The Groves Project is giving new life to a vacant, dilapidated 78-acre Historical Landmark and former state facility that is being transformed into a modern neighborhood composed of single- and multi-family residences, including senior and affordable units.

Why does this project matter?

Redevelopment of this historically sensitive 78-acre campus involved the adaptive reuse of four historic buildings as signature community amenities, including a heritage square and a community center. A heritage trail through the campus, on- and off-site exhibits, a website, and a documentary film provide enjoyable opportunities for the public and community members to learn about the site’s rich history.

The most important architectural monuments of the former Fred C. Nelles School for Boys are being preserved: the historic Commissary/Chapels Building is being rehabilitated as a community center, and the original Administration Building, Superintendent’s Residence, and Assistant Superintendent’s residence are being rehabilitated and adaptively reused as retail and office space.

What is ESA doing to help?

Throughout the multi-year project planning and development process, ESA has provided research, preservation planning, and design input to meet city and state historical resources requirements and the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards and Guidelines. This included assisting architects, engineers, restoration contractors, and cost estimators in conducting feasibility studies that examined the potential for rehabilitation or relocation of the eight existing historic buildings that remained on site for the Environmental Impact Report.
ESA also collaborated with the architect and development team to prepare rehabilitation plans for the four historic buildings that are being retained and rehabilitated: the Commissary/Chapels Building, Administration Building, Superintendent’s Residence, and Assistant Superintendent’s Residence.

For the four historic buildings that were demolished, ESA conducted demolition monitoring and prepared daily monitoring logs and an architectural salvage report.

ESA also assisted with the multimedia commemoration depicting the historical significance of the site with exhibits, a website, and a documentary film. The firm’s historians provided narrative text and design input for development of a website about the history of the facility, seven commemorative monuments that will be incorporated into the heritage trail, and an interpretive panel and timeline that will be installed in the Whittier Public Library.

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“Striking a balance between past and future was a challenge for The Groves project. Historic preservation provided a way of managing change that retained the property’s historic identity while allowing for necessary development in support of community needs.”

Margaret Jerabek, ESA Project Director


Client Brookfield Residential

Location Whittier, CA


2020 Gold Nugget Merit Award for Best Rehabilitation Project

2019 Bronze Telly Award for Excellence in The Online General History Category

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