will have two on-site case managers and other amenities, like a computer lab, event space, and a courtyard for barbecues. It will be partially wrapped in a brick facade and a mural with an Otomi pattern.
Azure is developing La Guadalupe with Many Mansions, a Thousand Oaks-based developer. It’s rising on the former site of a gas station, and it will be partially funded with $9.46 million from voter-approved Measure HHH bond and a Waterboard Brownfield Grant. In partnership with the Los Angeles Unified School District, 20 of the units will be set aside for homeless families. Residents will be selected through the region’s coordinated entry system and other local agencies.
Delgado says La Guadalupe is dedicated to women like her grandmother who “give up themselves” to help their families but never receive recognition.
Delgado founded Azure Developments, a for-profit company, in 2016. Prior to that, she worked for the development firm Primestor for 11 years and helped build shopping centers in Southeast LA.
But building housing projects was always something she wanted to do. She grew up in a low-income household and saw how much her parents and neighbors struggled to pay rent. In June 2017, when Azure began planning for La Guadalupe, Delgado read a Los Angeles Times article about a surge of the Latino homeless population in LA. The main character in the story? Her uncle. She knew he was homeless, but said it was jarring to see his face in the photos.
“I might not be able to directly help him,” she says. “But the homelessness picture is people like my uncle, who just can’t afford somewhere to live.”