Saturday, August 31, 2013

Columbia Square Getting Ready for Construction?

Selma and El Centro

The giant parking lot at the back of the former CBS Studios complex on Sunset Blvd is starting to make way for the long awaited Columbia Square development.  Work on the adaptive re-use of the existing buildings began in Spring of 2013, and now it appears that developer Kilroy Realty is readying the site for construction of the new office and residential buildings.

Here's a look at what we have in store.

All images from Kilroy Realty

Landscaped courtyard serving the office buildings and residential tower.

A still image from Kilroy's promotional video, providing a bird's eye view from the southeast.

The building in the foreground is Studio B/C, re-envisioned as creative office space.

Overhead view of the interior courtyard.  LA is an outdoor town, and Kilroy has included a lot of outdoor amenities in their vision for Columbia Square.

View from the corner of Selma and Gower.

A bird's eye view from the southwest.  Glad to see storefronts along the Sunset Blvd side of the property.

Since Columbia Square is a large, multifaceted development, the project will open in phases.  The renovation of the historic CBS Studios and the construction of the new subterranean parking garage are both set to wrap up midway through 2014.  The new office buildings are scheduled to open late in 2015.  Completion of the 22 story residential tower is expected by early 2016.

When finished, Columbia Square will bring 200 residential units and 330,000 square feet of office space to Hollywood.  The development will activate Sunset Blvd with 33,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space.  This project is one of many set to break ground in Hollywood within the next several years, including two buildings at Selma and Vine, Sunset Bronson Studios' new office tower, and the infamous Millennium Hollywood Towers.  Perhaps Crescent Heights will have shovels in the dirt for the Palladium Residences as well.

In the meantime, I highly recommend checking out the fly through video posted on the Columbia Square website.

Oak Village Residences Coming to University Park

One building from the Oak Village Residences

A draft environmental impact report went into circulation this week for the Oak Village Residences, a proposal from Anastasi Development Company that seeks to bring 142 residential units to a parcel located just southwest of Downtown Los Angeles.  Let's have a look at what to expect:

The Project consists of six separate buildings, two condominium buildings and four duplex townhome buildings.  The condominium buildings would be six stories tall, approximately 65 feet at their highest point.  The three-story (approximately 35 feet in height) townhomes would be located on the western portion of the Project site along 20th street.  The townhomes would all be four-bedroom units.  The 134 condominium units would comprise 32 one-bedroom units, 76 two-bedroom units, 24 three-bedroom units, and two four-bedroom units.  Two subterranean levels of parking would provide a total of 320 parking spaces.

First of all, let's take the frequent use of the word "condominium," with a grain of salt.  While the EIR does specify that these units are "for-sale," this document also dates back to the year 2005.  The market has come crashing back to Earth since then.  Like many condo buildings that were envisioned prior to the real estate bubble, these buildings will probably come to fruition as rentals.

Anyway, back to the details of the project.

Overhead view of the project site.  Bounded by Washington Blvd, Oak Street and 20th Street.  University Park is rough around the edges, but has excellent pre-war housing stock.  Lots of old apartment buildings and craftsman homes.  However, the 110/10 interchange is nearby, making for noisy conditions.

The Oak Street profile of the project.  The buildings decreases in height as they move further away from Washington Blvd.  The townhouses line the 20th Street side of the project site, keeping in scale with the existing single family homes on the opposite side of the street.  A nice touch.

A front and rear profile of the townhouses along 20th Street.  It appears that they try match the architectural motifs of the craftsman homes across the street, although it's difficult to judge based on small black and white renderings.

Just for fun, here are some of the craftsman homes lining the opposite side of 20th street.

All of these houses were built between 1901 and 1910.  Most have clearly been restored in more recent years.  Gentrification is always a controversial topic, but I don't think anyone can protest the restoration of beautiful 100+ year old houses such as these.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Killefer Flammang Designed Apartments Rise in Culver City

NMS@Culver City in 2013

The Killefer Flammang designed NMS@Culver City continues its slow but steady ascent from the corner of Washington Blvd and Hughes Avenue.  When completed in 2014, the project will create 131 apartments above 12,500 square feet of ground floor retail.  All of this in highly walkable Downtown Culver City, just fifteen minutes from the current Expo Line terminus.

NMS@Culver City in 2014.  Image from NMS Properties.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Development Coming to Long Vacant Echo Park Lot

330 N Union Avenue

This dusty sliver of land has been touched by a fair bit of drama in recent years.  Now it appears that a mixed-use development is on the way.  Lets take a look at the details:

330 N Union Avenue

Back in 2011, Realtor Jovelle Schaffer put together a detailed chronology of the parcel's history on her blog at Echo Park Cool.  330 N Union has seen multiple changes in ownership since 2000.  One potential developer actually died in a plane crash.

Eventually, the land was purchased by Advanced Development and Investments, Inc. (ADI).  The company intended to complete a 52 unit affordable housing development known as the Temple Union Apartment Homes

Temple Union Apartment Homes.  Image via LoopNet.

Of course, that wasn't the end of the story.  In 2010, ADI came under investigation for defrauding the cities of Los Angeles and Glendale out of millions in affordable housing subsidies.   Allegations included inflating construction costs and funneling company money into personal bank accounts.  Local and state politicians came under fire for accepting conveniently timed campaign donations from ADI.  Following two years of controversy, the company's assets went into receivership in January 2013.

Now in August, a new developer is picking up the pieces and trying their hand at building on the parcel.  Hopefully it works out this time.  Fingers crossed for something better looking than the Temple Union Apartments.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Zara Setting Up Shop at Figat7th

Walking down Figueroa this afternoon, it was impossible to miss the large wooden barriers that have gone up at Figat7th.  Spanish retailer Zara signed a 10 year lease for 27,000 square feet of ground floor space in the shopping center earlier this year.  With the store scheduled to open in Spring of 2014, it looks like Zara has gotten the ball rolling on building out its new location.

249 Apartments Coming to the LA/West Hollywood Border

8150 W Sunset, as it currently exists.

A sizeable mixed-user appears to be on its way to the eastern edge of the Sunset Strip.  Check out this filing with City Planning:

8150 W SUNSET BLVD 90046

This new proposal comes in the wake of a resurgence in hotel and residential development along the strip.  The 100,000+ square feet of retail/restaurant space is unsurprising due to the location's ample Sunset Blvd. frontage.  The residential units above are a nice touch, although this site is not within walking distance of a Metro station.

While I will not shed tears over the death of a strip mall at the back of the property, it will be a shame to lose the mid-century Chase Bank building fronting Sunset.  Perhaps the facade can preserved as part of the new mixed-user?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Yet Another Mixed-User Heading to Downtown LA

1001 S Olive Street

It appears that nothing can put a damper on the Downtown Los Angeles apartment boom, as another new residential building is set to rise in South Park.  Check out these plans that were submitted to the Department of City Planning last week:


Surface parking lots in the Central City are being eaten up at a scorching pace these days.  Don't get your hopes up for anything taller than seven stories, though.  Hard to imagine 201 units on a lot that size translating into anything but a low rise building.

If the above image looks familiar to you, there's a good reason for that.  1001 S Olive is surrounded on all sides by parcels that are currently in the development process.  Plans for a 274 unit apartment building emerged at the corner of Olympic and Grand last week.  The 100 unit "Urban Village," development is set to break ground in Fall 2013 on the parking lot directly south of 1001 S Olive.  Just one block to the east, Hanover's 281 unit Olympic + Hill development is already under construction.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Is G.H. Palmer Bringing More Residential to Temple Street?

1000 W. Temple Street

We may be in store for yet another Tuscan themed apartment building in City West.  The "Under Development," section of G.H. Palmer Associates' website was recently updated to include a 9.6 acre property at 1000 W. Temple Street.  The website currently provides no information on the number of units planned or a completion date.

Geoffrey Palmer has become one of the most prolific developers of residential units in Downtown Los Angeles over the past decade, but has received much criticism in the process.  In 2004, he plead no contest when charged with illegally demolishing a 19th century Victorian Home to make way for the Orsini apartments.  He successfully fought Los Angeles' affordable housing mandate in court between 2007 and 2009.  Other Downtown stakeholders have also shown wariness over the signature "Faux Italian," architecture of Palmer's developments.

On a lighter note, how much freeway adjacent land does Geoff Palmer plan to buy in Downtown LA?  By my count, this brings his running total to seven properties.

LA Trade Tech's New Construction Technology Building

LATTC's Construction Technology Building.  Image from HMC Architects.

Since I was summoned to the Hill Street Courthouse this morning for an exciting day of jury duty, I decided to use part of my lunch break to showcase some of the construction activity in the neighborhood.

As you can probably guess from the title of this entry, LA Trade Tech's Construction Technology Building is first on my list.  Designed by HMC Architects, the Construction Technology Building will be the largest facility on LATTC's campus, totaling 139,000 square feet.  Standing three stories, it is set to achieve LEED Gold certification.

A bird's eye view of the Construction Technology Building.  Solar panels line the rooftop, helping the building reach LEED Gold certification.

The Construction Technology Building on the right hand side works in architectural harmony with the existing Johnson Favaro designed buildings on the left hand side.  Red brick seems to be a prevailing theme here.  However, HMC's product does not have the same undulating facade as the Administration and Technology Classroom Buildings.

The Construction Technology Building, this time viewed from the southwest.

Completion of the Construction Technology Building is expected in Winter of 2015 based on a sign posted on-site.  However, it's difficult to say whether or not that timeline remains accurate since this is the current state of construction activity:

Besides a few trailers and maybe some preliminary grading, no signs of work thus far.

On the bright side, LATTC broke ground on the adjacent parking garage back in October 2012.  At least that part of the expansion has visible signs of life.

LATTC's new parking garage at 23rd and Grand.

Of course, it's not just educational institutions riding the wave of construction here.  Private investors are also getting in on the action.  For example, riders of the Expo Line have undoubtedly noticed the rise of Geoffrey Palmer's 913 apartment fortress next to the 23rd Street Station.

G.H. Palmer's "The Lorenzo."

On the other side of the LATTC campus, a six floor development consisting of retail, office and residential space is set to rise 233 W. Washington Blvd.

233 W Washington Blvd.  Goodbye Happy Meals...Hello mixed use development?

Friday, August 23, 2013

87 Apartments Coming to Westlake

The bustling Westlake neighborhood will soon get an influx of new residential units, per a recent filing with City Planning.  Check it out:

1419 W. 7th St.; Westlake
The project includes 87 multi-family residential units and approx. 900 sq. ft. of commercial floor area in the construction of a new seven-story mixed-use residential building. The 87 residential units will include 82 market rate units and 5 units reserved for very low income households....up to 135 parking spaces (2 retail spaces, 133 residential spaces) on two approximately 1,003 sq. ft. gym, 1,200 sq. ft. of recreation room, and 1,962 sq. ft. of recreation deck on the third level.

The party behind this project appears to be Canfield Development.  The locally based developer has built a short roster of low rise apartments in some of the more upscale neighborhoods of the city.  This time they picked a location on the far opposite end of the gentrification spectrum, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.  Westlake has incredible food, great pedestrian activity, a Red/Purple line subway station, and perhaps the best park in Los Angeles.

CIM Group Bringing a One Floor Shopping Center to Hollywood Blvd

5503 Hollywood Blvd and the Gershwin Apartments.  Image from CIM Group.

Earlier this week, the Department of City Planning signed off on CIM Group's amended plans for a mini shopping center at the northwest corner of Hollywood and Western.  Details read as follows:
The project proposes the demolition of five one-story commercial buildings; the construction of one new 39,667 square-foot retail structure that is 35 feet in height with 125 parking spaces located on the rooftop
The architectural outfit handling the design work is McKently Malak, a firm whose portfolio consists mostly of suburban strip malls.

This is where I would normally expound on some of the positive qualities of a development, but I can't sugarcoat it this time.  CIM's proposal is extremely underwhelming and wholly inadequate for a lot that's kitty corner from the Hollywood/Western Red Line station.  This should be a mixed-use development, similar in scale to Sonny Astani's proposed "High Line West," on the opposite side of Hollywood Blvd.

"High Line West."  Image from PSL Architects.  Great design and perfect scale for its location.  Love how it matches the street wall of the adjacent historic building.

Truthfully, the bigger problem is the fact that CIM's proposal actually complies with Los Angeles' zoning laws.  The city's general plan indicates that the land is zoned for high density residential use, but documents from City Planning show that the height limit for this parcel is only 35 feet above grade.  That's not tall enough to build high density anything.  It's an odd contradiction within LA's land use laws, but that's what happens when a city relies on zoning codes written in 1946.

While LA has started the process of revising its outdated codes, these much needed changes will likely come too late to allow CIM to put something more substantial on the lot.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Westfield Century City Expansion Forging Ahead

A now outdated image of the proposal, via Curbed LA

The Westfield Group, scourge of California taxpayer advocates, continues to make slow but steady progress on enhancements for its flagship Century City location.  When we checked on Century City back in July, they were hard at work on the mall's new parking structure (on the right hand side of the above image).  Now Westfield is moving on to the more exciting phase of the project.  Earlier this month, they applied for a permit to demolish 1801 Avenue of the Stars.

APPLICATION / PERMIT NUMBER: 13019-10000-02077
What new building, you may ask?  To answer that question, here's the other permit they applied for:

APPLICATION / PERMIT NUMBER: 13010-10000-02346
As reported by LA Business Journal back in 2012, Bloomingdales will fill the retail space.  This permit application makes no mention of Westfield's 39 story condominium tower planned to sit atop Bloomingdales, likely because the residential component of the project requires a separate laundry list of permits.

1801 Avenue of the Stars/Gateway West, as it currently stands.  Designed by Welton Becket, opened in 1963.  Its twin brother, 1800 Avenue of the Stars/Gateway East, sits on the other side of the street.  They combine to form the so-called "Gateway to Century City."

1801 Avenue of the Stars in 2018 (maybe?).  Designed by Rios Clementi Hale Studios.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Wilshire Grand "Construction" Update

I use the word "construction," liberally, since it's just excavation at this point in the process.

The Wilshire Grand site, today.

But starting in November of this year, concrete begins filling the massive dirt pit.  In April of 2014, the steel framework of the Wilshire Grand begins its three year ascent to the peak of the Los Angeles skyline.   In August of 2015, the tower is expected to reach its 1,100 foot apex above the corner of Wilshire and Figueroa.  In January of 2017, you can enjoy dinner at a restaurant on the 70th floor of the tallest building west of the Mississippi River.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Circa on Wilshire Coming Back to Life?

Koreatown is in the midst of a residential building boom, and it looks like a long dead development may want to get in on the action.

Circa on Wilshire, as designed by Ankrom & Moisan
The owners of the land once intended for Circa on Wilshire took out an extension on the tentative tract map for the lot which will last until 2015.  Plans for a 18 floor/190 unit mixed-use tower at the corner of Wilshire and Virgil were put on hold back in 2008 amidst the real estate bust.  Developer Williams & Dame quickly sold the land off, and it's remained a dusty vacant lot ever since (look below, see how dusty it is).

With the real estate market now recovering, an already entitled project such as this seems like an easy candidate for revival.  It's in a lively, walkable neighborhood that doesn't oppose dense development.  The Wilshire/Vermont subway station and Lafayette Park are both short walks away.  As an added bonus, the Wilshire frontage of the building would offer great views of Bullocks Wilshire, the 1929 art deco masterpiece located across the street.

Bullocks Wilshire
Of course, the new developers may very well decide to alter the scope and design of the project as they see fit.  In the meantime, I'll keep my ears to the ground and my fingers crossed for good news.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Selma and Vine Moving Towards Construction

Selma and Vine.  Image from TCA Architects.

Back in February, Curbed LA broke the news that the long stalled mixed-use development slated for the southeastern corner of Selma and Vine was coming back from the dead.  Since then, 1540 N. Vine has slowly made its way through the permitting process and has now reached the plan check stage.

A close up gives us a look at some architectural details.  Cladding on the Vine Street frontage appears to be brick and wood veneer.  TCA's unofficial trademark is copious amounts of stucco, so this represents a welcome departure.

When completed in 2016, Selma and Vine will bring 306 apartments with ground floor retail.  No official word on a groundbreaking date, but late 2013/early 2014 seems likely based on where the project currently stands with the Department of Building and Safety.

This comes on the heels of the revelation that J.H. Snyder will take over development of 1601 N Vine, planned for the opposite side of the intersection.  Groundbreaking for the eight story office building is expected by April of 2014.

1601 N Vine

And all of this is located no more than a five minute walk from the Hollywood/Vine Red Line station.  The neighborhood around the station is seeing a tsunami of proposed developments, including the tall (and controversial) Millenium Hollywood towers, the Columbia Square redevelopment, and the twin 28-story Palladium Residences.  No wonder Hollywood NIMBYs are freaking out: this is their ultimate nightmare scenario.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Four Floors of Senior Housing Coming to Playa Vista

Are you a senior citizen who has always wanted to live across the street from where Howard Hughes once built a giant wooden airplane?  Then this new development might be for you:


Sure, the neighborhood doesn't look like much based on Google Maps images from 2011, but there's actually a flurry of construction activity going on right now.

On the other side of Jefferson Blvd, the 196 unit Millenium Del Rey is topped out with cladding slowly attaching itself to the wood framework.

Image from The Millenium.
And of course, much of that remaining empty space from the bird's eye image will go towards the $260 million Runway at Playa Vista.

Images from RunwayPlayaVista

Mixed-use buildings, wide sidewalks, pedestrian paseos, and even people on bicycles.  Everything screams "new urbanism."
Can't wait to pick up my Nyquil at DVS and pick up bread at Pocaccia.  Maybe I'll open up an account at West Bank?

Designed by acclaimed Los Angeles based architect Johnson Fain, Runway will provide a much needed centerpiece for the currently fragmented Playa Vista development.  Right now, eleven acres of vacant land separates the residential section on the west from the office buildings and park space on the east.  When completed, the complex will bring 220 residential units, 25,000 square feet of office space, and 200,000 square feet of retail (including a Whole Foods).

Of course, it's going to be a while before we're looking at anything resembling the above images, given that the site currently looks something like this:

Not much more than sticks in the ground at this point.