Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Blurry First Look at the Arts District's 950 Third

Image credit: CityGro.ws

Thanks to CityGrows, take a first look at 950 Third, the mixed-use development slated for the vacant lot adjacent to SCI-Arc.  The low-rise project - originally slated to break ground this summer - is being developed by a team consisting of Ohio-based Associated Estates Realty and Glendale-based Legendary Development.  Renderings from Kava Massih Architects portray multiple brick-clad structures, standing between five and six stories in height.  Residential buildings would contain a total of 472 apartments, centered around a 922-vehicle parking garage.  The developers intend to mitigate the project's sprawling footprint by creating a new road through the the property.

Although the empty, 5.6-acre lot represents a major hole in the northern Arts District, some residents have expressed discontent with the the proposed residential-retail development.  In an open letter to City Councilman Jose Huizar, CityGrows creator Stephen Corwin blasted the project's design as "soulless....cheap and uninviting."  He further notes that the project's copious parking accommodations - nearly double what is required by code - run counter to City Hall's effort to build a more walkable, sustainable Los Angeles.

Past development schemes at 950 East 3rd Street have also been met with criticism.  Nearly a decade ago, Downtown-based Meruelo Maddux Properties (since rebranded as EVOQ Properties) proposed two 40-story condo towers for the lot.  Arts District residents staunchly opposed that plan, which was deemed to be out of character with the surrounding neighborhood.  Legendary Development experienced similar difficulties with their first attempt at the project two years ago, producing a design that was described to the Downtown News as "banal [and] boring."

32-Story Tower Planned for Hill Street

Last summer, SB Properties overlord Barry Shy announced bold plans for a slew of new projects that would erect high-rise towers in and around Downtown's Historic Core.  Earlier this month, the veteran developer officially put words into action, submitting plans for a 32-story condominium tower on a parking lot behind Broadway's popular Ace Hotel.  Located at 920 South Hill Street, the building would contain 239 residential units, ground level commercial stalls and a parking garage.  Shy previously commissioned locally-based David Takacs Architecture to design his other proposed towers on Broadway and Main Street.

Although currently light on foot traffic, a litany of apartment-retail developments are slated to bring thousands of new residents to the blocks surrounding the proposed tower in the coming years.  The half-acre project site sits directly across the street from the Hanover Company's Olympic & Hill apartments, which will be accompanied by three similarly-sized developments on adjacent properties.  One block northwest, Vancouver's Onni Group is building a 32-story residential tower at 888 Olive Street.  On the eastern side of the Ace Hotel, developer G.H. Palmer intends to construct a mid-rise and low-rise complex on current parking lots.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Mini Mixed-User Headed to San Pedro's Future Great Street

According to plans filed with the city earlier this month, a small mixed-use development is headed to a .3-acre property in San Pedro, located just a short walk from Bandini Canyon Park.  The new low-rise building would emerge from a currently vacant lot at 335 North Gaffey Street, consisting of 30 apartment units above street-level commercial space.  Although current neighbors include an auto-oriented mixture of strip malls and drive-thru restaurants, the proposed residential-retail complex would likely benefit from Gaffey Street's selection in Mayor Eric Garcetti's Great Streets Initiative.  Planned improvements under the initiative include new plazas, parklets, and landscaping, focused on a one mile stretch between the southern terminus of the Harbor Freeway and 13th Street.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Hollywood's Metropolitan West Apartments Finally Begin Work

Sunset Boulevard's recent building boom continues its eastward march, as a long-delayed apartment project gets underway near the Hollywood freeway.  Cornerstone Holdings, a Colorado-based limited liability corporation, recently broke ground on the long-proposed Metropolitan West Apartments.  Located at 5837 Sunset Boulevard, plans call for a six-story building containing 79 studio, one and two bedroom apartments above a two-and-a-half level parking garage.  LADCP documents indicate that residential amenities will include a fitness center, private internet cafe, rooftop terrace, landscaped courtyard and a swimming pool.

Designed by Van Tilburg, Banyard & Soderbergh Architects, the low-rise development is considered an expansion of the Metropolitan Hollywood, an adjacent office-residential complex also owned by Cornerstone Holdings.  First opened as a hotel in 1984, the Metropolitan Hollywood was reportedly "terrorized," by a who's who of West Coast rappers and record executives in the early 1990s.  Almost two decades later, a now-defunct developer converted the 12-story tower and an accompanying u-shaped structure into 52 apartments and 40,000 square feet of creative office space.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Construction Crane Arrives at Blossom Plaza

After a half-year of excavation (and finding the Zanja Madre in the process), developer Forest City is now ready to go vertical in Chinatown.  Earlier this month, a tower crane sprouted at Blossom Plaza, the once-stalled residential-retail complex that will sit adjacent to the Gold Line's elevated Chinatown Station.  Rising five stories, the Johnson Fain-designed project will feature 237 apartment units, 20,000 square feet of street-level commercial space and a 449-stall parking garage.  Renderings show a retail paseo bisecting the $100 million development, feeding directly into a public plaza at the foot of the neighboring light rail station.

Several nearby properties are also the sites of proposed or under-construction projects, as Chinatown plays catch-up to the rest of Downtown's development scene.  A short walk north, construction is underway on a $20 million remodel of the 34-acre Los Angeles State Historic Park.  On a vacant lot across Spring Street, developer EVOQ Properties plans an ambitious project that could yield twin high-rise towers.  These developments come on the heels of earlier improvements, including the Metro at Chinatown Senior Lofts and the recently-opened Jia Apartments.

In addition to Blossom Plaza, Forest City harbors ambitions inside the Central City freeway loop.  This past April, the Cleveland-based developer revealed plans for two low-rise developments along the Broadway corridor.  Designed by Harley Ellis Devereaux, the two buildings would comprise 391 apartment units and roughly 16,000 square feet of ground floor retail and restaurant space.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

New Park to Start Construction Near Ballona Creek

Image credit: SWA Group

The park-poor Del Rey neighborhood is about to get a $3 million infusion of green space, courtesy of the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA).  According to signs recently posted across the street from Marina Middle School, the long-delayed Milton Street Park is scheduled to break ground this summer.  The linear, 1.2-acre green space would replace a currently vacant property along the banks of Ballona Creek, owned by the Baldwin Hills Regional Conservation Authority (BHRCA)

According to designs from the Downtown-based SWA Group, Milton Street Park would offer bird watching platforms, outdoor seating, picnic areas, and enhancements to the popular Ballona Creek bike path.  Plans would utilize green-design elements such as recycled materials, flow-through planters and native vegetation to create an ecological habitat for birds, insects and reptiles.  The park would also make improvements to its namesake street, including new speed bumps and a mid-block crosswalk to ensure pedestrian safety.

Milton Street Park represents the latest chapter in a long series of efforts to revitalize Ballona Creek and its surrounding environs.  The BHRCA and MRCA have spearheaded these endeavors, installing new signage, gates and greenery along the banks of the meandering waterway.  Although these improvements are modest in terms of budget and scale when compared to the $1 billion LA River restoration, Ballona Creek has nonetheless benefited from similar grassroots support.

Ballona Creek Renaissance (BCR) - a nonprofit organization established in 1995 - provides advocacy and educational efforts on behalf of the waterway.  In addition, BCR hosts cleanups of the creek and adjacent bike trail several times per year.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Beverly Hills' Vacant Robinsons-May Bites the Dust

Beverly Hills' long-vacant Robinsons-May building is officially no more!  The above image, captured from the 42nd floor of the Century Plaza Towers, shows demolition well underway on the mid-century department store at 9900 Wilshire Boulevard.  The eight-acre property, located near the confluence of Wilshire and Santa Monica Boulevards, is the site of a long-standing proposal for a Richard Meier-designed luxury condo development.  Consisting of two mid-rise towers, the $500 million project would create 235 residential units and 21,000 square feet of ground-level commercial space.  However, any development plans are likely on hold, pending a sale of the property by current owner Joint Treasures International, Ltd.

Heavy equipment is also active on other projects nearby.  Across the street in Century City, developer Crescent Heights is in the midst of construction on a 39-story luxury apartment tower at 10000 Santa Monica Boulevard.  One block east, preliminary work began in April for a 12-story, 170-room Waldorf Astoria hotel.  The two projects are expected to open in 2016 and 2017, respectively.

9900 Wilshire Boulevard, Image Credit: Richard Meier & Partners