Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Six Stories of Office, Retail and Residential Space Coming to Washington Blvd.

Who said that the Blue Line can't spur development?  Well, it hasn't been able to for most of its 23 year life, but perhaps that is starting to change in the stretch of Washington Blvd. adjacent to Downtown Los Angeles.

This project, which dates back to 2008, was revived in the July 30th bi-weekly case filings published by the City Planning Department.  The project description reads as follows:

286 parking spaces seems excessive for a location directly across the street from the Blue Line's Grand Ave. Station, but I suppose the developer deems it necessary to make the retail and office space attractive.  25,000 square feet is fairly large amount of retail space.  It wouldn't surprise me if they're looking to attract a grocery store to the location.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Evolution of Century City

Century City will never be a walker's paradise, even when it does get its long awaited subway station (hopefully less than 15 years from now).  It's cold and aloof, with buildings that (for the most part) refuse to meet the sidewalk.  Generous accommodations for the automobile are strewn about.  Its retail accommodations are almost exclusively encompassed by the fortress like Westfield Century City mall.

Nonetheless, Century City is on pace for a massive amount of construction activity in the coming five years.  By 2015, five high rise buildings 460 feet or taller should be well underway.  All packed into a neighborhood which encompasses only .275 square miles.

An overhead view of Century City, with development sites outlined in red.

At the corner of Santa Monica Blvd and Avenue of the Stars, Australia based Westfield is working on a 39 story residential tower which will tie into their plans to expand the Century City Mall.

Westfield's Residential Tower on the left.  This outdated rendering show a 49 story tower, not the current 39 story proposal.  Patient zero of the financial crisis still graces the marquee of the SunAmerica Center in this picture.  Image from Westfield Group.
Although construction on the tower itself has yet to begin, some ancillary construction work associated with the project is already underway.  Specifically, a 500 car parking garage at the corner of Constellation and Century Park West.

Construction progress on the new parking garage.
Of course, groundbreaking for residential tower itself is probably more than a year off.  The fairly large office building currently at the corner of Santa Monica and Avenue of the Stars is still occupied.  I suppose Westfield set the completion date as 2018 for a reason.

On the opposite side of Century City, Miami based Crescent Heights' 40 story/460 foot tall proposal at 10000 Santa Monica Blvd seems much more imminent.

10000 Santa Monica  Image from Handel Architects
Crescent Heights brought this project into the site prep stage over the past two months.  Workers have been busy with excavation and installation of utilities to get the site ready for vertical construction.

10000 Santa Monica, as it currently appears.
When completed, this building will directly overlook the LA Country Club (and some other stuff too).  As an aside, I'm puzzled as to how the LA Country Club survives to this day. It take up hundreds of acres of prime real in between Los Angeles' two main commercial boulevards (Wilshire and Santa Monica).  On top of that, it's twice the size of a standard golf course with 36 holes as opposed to 18.  I suppose that there will be some point in the coming decades where a developer makes an offer that the club just can't refuse.  Century City Part II, anyone?

Next up is a project scheduled to break ground in 2014, the Century Plaza Residential Towers.

Image from New Century Plaza
In a vacuum, these just appear to be run of the mill residential skyscrapers, each standing 46 stories and 520 feet tall.  Despite a future subway portal, both towers are deliberately designed to be isolated from the street.  The primary ingress points will be two vehicular driveways on opposite sides of the property.   Basically, these will be two auto-oriented ivory towers.

I suppose the redeeming quality of this proposal is that it creates great symmetry with the Century Plaza office towers and the CAA headquarters across the street.  Rectangular mid-rise buildings front the street, with triangular shaped twin towers rising behind.  A least the view from Google Earth will be nice.

Finally, we have the Century City Center, the only one of these proposals which seeks to create office space.

Can you spot Century City Center?  Hint: it's the only one of these buildings that doesn't exist (yet).  Image from Johnson Fain Architects.
Standing 37 stories and 570 feet tall, this building would practically sit on top of the future Century City Purple Line station (provided that Beverly Hills doesn't mess it up for everyone).  With 700,000 square feet of glassy office space, it's the largest pure office building proposed in LA County at the moment.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

And Onward to Santa Monica...

Construction on the Expo Line's bridge over Venice Blvd.  In a few short years, this bridge help carry thousands of passengers every day between Downtown Santa Monica and Downtown Los Angeles.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

LA River Revitalization and Park Space in Downtown

Image from the LA Times

You pretty much couldn't look anywhere without seeing news about the LA River revitalization efforts today.  With the Army Corps of Engineers set to release their feasibility study in August, the LA Times laid out the three most likely results in today's front page article:

1.  Alternative 13, which calls for strategic removal of concrete and restoration of the natural ecosystem at various points of the river between Griffith Park and LA Union Station.  Cost estimate: a cool $444 million.
2.  Alternative 16, which offers the same improvements as Alternative 13 plus river widening to allow for terracing along the edges AND (drum roll please) the green space fantasy known as Piggyback Yards.  Cost estimate: $774 million.
3.  Alternative 20, calling for everything listed above PLUS restoration of the Verdugo Wash (a tributary of the LA River...thank you, Wikipedia), while also connective the river to the LA State Historic Park (which is already set to undergo an $18 million dollar upgrade next year).  Cost estimate $1.06 billion (!)

According to the Times, we may be destined for Alternative 13, the least ambitious of the proposals.  While I'm sure LA River advocates won't be satisfied, I'm also sure that they know this is a long term battle.  Massive projects like this are often implemented in baby steps.  But I propose a different way of thinking about this: perhaps not getting the most expansive proposal is a blessing in disguise.

Piggyback Yards, Image from Michael Maltzan Architecture
Personally, I'm not a huge fan of the Piggyback Yards proposal.  While the architectural renderings are impressive (to say the least), it's completely isolated from the residential populations of Downtown, Chinatown, Boyle Heights, etc.

The proposal also takes away a huge piece of real estate which is important for Union Pacific's shipment of goods from the Ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach across the country.  The ports may be taking a PR beating over SCIG, but they're also a huge cash cow for local municipalities and the state of California.

I think that Los Angeles should focus its park ambitions elsewhere.  Specifically, on another nearby site: Park 101.

Image from Park 101
Why Park 101?  Because it corrects a mistake made decades ago to tear a 10 lane strip through the heart of historic Los Angeles.  El Pueblo is the birthplace of the city that eventually grew to be the nation's second largest.  LA Union Station, one of the LA's true architectural gems, is the busiest train station west of the Mississippi River.  They are both isolated from the rest of Downtown LA by the physical and psychological barrier of the 101 freeway.

This proposal has significantly better centrality for the population of Downtown LA, with the added bonus of shielding residents and office workers from the noisy, unsightly blight of the freeway.  It also provides much better opportunities for development (and therefore a chance at some extra local funding).

Current plans call for a consolidation and realignment of freeway on/off ramps through Downtown.  This opens up some very significant (and potentially valuable) real estate.  Specifically, in these locations:

These sites all stand adjacent to the proposed park, and if my memory serves me correctly, are government owned.  Selling these parcels and their associated air rights could raise a lot of money towards the construction of the park.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Vermont Blvd. Mixed-User to Add More Density to K-Town

According to plans filed earlier this month with the LA City Planning Department, more apartments are coming to Vermont Avenue at its intersection with James M. Wood (almost spitting distance from the busy Wilshire/Vermont Station).

The location of the mysterious new apartments, outlined in red.

Here is what we know so far:

Here's what the scene looks like today:

The northern lot currently serves as a neighborhood market.  Nice enough, but not a building of architectural significance.
The southern lot is currently "improved," as a surface parking lot.
Obviously it's difficult to say what exactly to expect at this point.  The two parcels were sold in October of last year, so this is still fairly early in the planning process.  On the bright side, whatever it may be, I wouldn't expect much (if any) NIMBY revolt.  411 apartments isn't of big concern in transit rich/already dense Koreatown.  Frankly, the demographics of the neighborhood just don't cater to the NIMBY persuasion (working class, high concentration of immigrants).

This news comes amidst what is already a noticeable uptick in construction for Koreatown.  Walking up Vermont from James M Woods to Wilshire Blvd, new residential building are springing up like weeds.  This includes Century West's K2LA, Southwestern Law Schools painfully white student housing, plus several other unnamed developments.  Last but not least, J.H. Snyder's 464 unit Vermont Towers rise at the intersection with Wilshire:

Nothing quite like a shiny glass high rise.  Or better yet, two of them! 

A Closer Look at the Village at Westfield Topanga Development

One of the more controversial mega-developments in Los Angeles at the moment is Westfield's proposal to build a massive mixed-use complex at Warner Center.  Adjacent to the Westfield Topanga shopping mall, the project is appropriately named the Village at Westfield Topanga.  This is the same development that recently raised eyebrows when the LA City Council voted unanimously to forfeit 42% of the tax revenue created by the project over the next 25 years.  Westfield of course claimed that this was a financial necessity in order to build the project in one phase.

Bird's eye view of the proposed development.
Westfield's bread and butter is retail, and this project has it in spades: 444,744 square feet in total.  This includes a 165,759 square foot Costco, which has been one of the main issue of contention with this project.  The Woodland Hills Homeowners Organization filed a lawsuit back in April, arguing that the Costco and its accompanying gas station violates the Warner Center Specific Plan by encouraging car use.  I'm no lawyer, but I can't imagine how one could possibly argue that a gas station doesn't encourage car use.

The "Village," also includes a second anchor tenant in the form of a 275 key high rise hotel.  The 247.5 foot tall hotel comes complete with a two story podium filled with even more retail and restaurant space (duh).

The final aspect of the Village is 285,000 square feet of office space set to fill either one or two towers rising as tall as 247.5 feet.  Frankly, I'm not sure what to make of this.  Metro Los Angeles' overall office vacancy stands at 19% as of Q2, with the West San Fernando Valley at an anemic 36.9%.  At the same time, Farmers Insurance recently relocated their corporate headquarters to Warner Center, signing a 274,000 square foot lease.  Perhaps the fortunes of the Valley are turning?
Anyway, here we see the present condition of the site, mostly vacant land and underutilized surface parking:

And here is the master plan illustrated over roughly the same view:

Moving on, let's take a look at some ground level renderings:

People never look this happy when they're at Costco.

Westfield is clearly shooting for the same kind of atmosphere as their Century City location, which makes sense given the upper-middle class population of Woodland Hills.  You have to wonder if outdoor shopping in the brutal SFV summers could be a turnoff, though.

Different view of the retail paseo.  Who is this chick in the bottom left hand corner smiling at?

Now back to the bird's eye view:

Viewed from this angle, it looks more 3rd Street Promenade than Westfield Century City.  The architecture is pretty generic, but not an eyesore.  I'm sure artistic liberty also spruced it up a bit for this picture.
One last view from across the street.  I see a lot of surface parking.

So there we have it.  While it's nice to see something besides low rise apartment buildings going up in the Valley, this is pretty disappointing from a urban design perspective (surface parking lots fronting the street?!).

Warner Center isn't really that accessible by transit (despite the Orange Line), nor is there much population density in the area to provide organic foot traffic. I can understand the 3,000+ parking spaces to some extent, but Westfield isn't even trying here.  Putting surface parking in between the sidewalk and the stores makes this project look like a strip mall on steroids.  Adding in a gas station station just furthers that comparison.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Los Angeles High Rise Development Rundown

As we emerge from the global economic recession, Los Angeles is seeing a flurry of new and revived proposals for high rise construction throughout the city.  Here is a partial list of the high rises proposed and under construction throughout the Greater Los Angeles area, in more or less decreasing order of height.

Wilshire Grand Tower
Image from AC Martin

First up is the granddaddy of all skyscraper proposals in Los Angeles: Korean Air's Wilshire Grand Tower.  Rising to 1,100 feet from the intersection of Figueroa and Wilshire, the 73 story mixed-use tower will become the tallest building in the United States outside of New York and Chicago when completed in 2016.  The building will consist of a 900 room four star hotel sitting above 400,000 square feet of creative office space.  The Wilshire Grand will feature a 70th floor hotel lobby complete with a public observation deck and roof top pool (!).  Artistic LED lighting will feature prominently in both the base of the tower and the crown.  Above ground demolition of the 15 floor hotel which previously occupied the site is complete as of June.  Following excavation, the three day concrete pour for the new building's foundation is scheduled for December of 2013 (20 feet thick over an area the size of a football field).


Fig Central

Image from Fig Central and RTKL Architects
Originally envisioned as the retail component of AEG's LA Live development, Fig Central seemed on the cusp of construction back in 2007 before the floor fell out from under the real estate market.  The northern tower, entitled for a combination of hotel and residential use, will rise 575 feet and over 50 stories.  The southern tower, intended for multi-family residential use, is entitled for 455 feet and 37 stories.  At ground level, the most striking component of the project are the LED screens stretching the entire block of Figueroa from 11th to 12th street, armed and ready to bombard pedestrians with some good, old fashioned commercialism.   The Moinian Group, current owners of the land, opted to put the project up for sale earlier this year in order to focus on New York real estate.  The sales process is expected to be complete by Fall, with offers reportedly in the $180 million range.  Assuming the purchaser intends to start work as soon as possible, construction could begin in the first half of 2014.


Century City Center

Image from Johnson Fain
Intended to rise 37 floors and 570 feet, JMB Realty's Century City Center is one of the very few active ground up office buildings proposed in Los Angeles.  Local architect Johnson Fain is responsible for the design, which is fitting as he is also the architect behind neighbors SunAmerica Center and Constellation Place.  The building will stand next to the future Century City Purple Line station at Constellation and Avenue of the Stars, which has brought the proposal into the fold of the ongoing controversy about the subway route under Beverly Hills High School.  The tower has also been subjected to opposition from a "neighborhood," group that is clearly run by rival landlord JP Morgan Chase.


Century Plaza Residential Towers

Image from New Century Plaza
The Century Plaza Residential Towers have been embroiled in their fair share of controversy.  The initial plans called for demolition of the adjacent hotel, designed by famed World Trade Center architect Minoru Yamasaki.  However, as preservationists rushed to save the hotel from the wrecking ball, a compromise plan was envisioned in which the existing hotel and the new towers would share the property. The twin 46 story buildings have been designed to mimic the triangular footprints of the landmark Century Plaza Office Towers across the street (who doesn't love symmetry?).  The property will eventually be served by a portal to the future Century City subway station.  Construction is slated to start in 2014.


One Broadway Plaza

Image from One Broadway Plaza
It's a little far off the beaten path (where's Santa Ana again?), but One Broadway Plaza is pegged to bring 491 feet of boxy, glassy office space over 37 stories to the OC.  This tower was supposed to be completed back in 2008, but then the financial collapse brought real estate development to a virtual standstill.  The building has been marketed as Orange County's tallest building, which makes sense since there isn't much competition for that title.  It will stand out like a sore thumb in Santa Ana's low rise skyline, but it's probably about time Orange County starts building upward rather than outward.  The tower is said to be in the construction phase as of 2013, but who has time to go all the way out to Santa Ana to check?


Century City Mall Residential Tower

The Westfield Group originally proposed this project in 2006 as part of a broader expansion effort for the Westfield Century City Mall.  Plans for the 39 story, 282 unit residential tower with a ground floor Bloomingdales were revived in 2012, with the hope of completion by 2018.  Construction of the parking structure for the building has already commenced.  The mid-century office building which currently stands on the site for the new residential tower is soon to be vacated, with demolition expected to commence in 2014.


Image from CBRE Marketplace
The undisputed king of stalled developments in Los Angeles.  Metropolis was first proposed almost 25 years ago as a Michael Graves designed office tower complex.  In the ensuing decades, the proposal was revived multiple times with some combination of office, residential and hotel uses.  The most recent proposal called for an underwhelming mid-rise fortress focusing on retail and hotel uses.  Luckily, current owner IDS Real Estate has opted to scuttle their plans and sell the property in light of the much improved real estate market.  It should be noted that the rendering shown above is not in fact a proposal, but merely a mock up designed to show what the full entitlements for the property allow.  To no surprise, the property has drawn a great deal of interest from prospective developers.

CBRE Marketplace - Metropolis

Residences at St. Vibiana

Design by Nadel Architects
Proposed by local developer Tom Gilmore prior to the recession, the 461 foot residential tower was set to rise over 41 stories on the surface parking lot adjacent to the St. Vibiana Cathedral (former home of the Los Angeles Archdiocese).  Long assumed to be a dead proposal, the project unexpectedly came back to life earlier this year.  As reported by the LA Downtown News, Gilmore is in advanced talks to sell the land and its entitlements.  The design and scope of the project may change quite a bit depending on the intentions of the as of yet unknown buyer.

10000 Santa Monica Blvd

Image from Handel Architects
Here's a Century City proposal that really went through the wringer.  In its first incarnation, 10000 Santa Monica was a paper-thin 45 story tower dubbed "the Green Blade," by its French (st)architect Jean Nouvel.  When the economy tanked, that plan tanked with it.  The land was eventually purchased at a bargain bin price by Miami based developer Crescent Heights, who envisioned a 39 story/460 foot/282 condo tower designed by Handel Architects.  Crescent Heights has very quietly started started prepping the currently empty lot for construction as of late June 2013.  Construction and site grading permits seem to be nearing finalization with the Department of Building and Safety, so we may get an official groundbreaking notice soon.


SB Omega

Historic Core landlord Barry Shy (of SB Properties fame) has long harbored ambitions to build his first ground-up residential project at the corner of 6th and Main in Downtown.  Current plans call for a 350 unit residential tower rising 40 floors, with a five level podium devoted to a 1,200 (!) spot parking garage.  Shy has recently informed the LA Downtown News that he is looking to break ground within the next 8-12 months.

LA Downtown News - 7/22/13

Grand Avenue Project

Image from Blogdowntown
I was initially unsure of where to place this, but eventually settled on right here.  "The Grand," is one of the most infamous stalled developments in Los Angeles.  Original plans for a 50 story Frank Gehry designed tower across from his iconic Disney Hall have been killed by the passage of time and inhospitable market conditions.  Current plans for Parcel A (the tinker toy parking garage seen on the right) call for a 430 unit apartment tower at 1st/Grand with a 250 key/50 condo tower at 2nd/Olive.  Groundbreaking is not expected until 2015 at the earliest.  At least we have Grand Park and the Broad Museum to tide us through for now, right?

888 Hope St.

This tower was long assumed to be a pie-in-the-sky until recently, when the CIM Group submitted plans to Department of Building and Safety for a 33 floor residential tower in conjunction with a six floor parking garage at the corner of 9th and Hope.  The original plans called for a 492 foot tall building with 42 stories and ground floor retail, but it remains to be seen if the new proposal has a different architect.  Fingers crossed for the original plans, because this design is a real beauty.

9th and Hope

City Market LA

Image from City Market of Los Angeles
In January 2013, the owners of the century old produce market in eastern Downtown LA known as "City Market," announced dramatic re-development plans.  When completed, the 10 acre campus on San Pedro street is intended to contain a higher learning institute focused on the fashion industry, in addition to residential, retail, office and hotel uses.  The EIR specifies that the tallest building in the development would stand at a maximum of 38 stories, rising 435 feet above street level.  Don't hold your breath in anticipation though: a full build out of the site could take up to 20 years to finish.


The Gayley at Wilshire

Image from Gayley at Wilshire
Designed by the venerable Robert A.M. Stern, who sought to create a tower in the mold of New York's Flatiron Building, the four star hotel tower is intended to stand 427 feet tall over 29 stories.  Demolition of the video relic rental store which previously occupied the site was completed in 2011.  However, construction will not start until developer Kambiz Hekmat is able to negotiate a sweetheart deal with the city over bed taxes.  In the meantime, perhaps we could find a new name for the building that won't make every middle schooler in Los Angeles laugh?


Olympic Blvd and Grand Ave

This corner lot was the site where two very tall residential towers known as the City House and the Olympic were once intended to rise.  Alas, the recession aborted those projects that likely never stood a chance.  However, in the midst of Downtown's hotel and residential construction boom, other developers have taken an interest in this parcel.  According to blogger/downtown Los Angeles expert Brigham Yen, Hilton is in the process of purchasing the lot with the intention of building a high-rise hotel.  According to Yen, the parcel is entitled for a building up to 33 floors tall with 25,000 square feet of retail space.  Should be interesting to see where this one goes.

888 Olive

Rendering from the Onni Group
Standing 33 stories and 375 feet tall, 888 Olive is a hunk of glassy urbanity that looks like it was ripped straight out of 21st century Vancouver.  Probably because it was.  The Onni Group are the developers of this tower, and they are unsurprisingly based out of Canada.  Look for 888 Olive to bring substantial ground floor retail and 283 new apartments to the market when complete.  In very related news, Onni intends to give this building some tall neighbors in the near future.  They are in the early planning stages for four additional residential towers in Downtown LA.  Two on the parking lot at 1212 Flower, one on Hope Street, and another on the parking lot just north of 888 Olive.  Thank you, Canada!

Hollywood Palladium Towers
Design by Natoma Architects

Here's a recent development that wasn't all that surprising.  When Crescent Heights (of 10000 Santa Monica Blvd) purchased the Hollywood Palladium back in 2012, observers instantly predicted that the parking lots adjacent to the historic concert venue would go condo.  As of July 2013, suspicions proved correct as Crescent Heights announced plans for twin mixed-use towers.  The towers are intended to contain residential units, hotel space and ground floor retail.  No word on the exact height or number of floors yet.

Downtown Car Wash Site

This is a mysterious proposal that has provided little in the way of details.  We do know that the odd shaped parcel directly across from LA Live was for sale at a price of $25 million.  After speaking to employees of the existing business, it does appear that the sale has gone through.  Back in 2012, it appeared that bidders were thinking big for the site, as one of the potential buyers had already drawn up plans for a 476,000 square foot mixed-use tower.  That amount of square footage on such an odd shaped piece of land could result in a fairly tall building.

The Vermont

Image from Jerde Placemaking

Standing atop a monstrous seven story parking podium, the Vermont Towers check in at 29 floors/307 feet and 23 floors/247 feet.  In spite of its copious (and unsubtle) parking accommodations, the Vermont brings another 464 apartments to Koreatown, already the most densely populated neighborhood in Los Angeles.  Both towers have topped out and cladding is quickly making its way up the structures.  The building is set to begin occupancy in 2014.

Hollywood/Gower Tower

Image from Hanover Co.
The eyesore of a parking lot remains at the corner of Hollywood and Gower while Hanover tries to steer this project through the NIMBY gauntlet of Hollywood.  The 20 story, 270 foot project intended to create 150 apartments, but was stopped cold in its tracks one year ago when a judge ruled that the public was not granted enough time to review the environmental impact report.  Hollywood/Gower has yet to make a peep since then.

8th and Hope

Originally proposed by the CIM Group under the absurd moniker of "iHope," this project was yet another development stalled by the global recession.  Luckily, Atlanta based Wood Partners purchased the land and revived the project in 2012.  Construction of the four story parking podium is near the finish line as of my writing this entry.  At completion, the building is set to rise 260 feet over 22 floors, creating 290 apartments and more ground floor retail for the growing Downtown LA community.


Sunset Gordon

Image from CIM Group
I gave the CIM Group grief for trying to name a building like an Apple product.  But just to show I'm not biased, I'll give them credit for reviving this project.  Built on the former site of the mediocre Old Spaghetti Factory restaurant, construction now has this building around the halfway point to its full 260 feet/23 floors.  When finished, it will be a truly mixed-use structure.  300 apartments above, 40,000 square feet of office space in the middle, 14,000 feet of retail on the ground, and way too much parking below.  Earlier plans also called for a pocket park to go in the back of the lot on Gordon, but I'm not sure if that's still on the table.

Sunset Gordon

Columbia Square

Image from Kilroy Realty
When I saw the fences go up for the adaptive re-use portion of this project, I literally had to pinch myself.  After watching this project stall and and then downsize multiple times over several years, it's unreal that Columbia Square is finally underway.  The original proposal called for a 40 story residential/hotel tower accompanied by a 14 floor office building.  When that didn't pan it, it transformed into a 28 floor residential tower and a 17 floor office building.  And now we have the end result, as proposed by LA based Kilroy Realty: a 22 floor residential tower with 200 apartments.  It is accompanied by 330,000 square feet of office space (in low rise structures rather than a tower) and 33,000 square feet of retail space.  As I previously stated, the adaptive re-use portion of this project is well underway, renovating the handsome 1938 CBS Studio complex.  Ground up construction of the new office and residential space is scheduled to begin in early 2014.

Columbia Square

Courtyard Marriott and Residence Inn

Image from GBD Architects
First announced in 2011, the 23 story hotel tower is currently rising 243 feet above part of the LA Sports and Entertainment District's Olympic North site.  When open in June of 2014, the GBD designed building will boast 393 hotel rooms split between Marriott's Courtyard and Residence Inn brands.  The building topped out in late June, with exterior work substantially complete up to the 20th floor at the time of my writing.  Now if only we could get some more tall neighbors on the surrounding surface parking lots, but more on that soon.


Renaissance Hotel

Image from LA Times
More on that very soon.  Right now, in fact.  Back in March, Portland based developer Williams & Dame announced plans for a 450 room hotel right next door to the Courtyard/Residence Inn  that they are currently building at Olympic and Francisco street.  No word yet on the design or a specific height for the Renaissance Hotel (just "more than 20 stories").  This project does have a larger number of hotel rooms and a more expensive budget than its next-door neighbor, so perhaps we can expect something taller.  Not too much taller though, since the Olympic North site has a 350 foot height limit.

Ocean Avenue Project

Image from Gehry Partners
Architecture enthusiasts in Los Angeles were understandably pumped when Worthe Real Estate Group announced that a 244 foot, 22 story tower designed by starchitect/crumpled paper ball enthusiast Frank Gehry was coming to Downtown Santa Monica.  The building would contain 22 condos, a 125 key hotel, ground floor retail, plus 460 underground parking spaces.  Oh, and a freaking art museum.  The project has a lot NIMBY hurdles to overcome in development averse Santa Monica, but hopefully a stellar design and a famous name can help bring this building to reality.


Fairmont Miramar Redevelopment

Image from HKS Architects
Just up the street from the Ocean Avenue Project is another game changing development for Santa Monica: the recently proposed reinvention of the Fairmont Miramar Hotel.  At 261 feet stretched over 21 floors, this tower would become Santa Monica's second tallest building (with the top spot belonging to neighboring 100 Wilshire).  The plan includes 280 hotel rooms and 160 condo units, along with all of the expected accommodations of a hotel.  The proposal has unsurprisingly been met with plenty of NIMBY outcry over evil things like the tower's height and the increased population density.  HKS has described the architectural style of the building as "Art Deco."  Not sure that I agree with that, but I'm just a layman observer.


4th and Broadway Tower

Veteran Downtown developer Izek Shomof announced in February that he's bringing a 400 unit residential tower to the corner of 4th and Broadway, taking the place of a dilapidated one story commercial structure.  No word on the exact height of the building, but Shomof is on the record stating that he's going for at least 22 stories.  The one downside to this project is that it forced the popular Electric Dusk drive in movie theater to relocate.  Unfortunately, Electric Dusk has chosen to set up shop at the City Market of LA, a site destined for an even more ambitious development.

916 Hill Street

Barry Shy recently announced plans for a 20 to 21 story residential tower containing 250 apartments at 916 Hill street in Downtown Los Angeles, directly behind the under-construction Ace Hotel.  The address is currently improved as a surface parking lot, offering scenic views of blank walls on the back sides of commercial buildings.  Shy has yet to release architectural designs or any further specifics on the property, but my expectations are tempered based on his er..."mixed," reputation.

LA Downtown News - 7/22/13

Olympic and Broadway Tower

Did somebody say "Barry Shy?"  Yes, even more from the notorious Historic Core landlord.  In conjunction with his plans for 916 Hill, Shy also announced high rise intentions for the corner of Olympic and Broadway.  The plans seem to call for an odd shaped building, described by the LA Downtown News as "ris[ing] to about 13 stories along Broadway and about 20 stories along Olympic Boulevard." The tower will bring 250 apartments to Broadway, with the adaptive re-use of the adjacent 13 story commercial building bringing an extra 150.  This provides yet another example of developers angling for a chance to bring back Broadway after the approval of the Downtown Streetcar.  Since this site (if I'm not mistaken) falls under the Broadway Design Guidelines, I am cautiously optimistic in for an attractive design that fits in well with the context of its older neighbors.  Much like what occurred with infamous faux-talian apartment developer G. H. Palmer's proposal across the street.

LA Downtown News - 7/22/13


Image from Eric Owen Moss Architects
Save your toilet paper come Halloween time: this tower comes pre-TP'd.  While only 12 stories tall, this tower is designed to rise 230 feet with (very) high ceilings.  This proposal dates back to the mid 90's, but was revived by developer Samitaur in light of the Expo Line to Culver City.  The site of the proposed tower is next door to the La Cienega/Jefferson station.  Architect Eric Owen Moss' website strangely refers to the building's location as "South Central Los Angeles."  Apparently South Central has expanded to the Culver City/Los Angeles border.  Geographic location aside, this one may take a while to get sticks in the ground.


Los Angeles Federal Courthouse

Earlier this week, we spotted construction equipment appearing on the site of the long-stalled Federal Couthouse at 1st and Broadway.  Despite the its squat appearance, the 11 story structure will likely rise more than 200 feet high.  While it is nice to see the long vacant site finally developed, it's impossible not to feel saddened knowing that this is what we could have had.  We can probably thank Central Valley Congressman Jeff Denham for the less spectacular design choice, as the GSA likely felt pressure to avoid a flash design as the Congressman called for the project to be killed entirely.

SOM New United States Courthouse - Los Angeles

Grand Avenue Parcel M Tower

Image from Large Architecture

Who said the Grand Avenue project was stalled?  Well, for the most part it is.  But developer Related California finally broke ground on the first residential phase of the project earlier this year, the 19 floor/215 foot tall Parcel M tower.  This project represents a substantial downsizing from the original proposal (two 35 story residential towers).  The tower will connect to the also under-construction Broad Museum with a pedestrian plaza which may potentially have a direct link to the future 2nd/Hill subway station.


Museum Square Office Building

Image from Jerde Placemakers
Developer J.H. Snyder announced plans for a 13 story, 207 foot tall office building on a surface parking lot within his existing Museum Square complex back in June.  Jerde Placemakers are the architectural firm responsible for the building, and thankfully have not included a massive parking podium as they did in their other collaboration with Snyder (The Vermont).  Snyder hopes to begin construction within one year on a building that will offer scenic views of LACMA, Hancock Park, and the La Brea tarpits.  Interesting enough, Snyder also states that the existing Museum Square office complex has no vacancy.  If only every other office building in this city were so lucky.

West Hollywood Depot Redevelopment

Image from Gruen Associates
Citizens of West Hollywood were caught off guard back in February, when the Cohen Brothers (developers, not the directors) announced a partnership with Metro to develop the West Hollywood Bus Depot/Sheriff's station.  We can expect a 10.9 acre complex consisting of office, retail, residential and hotel space with at least two high rises.  West Hollywood, like all too many cities in Los Angeles County, is extremely hostile to development.  In this case, the NIMBYs may actually have a point.  Perhaps Metro can give them the Santa Monica Blvd. subway that they so desire to make up for it?

 Sunset Bronson Tower

Image from Gensler
Hollywood's Sunset Bronson Studios has planned a large expansion for years and recently completed the revised environmental impact report for a 14 story, 200 foot tall office building on the eastern edge of their property.  The glassy, colorful tower will look spectacular from the 101, but interacts poorly with the street.  No access points from Sunset or Van Ness: the front door is inside the studio campus.  Wonderful architecture, terrible urban design.

Wyndham Santa Monica

Image from Jerde Placemakers
Back out to the quaint little beach community of Santa Monica we go.  When Felcor Lodging Trust purchased the eyesore that is the former Santa Monica Holiday Inn, they must have been thinking "blow it up."  How could they not?  The current building fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down.  With a prime location sandwiched in between the future Expo Line terminus and the Santa Monica Pier, Felcor started thinking big.  Specifically, a three building development with a 15 floor, 195 foot tower.  As always, it is tough to build anything big in Santa Monica, so this proposal has a tough path forward.

Cedars-Sinai Advanced Health Sciences Pavilion

Image from HOK Architects
Last I checked, this 11 story/182 foot tower was pegged to open this summer.  As of a couple months back, exterior work appeared to be mostly complete.  The glassy facade is a stark contrast to the much more dated architecture composing the rest of the Cedars campus.  I suppose if you do happen to get sick, you might as well go to a pretty hospital, right?

Cedars-Sinai Advanced Health Science Pavilion

The Wetherly

Image from Genton Property Group
This 12 story proposal near the Beverly Hills/Los Angeles border has all of the permits in place to start construction, although work had not yet commenced earlier this month.  Currently, the developers are embroiled in a feud with the Four Season Hotel located across the street from the construction site.  Apparently, the Wetherly has license to use the name "Four Seasons Residences," which the hotel feels will do harm to its business.  Seems rational, right?  I mean, we can all remember that time we were going to stay at the Four Seasons on vacation, then saw a building across the street and decided to buy a $3 million condo instead.

The Wetherly

Emerson College

Image from Morphosis
Last on this list, but certainly not least from an architectural standpoint, is Emerson College's new digs on Sunset Blvd in Hollywood.  Calling it a high rise is a little bit of a stretch, as it only stands at 10 floors and 132 feet according to its EIR.  Nonetheless, the Thom Mayne designed mixed-use structure is one of the most interesting pieces of architecture to hit Los Angeles in years.  Construction is nearing the finish line, with steel beams now topping off the concrete skeleton and.  Much of the exterior work is already complete.  The finished product will include instructional space, housing for students and faculty, room for a small restaurant at ground level, and 16,000 feet of open space.