Monday, June 30, 2014

Motor Avenue Apartment Complex Nearly Finished

Palms' Motor Avenue Apartments--a $30 million residential-retail complex from Frost/Chaddock Developers--is inching towards the finish line.  When we last dropped by in March, construction crews were applying the five-story structure's exterior finishes.  Three months later, the project more closely resembles renderings drafted by Santa Monica-based Killefer Flammang Architects.

The building's design is highlighted by a street-facing urban window, offering a "framed glimpse," into an internal courtyard.  The structure greets Motor Avenue with a galvanized sheet metal facade, to be supplemented by brick veneer at ground level.

Located a half-block north of Palms Boulevard, the Motor Avenue Apartments will create 115 studio-and-one-bedroom units above nearly 1,000 square feet of street-level commercial space.  As part of the SB1818 density bonus granted to the project, a total of 17 residential units will be reserved for low income households.  Additional features will include an outdoor atrium and an amenity-laden rooftop deck.

Sitting four blocks west of the Expo Line's future Palms Station, the low-rise development will provide just one parking stall per residential unit, in addition to three commercial spaces.  The 118-car garage will be located underground, with vehicular access provided via an alley way at the back of the property.

Friday, June 27, 2014

ICON Sherman Oaks Headed to Former Sunkist HQ Parking Lots

Although the Sunkist Growers Cooperative relocated north to Valencia last year, their former landlords have managed to land on their feet.  IMT Capital--owner of the local landmark at 14130 Riverside Drive--will soon reorient their property as a mixed-use development, converting adjacent parking lots into apartment buildings.

The residential-retail complex, to be known as ICON Sherman Oaks, calls for a total of 298 apartment units and slightly under 40,000 square feet of neighborhood serving commercial space.  A conceptual site plan from architectural firms Johnson Fain and Duane Border portrays a trio of low-rise residential buildings, in addition to a new, LA River-adjacent park.

Former Atomic Café Making Way for Regional Connector Station

Utility relocation for the upcoming Regional Connector has caused more than a few Downtown traffic snarls in the past year.  With a funding agreement in place, the $1.4 billion project is now set to make its presence felt above ground.  Earlier this week, Metro erected protective fencing around the future site of Little Tokyo Station, which will soon be cleared in preparation for subway construction.  By the end of the decade, the 1.9 mile tunnel will eliminate one of the most glaring deficiencies in the Metro Rail network, unifying the Expo, Blue and Gold Lines.

Located across the street from the Japanese American National Museum, the property is currently developed with surface parking and low-rise commercial buildings.  One of those structures, located at the corner of 1st and Alameda Streets, was previously home to the Atomic Café, a "bastion of Los Angeles' '70s-era punk scene."  Following the intercession of the LA Conservancy, Metro unsuccessfully attempted to preserve the 19th-century building, placing it on the market for just $1.  However, with no buyers willing to absorb the unavoidable relocation costs, the Atomic Café will instead be relegated to memory lane.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Demolition Beginning for $1.1 Billion Village at USC

Finally, the dilapidated University Village mall has a date with destiny.  The last tenants have vacated the premises, and protective barriers now encircle the moribund shopping complex, which will soon be demolished to make way for phase one of the $1.1 billion Village at USC.  Located on a 14-acre block bounded by Jefferson Boulevard, McClintock Avenue, 30th and Hoover Streets, initial plans call for a five-building, low-rise complex that would house 2,470 students and offer approximately 140,000 square feet of ground floor commercial space.

Designed by an architectural team that includes Elkus Manfredi, Melendrez Design Partners, and Harley Ellis Devereaux, the Village will closely adhere to the USC campus' current aesthetics.  Renderings portray a cluster of Neo-Gothic structures, clad in the school's ubiquitous red brick.  Buildings surround a landscaped central plaza, flanked by retail establishments and active transportation amenities (read: bike racks galore).  A series of pedestrian paseos will bisect the project site, facilitating easier connections to both the USC campus and the greater University Park neighborhood.

A full build out of the Village--which would include two additional city blocks--calls for roughly 2 million square feet of student housing, academic facilities and pedestrian oriented retail.  The development has stoked gentrification fears in University Park, where activists feel that an infusion of wealthier individuals will force working class residents out of the neighborhood.  USC has reluctantly attempted to mollify the situation, providing $20 million in affordable housing subsidies through an agreement brokered by City Hall.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Another Mixed-Use Development Headed to Highland Avenue

1233 N. Highland Avenue

Highland Avenue continues down the road to its mixed-use destiny, as yet another residential-retail complex is headed to underutilized blocks south of Hollywood Boulevard.  The latest project, intended for a set of parcels at 1233 N. Highland Avenue, would include 72 apartment units above ground floor commercial space.  The mixed-use development is located one block south of a similar project from the Miami-based Lennar Corporation, which will create 76 residential units and 2,500 square feet of street level retail space near Hollywood High School.  Further north, Champion Real Estate Company plans to break ground next year on a mixed-use development at the intersection of Highland and Selma Avenues.  Consisting of two six-story buildings, the project will create a total of 248 apartment dwellings, 13,000 square feet of ground floor commercial space.  The project will also lease approximately 35,000 square feet of office/industrial space to the Musician's Institute and Panavision.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Affordable Housing Headed Near Vermont/Beverly Station

241 N. Vermont Avenue

Much of LA County's Metro Rail network traverses walkable, urban settings.  Neither of those terms describe the immediate surroundings of the Red Line's Vermont/Beverly Station.  Flanked by a gas station and a Hyundai dealership, the auto-oriented locale hardly screams "subway station."  Luckily, change may finally be on the way.  According to an LADCP case filing from earlier this month, an affordable housing development is planned across the street from the station, located at 241 N. Vermont Avenue.  Consisting of 100 residential units, the project would occupy a group of mid-block parcels, spanning approximately one acre of land. Situated on the northern fringe of Koreatown, the development site currently exists as two-story commercial building and supplemental surface parking.  Despite sitting almost directly above a subway station for the past 15 years, 241 Vermont Avenue is currently zoned for use as an auto body/repair shop.  Situations like this really emphasize the importance of the ongoing rewrite of Los Angeles' zoning code.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

High-Rise Towers May Sprout Next to Chinatown Station

Stranded north of the 101 Freeway, Chinatown has largely missed out on the Central City's post-millennial renaissance.  However, with the arrival of new mixed-use developments and a $20 million remodel of the Cornfield Park, it appears that Downtown's northernmost nabe has finally hit its stride.  Now, the stage is set for Chinatown to welcome an ambitious project that could literally stand head and shoulders above the neighborhood.

EVOQ Properties, owner of the Arts District's Alameda Square complex, plans to construct a mixed-use development that would replace a vacant 5.24-acre property near the Cornfield Park.  Located at the intersection of Spring and College Streets, the development site was once a Union Pacific rail yard, and lies directly across the street from the Gold Line's elevated Chinatown Station.  The project, known as College Station, could move forward under one of two different development programs.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Westfield's Century City Tower Gets a Big Haircut

Image credit: Westfield Group

Westfield Century City's long delayed expansion plans are shrinking...again.  Citing market conditions and an ongoing dialogue with the surrounding neighborhood, the Austalian mall developer has opted to downscale its proposed 39-story high-rise to a less imposing 15-story structure.  Once planned to contain 262 condominiums, the revised tower proposal features just 20 "upscale residences."  When approved in 2009, the project was slated to include approximately 100,000 square feet of office space, in which the Westfield Group had intended to house its US headquarters.  However, as the company has since leased space in the nearby Century Plaza Towers, the modified development program has reduced the amount of commercial space by 14,000 square feet.

On the other hand, Westfield will not scrimp on retail or restaurant space in their $700 million upgrade.  The expanded facilities will add over 400,000 square feet of floor area, a new central plaza, and double the mall's parking capacity.  Additionally, streetscape improvements along Santa Monica Boulevard, Century Park West and Avenue of the Stars will add lush new greenery around the shopping complex's perimeter.  Retail tenants will reportedly include Nordstrom, Armani and New York-based Eataly.

According to the mall's official website, these improvements are scheduled for completion in 2017.  However, the exact timeline and phasing of the development is unclear at this point in time.  A demolition permit was issued for 1801 Avenue of the Stars in May, which would clear the way way for the planned residential tower.  However, the Welton Beckett-designed mid-rise still stands proudly above Santa Monica Boulevard.  To date, the only aspect of the project to have reached completion is a 550-car parking garage, located at the northeast corner of Constellation Boulevard and Century Park West.

Office Building Proposed Next to La Brea Gateway

After nearly ten years of delay, Hollywood's mixed-use La Brea Gateway complex is finally under construction.  Hopefully a proposed next-door neighbor experiences a less arduous path moving forward.  According to plans filed with the city last week, a low-rise office building is in works at 925 North La Brea Avenue.  The development site was previously home to a nondescript commercial structure, which is currently being demolished to make way for the new, six-story edifice.

The development is the latest in a recent series of office projects headed to Hollywood, as developers move to capitalize on the neighborhood's relative lack of Class-A accommodations.  Currently, over one million square feet of office space is either proposed or under construction in-between Vine Street and the Hollywood Freeway.  That figure includes Kilroy Realty's $380 million Columbia Square development, and a pair of Sunset Boulevard towers planned by Hudson Pacific Properties.  Further west, developer J.H. Snyder is building a speculative 250,000 square foot campus, and intends to break ground on a smaller project on Selma Avenue later this year.  One block from 925 N. La Brea, CIM Group recently opened the Formosa South office building, which has attracted big-name tenants including Funny or Die and the Oprah Winfrey Network.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Introducing South Park's Latest Low-Rise Mixed-User

For decades, the Los Angeles Convention Center was neighbored by sprawling surface parking lots and decrepit commercial structures.  Now, the explosive growth of the South Park district is quickly transforming previously desolate blocks into a thriving mixed-use community.  The latest addition to the development pipeline is a low-rise residential-retail complex, proposed for an approximately half-acre parking lot at 1400 S. Figueroa Street.  Check out the details, via a document from DLANC's Planning and Land Use Management Committee.

Plans submitted to the city last month by developer DHG Family Trust call for a seven-story structure that would contain 106 residential dwellings and parking accommodations for 114 vehicles and 126 bicycles.  At ground level, 1400 S. Figueroa Street would feature 1,400 square feet of retail and restaurant space, plus either four ground floor live/work units or an additional 3,350 square feet of commercial space.  The project would offer standard residential amenities including as a fitness center, indoor-outdoor gathering space, and a pool and spa deck.

Designed by Downtown-based GMP Architects, the low-rise structure would feature aluminum paneling to match the aesthetics of the nearby Staples Center, in addition to red and blue colored elements.  Standing approximately 80 feet tall, the building would closely match the height profile of the adjacent AVANT Apartments.  The potentially LEED certifiable development would build upon streetscape improvements made by its next-door neighbors, adding widened, landscaped sidewalks along Figueroa Street.  To further this pedestrian emphasis, vehicular ingress and egress would be restricted to the alley way at the back of the property.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Check Out the Specs for Metropolis Phase II

Image credit: Gensler via Kilograph

Although likely years away from the start of construction, the Shanghai-based Greenland Group is already working on plans for the second half of their ambitious Metropolis development.  According to a memo released by CRA/LA earlier this month, phase two of the $1 billion project tentatively calls for two high-rise towers that would comprise over 1.4 million square feet of floor area.  The first structure, an approximately 50-story tower, would stand flush with Francisco Street and consist of 510 condominium dwellings above a parking podium.  The second building, standing roughly 60 stories, would abut the corner of 8th and Francisco Streets with 740 condominiums and 67,000 square feet of ground floor retail space.  Both towers would be located directly across the street from an allegedly "sexy, mixed-use," parking structure, currently under construction next to the CTBC Bank Tower.

Phase one, revealed in a February groundbreaking ceremony, will reportedly start excavation and shoring work later this month.  Consisting of two additional towers, the first stage of Metropolis will create 310 residential units, more than 6,000 square feet of pedestrian oriented retail, and up to 350 hotel rooms.  A 19-story hotel tower, to be located at the corner of Francisco Street and James M. Wood Boulevard, will rise 271 feet above a retail and parking podium.  Although official reports have yet to specify an operator, earlier documents produced by the LA City Council point to the Hotel Indigo brand.  A 38-story residential building, set towards the eastern side of the property, will stand 442 feet tall.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Beverly Center-Adjacent Office Building Getting a Mixed-Use Makeover

Joseph Youngerman Building; Image credib: Bob Safai

One year after purchasing Mid City's Joseph Youngerman Building for $14 million, CIM Group is moving forward with plans to convert the mostly vacant structure into a mixed-use development.  Located at 8436 West 3rd Street, the mid-rise office tower occupies a prominent location on the western end of the Third Street Shopping District, sitting within walking distance of the Beverly Center.  Although standing just nine stories, the Joseph Youngerman Building is a well known landmark in Mid City, rising head and shoulders above nearly all surrounding commercial buildings.  The 38,000 square foot edifice was built in 1983, and was reportedly just 30% occupied as of last summer.  Given Los Angeles' continually sluggish office market, but resurgent residential and retail sectors, a mixed-use conversion seems like a no-brainer.

In recent years, several residential-retail developments have trickled into the surrounding neighborhood, including the NMS@La Cienega and Caruso Affiliated's luxury 8500 Burton Way complex.   However, other mixed-use endeavors have proven less successful.  One such development, proposed nearby at La Cienega and Beverly Boulevards, gradually attenuated its height profile in an attempt to compromise with neighboring property owners.  Those efforts proved fruitless, as the Mid City West Community Council held steadfast to the development site's 45-foot height limit, thus forcing owner Beverly La Cienega, LLC to drop nine units from the project.  As a result, the Park La Brea News reports that the residential-retail complex may no longer pencil out financially.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Westwood's Gayley at Wilshire Revived?

Image credit: Wilshire Gayley

After sitting idle for several years, Westwood's Flatiron-inspired Gayley at Wilshire could finally be moving forward.  A case filing from the Los Angeles Department of City Planning indicates that developer Indivest Incorporated has revived plans for the 250-key, five-star hotel tower, which would be located on a currently vacant property at 10955 Wilshire Boulevard.  Designed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects, the 29-story building would rise 427 feet, making it the tallest structure in the Westwood skyline.  First proposed before the global economic meltdown, the project site has seen little action since 2011, when its former low-rise occupant was demolished.  Since then, Indivest has patiently awaited improved economic conditions and potential tax breaks from the city.  Signs of movement on the long stalled development first appeared last year, when the developer briefly disagreed with UCLA on the terms of an alley vacation deemed necessary for the construction of the tower.  With neighboring property owners now on board, and the LA City Council doling out hotel tax breaks left and right, perhaps construction cranes are in Westwood's near future.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

New Life Sciences Building Rises at LMU

Image credit: CO Architects

As the first step of Loyola Marymount University's new campus master plan, construction is underway on a $110 million academic facility that shall serve as the cornerstone of the Frank R. Seaver College of Science and Engineering.  Known as the Life Sciences Building, the three-story structure will contain 34 teaching and research laboratories, 7,300 square feet of lab support space, 50 faculty offices, classrooms, underground parking, and a 292-seat auditorium.  The approximately 100,000 square foot project is seeking LEED Silver certification, and will utilize environmentally friendly features such as storm water retention planters, drought-tolerant plants, and a green roof.  Additionally, school officials have stated that 30% of the building's energy shall come from renewable sources.

Designed by locally-based CO Architects, the project is highlighted by its "unique and complex exterior," which calls for a surface of unitized glazing, stick-framed glazing, point-supported structural glass walls, cement and metal paneling.  Replacing a former surface parking lot, the Life Sciences Building occupies a prominent location on the eastern edge of Loyola's campus, situated in-between Foley Hall and the Burns Recreation Center.  The project, which started construction roughly one year ago, is scheduled for completion in 2015.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Downtown's Foreman & Clark Building Getting Residential Conversion

Image credit: Michael Minn

Located at the southwest corner of 7th and Hill Streets, the Foreman & Clark Building was once a pillar of Downtown Los Angeles' pre-war retail scene.  Now, the owner of the mid-rise structure has proposed a mixed-use conversion that could restore the art deco gem to its former stature.  According to plans submitted to the city last month, the discount jewelry stores which currently occupy the 13-story tower's ground floor would be given the boot, to be replaced by two restaurants and a bar-lounge.  The upper floors of the building, now serving as office space, would instead be converted into 165 residential units.

Built in 1929, the Foreman & Clark Building was designed by the prominent architectural team of Aleck Curlett and Claud Beelman, whose other works includes the Garfield Building and the Park Plaza Hotel.  The building's name derives from that of its developer: the now defunct Foreman & Clark department store chain.  Known for their second-floor window displays, Foreman & Clark was headquartered out of 701 S. Hill Street for approximately 30 years, only vacating the property following Downtown's precipitous mid-century decline.  Considered a superb example of the Art Deco-Gothic style of architecture, the building was designated a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument in 2009.

Collosal Mixed-Use Development Planned Near Reef Building

Looming on the southern fringe of Downtown Los Angeles, the 10 freeway has stood for more than a half-century as both a physical and psychological barrier to the neighborhood's resurgence.  Now, a large mixed-use development proposed for the parking lots surrounding Broadway's Reef Building could finally provide the impetus for change.  According a May case filing from LADCP, plans call for the construction of 1,449 residential units and a 208-key hotel, supplemented by 85,000 square feet of retail uses.  Located at 1900 and 1933 South Broadway, the project would also include 40,000 square feet of restaurant space, a 30,000 square foot grocery store, and an expansion of the 12-story Reef Building.  Occupying 7.5 acres of land along the path of Metro's Blue line, the existing parking lots constitute a major dead zone in a neighborhood that doesn't otherwise lack for pedestrian traffic.  As reported by the Los Angeles Times, the Reef and its surrounding parcels are owned by PRH LA, a Glendale-based limited liability corporation.  The project site is located directly across the street from the LA County Metropolitan Courthouse, and a short walk from LATTC's slow-moving expansion project on Grand Avenue.

One important side note: I call dibs on the giant chair.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Blighted Koreatown Lot to be Replaced with Mixed-Use Development

Thanks to a plan from a locally based investor, a blighted property on the eastern fringe of Koreatown is slated to be replaced by a mixed-use residential community.  Century West Partners, developer of the K2LA apartment complex, is proposing a similar project immediately west of Lafayette Park.  Planned at the southeast corner of 6th Street and Virgil Avenue, the development entails a seven-story structure with 399 rental apartment units and 20,000 square feet of ground floor commercial space.  The project is being designed by Santa Monica-based Killefer Flammang Architects, the same firm that converted the adjacent Sheraton Townhouse into affordable housing in 1996.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Dissecting the Hollywood/Vine Construction Binge

Construction cranes, looking east from the intersection of Selma Avenue and Vine Street

Even on a sleepy weekend morning, construction activity was in full swing on the blocks surrounding Metro's Hollywood/Vine subway station.  Take a quick tour through five mixed-use developments that will soon add more than one thousand apartments, hotel rooms and over 300,000 square feet of office space to the rapidly evolving neighborhood.