Friday, January 31, 2014

Mixed-Use Campus Planned at Former LA Times Printing Plant

Just 22 years after it opened, the Los Angeles Times shuttered its San Fernando Valley printing plant due to declining circulation.  The property has lain dormant since 2006, but may soon see new life as a mixed-use development anchored by a toy manufacturer.  MGA Entertainment, maker of the popular Bratz dolls, will relocate its corporate headquarters to the 214,000 square foot building at 20000 Prairie Street.  The adaptive re-use project, designed by Brooks + Scarpa Architects, converts the stuffy printing plant into trendy creative office space.  However, MGA also has ambitious plans for the large surface parking lots surrounding the building.  Envisioning a similar environment to Google's Mountain View campus, MGA intends to sell the majority of the 23.6 acre property to developer(s) who would build mixed-use apartment complexes.  A site plan drawn up by Nadel Architects calls for a trio of four-story residential buildings, combining to create approximately 700 apartment units.  The office and apartment structures would feature 14,000 square feet of ground floor commercial space, with parking mostly located in above-grade garages hidden from street view.  As a nice nod to the neighborhood, the land along the southern perimeter of the property would be transformed into approximately 1.5 acres of park space.  Of course, it's hard to say if this vision can translate into reality (in Chatsworth, of all places).  Still, an internally focused campus still beats the office parks and porn sets warehouses that currently surround the project site.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Out With Old-School Bungalows, In With New-School Apartments

In Koreatown, it's out with the old and in the the new, as developers lay waste to early 20th century structures to make room for new multi-family buildings.  Next up on the chopping block may be a pair of 100+ year old bungalows located just south of 8th Street.  A new proposal would level the structures at 831 - 843 Harvard Boulevard to make way for a larger, 67-unit development.  This project, located at 837 Harvard, appears to be the work of the locally based Keren Investment Group.  The two bungalows, both constructed in 1910, are relics of a time when the Wilshire corridor consisted of single family homes rather than office towers.  However, the proposed building at 837 Harvard Street is not the only residential project on the boards in this part of K-Town.  Across the street, a mixed-use development dubbed 8th & Harvard would create 131 condo units above 7,000 square feet of ground floor retail space.  Two blocks north, Jamison Services plans to construct a 209-unit apartment building at 3640 Wilshire Boulevard.  Both projects are designed by the Koreatown-based Archeon Group, and luckily don't require the demolition of any century-old bungalows.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Metropolis Scheduled to Break Ground on Valentines Day

The Greenland Group raised more than a few eyebrows when they boldly proclaimed that they'd break ground on the long awaited Metropolis development before the end of 2013.  Turns out that they might not have been that far off.  According to a document from the city's Chief Legislative Analyst, the Chinese developer plans to start shoring and grading work for phase one of Metropolis on February 14.  Phase one will emerge at the intersection of Francisco Street and James M Wood Boulevard, consisting of two high-rise structures above a pedestrian plaza.  The first tower, a 350-room Hotel Indigo, will rise approximately 19-stories.  Guest rooms will stand above a podium structure containing food and beverage outlets, meeting space, recreational amenities, and street level retail.  Records from LADBS indicate that the second tower is intended to rise 38-stories, containing 290 residential units above a parking podium.  Phase two, which has no scheduled groundbreaking date, will consist of three two towers with a "mix of residential and commercial uses."

Unfortunately, not all is not well on Metropolis' 6.3 acre parking lot.  The Greenland Group claims that the project's hotel component is facing an $82-92 million finance gap, and requests assistance from the city to make up for the deficit.  In years past, Los Angeles has granted tax rebates to both the J.W. Marriott and the Wilshire Grand for this purpose.  While the city will conduct its own analysis of Greenland's project before making a decision, representatives of the Convention Center have already indicated a willingness to provide financial incentives to get 4,000 new hotel rooms by 2020.  In other words, it seems likely that the Greenland Group will get their tax break.  In the meantime, get your popcorn ready and keep your eyes peeled for construction equipment come Valentines Day.  Or go spend time with your loved ones...whatever.  Either way, Downtown's long delayed mega-project will finally get shovels in the ground.

Squat Apartment Building Heads to the Condo Canyon

West LA could be getting a new residential tower, but Westwood's Condo Canyon continues to see shorter wood-frame projects coming out of the er....woodworks.  According to an e-mail tipster, a trio of mid-century apartment buildings at 10763 - 10787 Wilshire Boulevard were demolished late last year.  In their place, a six-story, luxury apartment complex designed by GMP Architects (Avant, 801 Olive Street) shall rise.  10777 Wilshire would contain 60 residential units above a 150-stall underground parking garage.  Amenities include a fitness center, meditation garden, concierge service and even an on-site salon.  A rooftop patio would provide outdoor kitchen space with spectacular views of Westwood and the Santa Monica Mountains (check out renderings after the jump).  Albeit a little off the main pedestrian corridor, the project's location sits within easy walking distance of the restaurants and stores within Westwood's busy commercial hub.  On the other hand, who can afford to live in a place with concierge service?  Promotional literature from CBRE boasts that units in some of the nearby buildings command rents in excess $10,000 per month.  10777 Wilshire probably won't hit five figures, but it certainly won't be cheap.  It's also worth mentioning that this is not the first time that development has been planned for these parcels.  Way back in 2007, Curbed LA reported that French designer Philippe Starck had drawn up plans for a 27-unit luxury condominium building on the site.  That not-so-attractive concept went nowhere amid the recession, but perhaps GMP's design will have better luck in 2014.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Gensler Designed Senior Housing for Playa Vista

The Fountainview at Gonda Westside, image from Gensler via Kilograph

Back to Playa Vista, where the Los Angeles Jewish Home is currently working on their latest luxury retirement community.  The Fountainview at Gonda Westside is scheduled to open in 2016, creating 175 independent living units and 24 assisted living units.  The five-story, Gensler-designed structure will rise at the intersection of Jefferson Boulevard and Westlawn Avenue.  The building's "picturesque rooftop," features a swimming pool, spa, garden, cafe and observation deck.   Other residential amenities include a fitness center, library, and on-site theater.  As the Fountainview prepares to break ground, the rest of the Playa Vista campus is in the midst of a full on building boom.  Just a short walk away, Lincoln Property Group is hard at work on the $200 million Runway at Playa Vista, which will create a mixed-use complex consisting of apartments, office space, ground floor retail and (of course) parking.  Also under construction nearby is the Resort, a 25,000 square foot recreation facility featuring a fitness center and a Junior Olympic pool.  In addition, a variety of smaller for-sale and rental housing facilities are underway from developers such as KB Home and Brookfield Home.  This is shaping up to be a walkable, amenity laden community, full of the resources that car-free seniors will need.  Plus, the beach is just one-and-a-half miles west (if you're into that sort of thing).

Friday, January 24, 2014

Apartments Heading to Hancock Park

4180 Wilshire Boulevard

One of the sleepier sections of Wilshire Boulevcard may become a little less so, as development begins spreading east from the Miracle Mile and west from Koreatown.  The surface parking lot at the southeast corner of Wilshire and Crenshaw Boulevard is slated for a 30-unit apartment building.  Residential units would rise within a four-story structure, served by a 67-vehicle parking garage.  Construction equipment will also be on site at a neighboring parcel over the next several years, albeit for a very different type of project.  According to Larchmont Buzz, Metro will utilize the parking lot at the southwest corner of the intersection as a construction staging yard for the first phase of the Purple Line extension.  A little bit of traffic and noise pollution now in exchange for Los Angeles' most important transit project in decades.  Unfortunately, a proposed station at Wilshire and Crenshaw was nixed from the project years ago due to low ridership potential.  Of course, that's not much of a surprise considering that Hancock Park's zoning mandates such a low density project at a high profile intersection.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Neighbors Unhappy With Proposed South Park Boutique Hotel (UPDATED)

1130 Hope Street, designed by Sam Marshall

You wouldn't think of development hungry Downtown LA as a bedlam for NIMBY activity, but there's a first time for everything.  Investment group BIMHF, LLC announced plans to convert a derelict structure at 1130 Hope Street into a 44-room boutique hotel back in 2012, but a group of neighbors have recently started fighting against the project.  Homeowners in the adjacent Luma and Evo condominium towers have asked the Central Area Planning Commission to overturn the entitlements granted to the 10-story hotel project last year, included allowances for an open air pool deck and zero off-street parking.  A hearing is scheduled for next week, although LADCP staff have recommended that the hotel tower move forward as approved.  Of course, if residents are upset over a construction site springing up in their backyard, they are in for a rude awakening in the near future.  Multiple surface parking lots surrounding Evo and Luma are slated for skyline altering developments courtesy of the Onni Group, Mack Urban, Oceanwide and Jamison Services.  With so many ambitious developments in the pipeline, it's ironic that a relatively small project is the one ruffling feathers.  Either way, get used to construction cranes and mixed-use towers in South Park, because you're going to be seeing quite a few of them in the coming years.

UPDATE: This is a rebuttal from a resident of one of the condo towers, clarifying the HOA's position on the hotel project.
This article completely misrepresents the position of this project's neighbors. As a resident of one of the adjacent condo buildings directly overlooking this project, the concern was never the presence of a construction site. Rather, my concern was the operation of an open-air rooftop pool and bar open to the public until 2:00 a.m., literally only feet from my unit. The zoning administrator's original decision restricted use of the rooftop pool and bar to hotel guests and limited operating hours to 11 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and midnight on Friday and Saturday. The developer did not appeal these restrictions and I, for one, am satisfied and look forward to the hotel opening. The appeal (which I understand was largely denied yesterday) related to parking and access issues, and I don't believe ever had as its goal stopping this project.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Condo Project Would Literally Sit on the LA/Beverly Hills Border

Out to Beverly Hills we go, where McMansions reign supreme and subways under high schools cause natural disasters..  A trio of low-rise apartment buildings at 332-336 Oakhurst Drive are slated to be demolished to make way for 31 residences.  The Oakhurst Condominiums, designed by Sherman Oaks-based Michael Ball Architects, would rise five stories above a subterranean parking garage.  Residential amenities include a lounge and fitness center on the project's ground level, with vehicular access provided by the alley at the back of the property.  The project's location, bisected by the border between Los Angeles and Beverly Hills, makes for an extra-cumbersome approvals process.  Other developments in the area include Genton Property Group's Wetherly Luxury Residences, which would create 55 condominiums within a 12-story structure.  That project saw construction fencing go up over the summer, despite opposition from the nearby Four Seasons Hotel.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Glassy New Look for 801 Olive Street

Courtesy of the DLANC Planning and Land Use Committee, I offer you updated renderings of Carmel Partners' proposed tower at 801 Olive Street.  Set to rise 27-stories, the GMP Architects designed tower would contain 363 residential units above a four-story podium.  The building activates the corner of 8th and Olive Streets with 10,000 combined square feet of retail and restaurant space.  Not a bad complement for the future Whole Foods Market across the street.  The tower's accessible rooftop would feature an outdoor pool, a fire pit, and an enclosed lounge with incredible views of the city (check out a rendering after the jump).  If you want to take in the view a little bit closer to the ground, 801 Olive Street would also feature outdoor sky decks on its 6th and 20th floors.  Other residential amenities include a fitness room and a landscaped terrace atop the building's 389-vehicle garage.  However, Carmel's proposed tower may wind up being overshadowed by more ambitious plans coming out of Canada.  The Vancouver-based Onni Group recently filed plans with the city for multiple Downtown high-rise projects, including a 50-story tower on a surface parking lot at 820 Olive Street.  It's difficult to imagine this current pedestrian dead zone as a thriving mixed-use corridor, but all of these projects currently in the pipeline could make it happen.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Emerson College Quietly Opens, Sunset Gordon Tops Out

After years of anticipation, Emerson College quietly opened its new Los Angeles campus to 130 students earlier this week.  The 10-story structure, designed by LA-based Morphosis Architects, contains classroom space, meeting rooms, outdoor performance space and living accommodations for up to 200 students.  A ground floor restaurant known as the Emerson Kitchen features a 40% vegetarian menu and greets Sunset Boulevard with patio dining space.  The outdoor seating was well patronized this past Saturday (see below), and will provide a nice shot in the arm for foot traffic along Sunset in years to come.  The LEED Gold certified building will hold its official grand opening ceremony on March 8th.

Just across the street, CIM Group's mixed-use Sunset Gordon Tower is now topped out.  The 23-story edifice, designed by Portland's GBD Architects, will contain 300 apartments, 40,000 square feet of office space, and 13,000 square feet of ground floor retail space.  Earlier plans also called for a public park to be built in conjunction with the project, but that space will instead give way for a parking garage (sigh).  Sunset Gordon has unfortunately fallen ill with a severe case of value engineering, as the building's facade bears little resemblance to what was portrayed in architectural renderings.  The project, which has long been a target of Hollywood NIMBYs, is currently facing an appeal from the notoriously litigious La Mirada Neighborhood Association.

Other projects currently under construction nearby include Kilroy Realty's redesigned Columbia Square development and the Camden Hollywood.  Plans are also in the works for a 17-story office building from Hudson Pacific Properties and a pair of 28-story towers from Crescent Heights.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Four Stories of Generic Apartments for West LA

1836 Colby Avenue

Feast your eyes on grainy, black and white renderings of 1836 Colby, the latest residential project to draw the ire of development averse Westside residents.  The four-story, 49-unit building would rise at the intersection of Colby and Missouri Avenues, with architecture from Glendale-based Uriu & Associates.  As is the norm with any new development in West Los Angeles, the neighbors are not happy.  A group of homeowners in adjacent 1830 Colby are up in arms over the project, citing a variety of factors including the building's height, the deleterious effects of living next to a construction site, and the potential loss of "a row of 8 beautiful, mature Eucalyptus trees between property lines."  Oy vey.  Residents have since taken their grievances to the City Planning Commission, asking them to send 1836 Colby back to the drawing board.  However, LADCP staff have recommended that the homeowners' appeal be denied.  If and when that happens, 1836 Colby will be one of two similar sized projects on this stretch Missouri Avenue.  Four blocks to the east, a Little Osaka parcel is slated to make way for 52 apartments above ground floor restaurant space.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Gold Line Adjacent Affordable Housing in Boyle Heights

Lorena Plaza, Image from A Community of Friends

Are you a low income individual who has always wanted to live next to a giant cemetery?  If so, A Community of Friends has a project in the works that will be right up your alley.  Lorena Plaza is a 49-unit affordable housing development, pegged to replace a vacant, Metro-owned parcel at the northeast corner of 1st and Lorena Streets.  The five-story edifice would rise across from the 136 year old Evergreen Cemetary, which contains over 300,000 headstones and a lot of not-evergreen grass.  Located just a short walk from the Eastside Gold Line's Indiana Station, Lorena Plaza would feature 7,000 square feet of ground floor retail space.  The $23 million project has received a lukewarm reception from the surrounding neighborhood due to a stipulation that half of its units be reserved for mentally ill and formerly homeless individuals.  Nearby business owners and residents told the Metro Board in March 2013 that "the mentally ill would not make good neighbors."  Casting those concerns aside, the Metro Board voted 10-1 to negotiate with A Community of Friends on the project.  Lorena Plaza is scheduled for completion in March 2016.  Perhaps the rest of the Eastside Gold Line stations will also spawn mixed-use TODs by then (get your act together, Mariachi Plaza!).

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Watch Grand Avenue's Parcel M Tower Sprout in Two Minutes

With so much attention focused on the new Frank Gehry designs for Parcel Q, it's easy to forget that the Grand Avenue Project already has one residential building under construction.  The 19-story Parcel M Tower broke ground in late 2012, and is now topped out just south of the Walt Disney Concert Hall.  The Arquitectonica designed building carries a $120 million price tag, and is slated to open its 271 apartments late this year.  In the meantime, check out the Parcel M Tower's live webcam, which has focused on the project site since shortly after groundbreaking.  Perched atop the Colburn School, the camera provides a speedy time lapse video of the building's construction from ground level to its 215 foot apex above Grand Avenue.  Making a guest appearance in the lower right hand corner is the Diller Scofidio + Refro designed Broad Museum.  The $140 million project will share a pedestrian plaza with the residential tower when it opens, also in late 2014.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

More Pictures of Wood Blocks: The New Grand Avenue Project

As reported yesterday by the Daily News, the LA County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to take a look at Frank Gehry's latest designs for the long awaited Grand Avenue Project.  Related California's $750 million mixed-use development would create two high-rise buildings containing residential, hotel, office and retail space across from the iconic Walt Disney Concert Hall.  A 37-story residential tower would rise from the corner of 2nd and Olive Streets, consisting of 450-apartments above a podium of retail and restaurant space.  The 490-foot tall structure would feature a skydeck on its 28th floor, offering an outdoor pool with panoramic views of the city.  The second tower, which abuts the 1st Street side of the property, would contain a 300-room SLS Hotel and just under 50,000 square feet of office space.  The hotel/office building would rise 25 stories, with an architectural apex 345 feet above street level.  The entire "Phase 1," would create just over 100,000 square feet of retail/restaurant space.  Although the Grand Avenue Project is marketed as a transit oriented development, the towers would share a massive underground parking garage with room for 1,350 vehicles.  Of course, if you want to leave your car behind, Parcel Q will eventually sit within easy walking distance of two subway stations serving Metro's Red, Purple, Blue and Gold Lines.  Either way, it looks like we can expect a project that is both pleasing to the eye and inviting at ground level.  Now how about we get some action on Parcel W?

Hard at Work on Access Culver City

The future site of Access Culver City, seen from a westbound Expo Line train.

My oh my, that is a lot of dirt.  Kitty-corner to the Expo Line's Culver City Station, construction crews are busy with excavation work for Access Culver City.  The mixed-use development from Greystar Real Estate Partners is slated to open its doors in 2015, creating 115 apartments above ground floor commercial space.  The five-story structure, designed by Togawa Smith Martin, will greet the intersection of Washington and National Boulevards with a 7,000 square foot public plaza.  However, Greystar Real Estate's project is just one of three developments either planned or under construction in Culver City Station's immediate vicinity.  A short walk west on Washington Boulevard, the Runyon Group is hard at work on "The Platform," which will will transform a former Hyundai dealership into retail, restaurant and office space (take that, Southern California car culture!).  Culver City Station's park-and-ride lot is also slated for a massive development from LA-based Lowe Enterprises, featuring a four-story/200,000 square foot office building, 200 apartments, a 150-room hotel, 75,000 square feet of ground floor retail, a tranit plaza, and a park "roughly the size of a football field."  The LA Business Journal reports that Lowe has commissioned the Minneapolis-based Cunningham Group to design the project.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

More Mixed-Use Towers Near Staples Center

Passengers on the Blue and Expo Lines should enjoy Pico Station's unobstructed view of Staples Center while it lasts, because skyscrapers are coming.  The Los Angeles Times reports that a group spearheaded by Jamison Services has agreed to purchase the 2.7 acre parcel at 1200 Figueroa Street, with the intention of building a residential-retail complex.  Although an exact sales price is unknown, the new owners reportedly shelled out more than twice the $31 million that L&R Parking paid for the property in 2010.  The land was formerly the site of a proposed development from the South Group, which planned for 648 condominiums housed within high-rises of 35 and 27 stories.  Jamison Services (and friends) envision a project similar in scale.  Plans submitted to LADBS late last year call for two 36-story towers, connected by a retail/parking podium.  The Times also reports that entitlements may be amended to allow for the inclusion of hotel rooms and additional retail space.  Jamison Services' project adds to the avalanche of proposed high-rise developments which have emerged near LA Live in the past year.  Chinese developers have revived the Metropolis and Fig Central mega-projects, while Williams & Dame, Mack Urban and the Onni Group also have towers in the works nearby.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Hollywood's Dream Hotel Returns Bigger and Better

The Dream Hollywood.  Image from KFA.

Multiple high-rise projects next to the Capitol Records Building were dealt a setback this week courtesy of the California State Geological Survey, but other Hollywood developments continue to make progress despite persistent NIMBY pushback.  Near the intersection of Cahuenga Boulevard and Selma Avenue, plans for Los Angeles' first Dream Hotel are officially back in motion. To make that news even sweeter, Five Chairs Development has asked the city for a series of zoning variances which would allow them to increase the project's size.  Revised plans for the Dream Hollywood call for a 10-story, 182 room hotel, featuring commercial space at street level and a 65-vehicle subterranean parking structure.  Five Chairs would utilize the city's bicycle parking ordinance to substitute expensive on-site automobile parking with less costly bicycle accommodations.  The hotel would also lease parking spaces for guests in an off-site garage.  The Killefer Flammang designed structure was originally approved in 2008 as a 9-story, 120 room project known as Hotel Selma.  Although Five Chairs previously expected the hotel to open in Fall 2013, plans have only recently began working their way through the Department of Building and Safety.  This stretch of Selma Avenue is increasingly busy, with both the Columbia Square development and the Camden Hollywood under construction nearby.  The J.H. Snyder Company also plans a mid-rise office tower at 1601 Vine Street, but groundbreaking is indefinitely stalled due to the bureaucratic mess wrought by the demise of the Community Redevelopment Agency.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Nest Brings Apartment/Hotel Action to Koreatown

Image from WCKNC

Bustling Koreatown has been on a building boom as of late, and a parcel just north of Wilshire Boulevard wants to get in on the action.  "The Nest," a self-described apartment-hotel development, intends to replace a surface parking lot at 621 Catalina Street with 75 hotel rooms and seven apartment dwellings.  Residences and guest rooms would rise above approximately 1,500 square feet of ground floor commercial space, intended for a small cafe or store.  The six-story structure, designed by K-Town based EWAI Architecture, would be clad in plaster, corrugated metal paneling and stone veneer (Anti-Stucco Avengers, rejoice!).  On site amenities include a 1,500 square foot fitness center, an internal courtyard, and a 91-vehicle underground garage.  Located just a few blocks from Metro's Wilshire/Vermont Station, the apartment-hotel project sits within a densely populated neighborhood, rich with transit and affordable eateries.  Guests and residents could walk down Vermont Avenue for some $10 all-you-can-eat Korean Barbeque at Ma Dang Sae, or take a subway ride Downtown to enjoy "America's Next Great City" and it's thriving bar scene.  The Nest is scheduled to break ground in 2015, with construction anticipated to last two years.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Van Nuys Parcel Getting Nondescript Hotel Action (UPDATED)

5746 Sepulveda Boulevard

UPDATE: Documents from the Department of City Planning indicate that the new project shall be a La Quinta Inn and Suites.  Get ready for some knock-off Mission style architecture, Van Nuys.

Low slung Sepulveda Boulevard is starting to grow a little bit taller in Van Nuys.  Back in November, the Department of City Planning received a proposal to redevelop the site of the 32-room El Cortez Motel.  Plans call for the demolition for the parcel's four existing structures, followed by the construction of a four-story hotel containing 73 guest rooms.  The project, situated just a few blocks south of an Orange Line Station, would be served by 60 parking spaces.  The redevelopment of the El Cortez Motel is actually one of two projects in pre-development along this stretch of Sepulveda.  Just two lots to the south, plans are in the works for a 131-unit mixed-use development known as Sepulveda Square.  Of course, the nature and design of the new hospitality project are complete unknowns.  Given the existing auto-oriented hotel and surrounding neighborhood, its difficult to imagine something with pedestrian-friendly urban design here.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Jade Enterprises' Pico Station Adjacent Apartments

A pair of CRA/LA documents have (re) revealed renderings of Onyx, a mixed-use development planned by Fashion District landlord Jade Enterprises.  The two-building project would rise on surface parking lots southeast of Metro's Pico Station, combining to create 410 apartment units and over 30,000 square feet of ground floor commercial space.  Both building would stand seven-stories, with design work from Downtown-based TCA Architects.  Jade Enterprises has used Onyx's transit adjacency to substantially reduce the project's parking component, containing just 44% of what would normally be required by code.  This section of the South Park neighborhood is in the midst of a grand transformation, with a plethora of new projects emerging and numerous stalled proposals roaring back to life.  One block east on Pico Boulevard, local super-developer Sonny Astani and Arizona-based Wolff Co. plan to break ground on the 640-unit G12 development this year.  One block north of Onyx, the Canadian-based Onni Group has multiple residential projects in the works.  Most notably, China's Oceanwide Real Estate Group recently purchased the massive Fig Central development, which would create hotel, residential and retail space across the street from Staples Center and LA Live.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Greenland Group Gets Serious about Metropolis

The Metropolis site, seen from the intersection of James M Wood Boulevard and Francisco Street.

When the Shanghai based Greenland Group announced their intent to purchase the long delayed Metropolis development in June 2013, many details from the press release were muddled in the Mandarin-to-English translation.  IDS Realty quickly stepped in to put the kibosh on the rumored sales price of $1 billion, but all parties involved have remained adamant that the project would be going vertical as soon as possible.  It appears that the Chinese developer remains true to its word, with the project's first buildings set to be a 19-story hotel at 899 Francisco Street and a 38-story apartment tower next door at 889 Francisco.  According to permits filed with LADBS, the hotel's guest rooms would rise above a four-story podium containing event, retail and restaurant space.  The residential building would contain 290 units, stacked atop a four-story parking garage.  Both towers would also feature two levels of subterranean parking.

Curbed LA recently caused a stir when they provided renderings of two Gensler-designed Metropolis towers via structural engineering firm Saiful Bouquet.  Although those renderings have been verified as outdated, they do hint at the the intended scope of the project.  While perhaps not as grand in scale as some of the Greenland Group's developments across the Pacific, the first phase of Metropolis will still make a noticeable impact on the Downtown skyline.  On the other hand, Gensler has their work cut out for them at ground level.  Isolated from the activity of LA Live and sandwiched between the 110 freeway and series of parking garages, the Metropolis site does not easily lend itself towards pedestrian activity.  That doesn't bode well for the effort to transform Francisco Street into Downtown LA's wannabe French Quarter.

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Village at USC Brings Open Space and Fake Old Town Charm

The Village at USC

Last month, the LA City Planning Commission unanimously approved the new design guidelines for the massive Village at USC.  The $1.1 billion development seeks to reinvent the dilapidated University Village shopping center as a thriving mixed-use complex, reminiscent of Glendale's Americana at Brand.  Elkus Manfredi Architects, the Boston-based firm which designed the Americana, has taken the lead on the project, with additional work from Michigan-based Harley Ellis Devereaux.  Updated renderings show a series of brick clad structures, centered around a large plaza and bisected with wide, retail laden paseos.  These five initial buildings will house 2,470 students above 140,000 square feet of ground floor commercial space.  The Village's full build out would contain over 2 million square feet of student housing, academic facilities and neighborhood serving retail.  The project will fund streetscape improvements around the USC campus' perimeter, including a road diet for Jefferson Boulevard.  As the result of contentious negotiations with the city during the approval process in 2012, USC will also provide $20 million for affordable housing in the surrounding area.  The Village at USC will provide a pedestrian friendly town square for the University Park neighborhood, serving students, staff and permanent residents alike.  The nearby Metro Expo Line will give Trojans and Angelenos the ability to visit while leaving their personal automobiles behind.  Gentrification is always a touchy subject, but its tough to argue against it when it looks and feels this good.  The Village could start work in mid-2014 at the earliest.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

An Overhead Look at the WeHo Depot Redevelopment

Image from Cohen Brothers Realty via WEHOville

Way back in 2013, WEHOville reported on a presentation from Cohen Brothers Realty about their massive redevelopment plans for Metro's West Hollywood Bus Depot.  The sprawling 10.4 acre site on Santa Monica Boulevard would be anchored by a pair of high-rise towers containing office, hotel and residential space.  Closer to ground level, the project would feature retail space, a movie theater, an open-amphiteater, and a 50,000 square-foot sheriff's station.  Since this project would replace an existing bus maintenance facility, Cohen Brothers Realty would build a three-level replacement garage underneath the complex.  Altogether, the vision drawn up by Los Angeles-based Gruen Associates would create an approximately 1.2 million square foot campus.  Quite a substantial project for development wary West Hollywood.  Then again, perhaps this is the type of project needed to push a Santa Monica Boulevard subway closer to reality.  West Hollywood, whose citizens strongly supported both Measures R and J, was left out of Metro's immediate expansion plans when the Pink Line concept was eliminated from the Westside Subway Extension.