Friday, February 28, 2014

Construction Cranes Arrive in the Arts District

Anyone approaching Downtown Los Angeles from the east may have noticed that a new object joined the skyline earlier this week: a bright, orange construction crane.  Rising high above the low-slung Arts District, this tower crane will assist in the construction of Lowe Enterprises' Mega Toys killing mixed-use development.  Scheduled to open in 2015, the Togawa Smith Martin designed complex will consist of 320 apartment units and 15,000 square feet of ground floor commercial space.  Buildings are set to rise five stories on opposite sides of Garey Street, which will be converted into a pedestrian-only paseo flanked by stores and restaurants.  Located a short walk down the street from the nearly finished One Santa Fe development, the Mega Toys crane can expect some company within the coming year.  According to the Downtown News, Legendary Development plans to break ground on a three-building, 472-unit project next to the SCI-Arc campus this Spring.  Further south, Bolour Associates revived the pre-recession AMP Lofts late last year, with a new look courtesy of the Downtown-based Shimoda Design Group.  To top it all off, Metro is also looking into the possibility of adding as many as two new Red/Purple Line stations near 1st and 6th Streets.  With a wide variety of mixed-use developments in the pipeline and a subway link potentially on the way, we're looking at a very different Arts District five years down the line

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Apartments Heading Toward Lafayette Park

2867 Sunset Place

Resurgent Koreatown continues on its upward trajectory, with a new residential development planned one block south of Wilshire Boulevard.  A surface parking lot at 2867 Sunset Place, just a short walk from Lafayette Park, is set to make way for a new 60-unit apartment building.  Located three blocks east of Wilshire/Vermont Station, the development would include parking accommodations for 77 vehicles.  This section of the neighborhood is currently in the midst of mini-development boom, with the signs of adaptive re-use projects and ground up construction apparent throughout the neighborhood.  The J.H. Snyder Company is currently wrapping up construction on the $200 million Vermont Towers, which will open its 464 apartments later this year.  Jamison Services, one of Los Angeles' largest commercial landlords, recently converted the mid-rise office building at 3075 Wilshire into 123 apartments.  Midway between Lafayette and McArthur Parks, the New York-based Somerset Group plans for 154 luxury condominiums at the northeast corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Coronado Street.  An 18-story high-rise was also planned at the northwest corner of Wilshire and Virgil Avenue, although the future of that project remains unclear at this point.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Mack Urban Wants to Start With Hotel and Residential Towers

Last week, the Downtown News reported that newly formed developer Mack Urban plans to construct hotel and residential towers on surface parking lots surrounding the AT&T Center.  According to a recent case filing with the Department of City Planning, the $750 million mixed-use project's first buildings will be two high-rise structures at the northeast corner of 12th Street and Grand Avenue.  The first tower, containing 461 residential units and 8,700 square feet of ground level retail space, would rise 41 stories at 1120 Grand Avenue.  The second, a 300-room hotel with 8,610 square feet of commercial space, would stand 12 stories high.  Designed by AC Martin, the joint venture between Mack Urban and AECOM would join the Wilshire Grand Center in utilizing the Los Angeles Fire Department's newly relaxed rooftop helipad policy.  Representatives of AC Martin previously informed the Architect's Newspaper that at least one building in the decade-long project would feature a "'sculpted' top."

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Keeping Up With Geoff Palmer's Latest Faux-talian Fortresses

The Lorenzo, seen from the intersection of 23rd and Flower Streets

Amongst the first developers to cash in on Downtown LA's 21st century residential boom, Geoff Palmer has lined the Central City's freeway ring with his Italian Renaissance themed apartment buildings.  True to form, his newest projects both overlook the 110, albeit in very different parts of the neighborhood.  The Lorenzo, which stands seven stories tall, occupies the majority of a city block bounded by Flower Street, Adams Boulevard, Grand Avenue and 23rd Street.  Sitting adjacent to the Expo Line's busy 23rd Street Station, the multi-phased development contains a total of 910 residential units and 34,000 square feet of ground floor retail space.  With furnished apartments and private shuttle service, the Lorenzo seeks to tap into the student housing market generated by nearby institutions such as FIDM and USC.  The building offers "resort-style," amenities, including a game room, basketball courts, four pools and a tanning salon (seriously?).   Say what you will about the architecture, but they haven't scrimped on perks.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Expo's Venice Boulevard Bridge: Six Months Later

Last summer, the two bridges that will carry Expo Line trains over Venice Boulevard were little more than a couple of empty rebar cages.  Just over half-a-year later, the concrete has cured and the only things missing from the above picture are steel rails and catenary wiring.  Now carrying over 27,000 passengers on a daily basis, the Expo Line officially surpassed its 2020 ridership projection seven years ahead of schedule.  That's a positive sign, given that extensions are currently in the works at both ends of the line.  Expo's Phase II, which extends rail service into the heart of Downtown Santa Monica, is expected to open sometime between 2015 and 2016.  Fifteen miles east in Downtown Los Angeles, Metro expects construction to begin on the Regional Connector later this year.  The Regional Connector, which received a $670 million grant from the Federal Government this past week, will link the Blue and Expo Lines to the Pasadena and East LA branches of the Gold Line.  Traveling 1.9 miles between the Financial District and Little Tokyo, the new subway tunnel is anticipated to generate an additional 17,000 daily riders.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

More Apartments Heading West of Sunset/La Brea

7124 Sunset Boulevard

Most of the news coming out of Hollywood's development front in recent months has been bad, but there are glimmers of hope to be found.  Three nondescript buildings just west of Sunset Boulevard and La Brea Avenue are slated for demolition were recently demolished, making way for a new mixed-use development.  Located at 7124 Sunset, the 44-unit building would rise to a maximum height of 65 feet, containing 3,000 square feet of ground level restaurant space.  The building's two-level garage, located partially underground, would serve up to 117 vehicles.  While Hollywood's post-recession building boom has mostly concentrated itself around the Hollywood/Vine subway station, there are signs of resurgence in the blocks surrounding Hollywood and Highland as well.  Just one block north of 7124 Sunset, the long-proposed La Brea Regency Lofts broke ground in October 2013.  Slightly west on Hawthorne Avenue, a 25-unit condo development is planned.  Further northeast, Curbed LA reports that construction is underway on a larger mixed-use development by locally-based Champion Real Estate.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Hanover Group Plans South Park Domination With Another Mixed-User

Olympic & Olive

The Hanover Company already has two mixed-use developments in the works along Olympic Boulevard, but three makes a party.  According to a presentation given to the DLANC, the Texas-based developer intends to build another seven-story apartment building adjacent to their under-construction Olympic and Hill development.  Dubbed Olympic & Olive, Hanover's newest project would create 263 apartments and 14,500 square feet of ground floor retail space.  The building would sit above a two-and-a-half level underground parking garage, with room for just 250 vehicles.  With less than one automobile space per residential unit, Olympic & Olive joins several other upcoming developments in utilizing the city's bicycle parking ordinance to cut down on costly automobile accommodations.  If you feel like you've seen these renderings before, there's a reason for that.  Like Hanover's other South Park developments, Olympic & Olive was designed by Downtown-based Thomas Cox Architects.  Adding to the confusion, there is another mixed-use project named Olympic & Olive planned on the opposite side of the intersection.  The other Olympic & Olive, to be developed by Florida-based Lennar Multifamily Investors, would stand six stories and contain 201 apartments.  Cookie-cutter designs and confusing naming schemes aside, 2014 is shaping up to be South Park's biggest year ever. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Checking in on the LC Apartments

In Spring 2013, the West LA-based California Landmark Group broke ground on the LC, an 84-unit mixed-use development at the northern end of Larchmont Boulevard.  Fast forward to Winter 2014, and the $40 million development now rises four stories above Melrose Avenue, eradicating what was formerly a vacant lot.  With just under 3,500 square feet of ground floor commercial space, the LC adds more feet on the ground in an already-walkable section of the Hollywood neighborhood.  A variety of jobs and activity centers are located nearby, including the historic Paramount Pictures campus and busy Hollywood Boulevard.  Residential amenities will include a rooftop deck, media room, and a full service gym.  The Larchmont Buzz reports that the PK Architects designed project's Melrose facade will be clad with anondized aluminum paneling.  As an added benefit, California Landmark has also supplied $100,000 for streetscape improvements around the property.  This includes new trees along Larchmont, Melrose and El Centro, as well as the potential for a landscaped plaza in front of the building.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Meet 5-OH, Park Fifth's Downsized Replacement

When San Francisco-based MacFarlane Partners announced their intent to purchase the former Park Fifth site, they indicated that their plans halved the square footage of the original proposal.  Now we actually get a look at what they have in mind, via a presentation to the DLANC.  Once intended to give rise to skyline altering towers of 76 and 43 stories, the surface parking lot across from Pershing Square will instead birth a 24-story residential tower and a low-rise apartment building.  The Harley Ellis Deveraux designed complex, dubbed "5-OH," would create a cumulative 615 residential units and 17,000 square feet of street level retail.  The 300-unit residential tower, standing 241 feet tall, would be clad in aluminum, sandstone, and cement panels.  Both buildings would sit above a semi-subterranean parking garage, with room for 657 automobiles and 624 bicycles.  Similar to South Park's 801 Olive Street, 5-OH would offer rooftop amenities including a clubhouse, an outdoor pool, a landscaped courtyard, and barbeque pits.  The project's 315-unit low-rise structure would offer similar rooftop facilities, with residential access via a private paseo between Hill and Olive Streets.  Of course, this all seems a bit underwhelming when considering what could have been.  The original Kohn Pedersen Fox project would have created Los Angeles' third tallest building, with a design that flawlessly integrated itself with the adjacent Title Guarantee Building.  Alas, like so many proposed developments from before the real estate bubble, it was not meant to be.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Mixed-Use Action Coming to the LA/Culver City Border

Culver City has spent the past decade beefing up its commercial peninsula along Washington Boulevard, and that trend continues with yet another mixed-use development on the way.  According to plans filed late last month, a 97-unit apartment building with 15,000 square feet of ground floor commercial space is proposed at 11925 Louise Avenue.  The five-story building would front the intersection of Washington and Inglewood Boulevards, rising on property that is split between the boundaries of Los Angeles and Culver City.  That should make for an especially complicated approvals process.  Just across the street, a smaller mixed-use project from the Canadian-based Bastion Development Corporation is under construction.  The four-story, 30-unit building known as Olive broke ground in September, joining two other mixed-use developments from Bastion which opened last year.  A short jog to the west, the two lots on the north side of Washington and Centinela Avenue remain empty.  They are eventually slated to give way for the Westside's answer to Downtown's Grand Central Market.  On the bright side, the vacant parcels are still an excellent place to pick up a Christmas tree come December.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Marina Del Rey Lofts District Gets More of the Same

Marina Del Rey's so-called Arts/Loft District may not have much in the way of art, but the neighborhood will be adding yet another low-rise residential building to the mix.  Plans were submitted to the city in early February for a 67-unit condo development at 4091 Redwood Avenue featuring 7,500 square feet of commercial space.  The new residential building would rise five stories, replacing one of the last remaining warehouse structures from prior to the neighborhood's mid-2000 development boom.  As is typical with most Westside multi-family projects, 4091 Redwood comes with copious parking accommodations.  The building would sit atop a 141-stall underground garage, containing spaces for both residents and the project's commercial tenant.  However, this section of Marina Del Rey also provides plenty of reasons to leave your car behind.  4091 Redwood would sit within easy walking distance of the recently upgraded Villa Marina Marketplace, a Costco, and a wide variety of stores along busy Washington Boulevard.  Other developers have also taken note, with a similar project proposed just one block to the east.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

3670 Wilshire Revived, Going Low-Rise

3670 Wilshire Boulevard, seen from the corner of Wilshire and Hobart

The dusty lot at 3670 Wilshire Boulevard, once intended for a glassy condo tower, is instead headed in the low-rise direction.  An environmental report released by LADCP indicates that property owner Don Hankey has plans for a six-story structure, housing 377 apartment units and just under 8,500 square feet of ground floor retail space.  Designed by the architectural firm of Van Tilburg, Banyard & Soderbergh (Casden West LA, Picasso Brentwood), the stucco-clad building would span a full city block in between Wilshire Boulevard and 7th Street.  Located within easy walking distance of two Metro Purple Line stations, the mixed-use development would nonetheless sit atop a two-level, 710-car garage.

Over the years, this 2.2 acre parcel has been the site of several never realized proposals.  Prior to the financial crisis, a Korean developer planned to build a 40-story skyscraper on the lot.  Standing 490 feet above ground, the Nadel Architects-designed tower would have redefined the Mid-Wilshire skyline.  After the recession squashed any chances of a high-rise, Hankey scooped up the property in 2011.  Under an arrangement with the former Community Redevelopment Agency, Hankey would have built apartments on the northern side of the lot, while the CRA would have converted the southern portion into a park.  However, the demise of the state CRA system just a few months later put a stop to any talk of green space.  Three years later, here we are.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Huge Residential Development Starts Work in Playa Vista

Traveling through the so-called "Lower Westside," you'll notice that construction activity is in full swing throughout the Playa Vista campus.  Lincoln Property Group's Runway has taken off, Tishman Speyer plans to break ground on 200,000 square feet of office space next month, and now work has commenced on a massive residential development at the corner of Jefferson Boulevard and Centinela Avenue.  Set to rise four stories, the building at 12481 West Fielding Circle would contain 703 apartment units above two levels of underground parking.  Future neighbors will inevitably be elderly and Semitic, as the Los Angeles Jewish Home intends to open the Fountainview at Gonda Westside just down the street in 2016.  On the opposite side of Jefferson Boulevard, a 196-unit luxury apartment development from the Texas-based Dinerstein Cos. is currently wrapping up construction.  Quite a bit of density, especially for a part of Los Angeles that has fought these kinds of developments for decades.  However, the recent influx of tech and creative industry jobs into Silicon Beach has created strong demand for additional housing units.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Chinatown's Colorful Blossom Plaza Pushing Dirt

It may have taken a decade to get here, but the former Little Joe's restaurant is gone, and shovels have hit the dirt in Chinatown.  The long awaited Blossom Plaza mixed-user finally got rolling last year, and since then construction crews have busied themselves prepping the site for excavation.  Designed by local firm Johnson Fain, the $100 million project from Forest City Enterprises will rise five stories, creating 237 apartments and approximately 20,000 square feet of neighborhood serving retail space.  The project will offer a direct connection to the Gold Line's Chinatown Station via a 17,000 square foot pedestrian plaza on the eastern side of the property.  Should that easy transit link not appeal to you, don't worry: the mixed-use structure will also contain a 449 stall parking garage, including 175 spots reserved for Metro passengers.  Regardless of your preferred mode of transportation, the development of the tracts of underutilized land surrounding Chinatown Station can't happen fast enough.

Forest City, which took over development of Blossom Plaza back in 2011, has also set their sights on on the opposite side of Downtown LA.  The Cleveland-based developer recently paid $27 million to acquire two parcels near the Herald-Examiner Building which were previously entitled for a pair of Morphosis-designed residential towers.  While Thom Mayne's firm is reportedly out as the design architect, Forest City's new vision for the project has yet to be made public.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Another Office Tower Planned on Sunset Boulevard

Site Plan for 5901 Sunset Boulevard

Construction cranes have become a common sight in the Hollywood skyline over the past two years, and a newly proposed development from Hudson Pacific Properties would keep them around for the foreseeable future.  Earlier today, the Department of City Planning released an environmental report for a new 274,000 square foot office building at 5901 Sunset Boulevard.  The 18-story tower, designed by Gensler, would include six-stories of above-grade parking and 26,000 square feet of retail space at street level.  With an architectural apex 260 feet above ground, 5901 Sunset would provide tenants with landscaped courtyards on its upper office levels.  Vehicular ingress and egress for the tower's 1,118 stall garage would be provided along the Bronson Avenue side of the property, preserving the the building's Sunset Boulevard frontage for pedestrians.  Construction is scheduled to last 22 months, with completion expected in 2017.

Hudson Pacific Properties' newest office building comes to light as a variety of large, mixed-use projects are either planned or under construction on Sunset Boulevard.  At Sunset and Gower, Kilroy Realty is building over 300,000 square feet of office space as part of its redevelopment of Columbia Square.  Next-door to 5901 Sunset, the Hollywood-based CIM Group is pushing towards completion on their 23-story Sunset Gordon tower.  Across the street, Emerson College recently opened its stunning new Los Angeles campus.  Finally, one block east of 5901 Sunset, Hudson Pacific Properties is planning another Gensler-designed office tower on the Sunset Bronson Studios campus.

New Mixed-Use Development Planned at Pico and Grand (UPDATED)

Chalk up another win for the development crazy South Park neighborhood.  Late last year, plans were filed for a mixed-use development at the northwest corner of Pico Boulevard and Grand Avenue.  1249 Grand Avenue's vague case filing provided little in the way of details, betraying only the fact that it would sit above a two-level subterranean parking garage.  However, a permit application submitted to LADBS in late December has since shed some light on what's to come.  What is now a surface parking lot will eventually give way for a seven-story apartment building with ground level commercial space.  1249 Grand joins two other low-rise developments planned along this stretch of Pico Boulevard: Jade Enterprises' Onyx Apartments and Sonny Astani's massive, bike-friendly G12.  Both of the TCA-designed projects feature substantially reduced parking components (less than one space per residential unit), an increasingly common occurrence with Downtown's newer mixed-use developments.  1249 Grand Avenue could take a similarly progressive stance on parking, although that doesn't seem likely given the aforementioned underground garage.  On the bright side, it's encouraging to see the changes that lie ahead for Pico.  Currently an activity dead zone, Pico Boulevard could become a bustling pedestrian corridor in the near future.

UPDATE:  1249 Grand Avenue is the former site of the Ponet Square Hotel.  The four-story structure stood at the corner of Pico and Grand from the early 20th century up until the early 1970's, when a deadly fire gutted the building.  Check out what it looked like in 1924, courtesy of Urban Diachrony.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

More Upgrades for 7th Street/Metro Center Station

Over the past year, Metro Rail's increased passenger load has coincided with a slew of ugrades to the Financial District's 7th Street/Metro Center Station.  The latest in the ongoing series of improvements is the addition of next-train monitors on the station's upper platform.  Utilizing a large, ADA-compliant font size, these monitors display countdown timers for trains on Metro's Blue and Expo light rail lines.  These relatively simple upgrades can go a long way, given the hectic (and claustrophobic) rush hour environment within the station.  7th Street/Metro Center is set to become even more crowded over the next several years, with a variety of new projects getting underway both above and below ground.  The Ratkovich Group is gearing up for construction on it's $160 million remodel of Macy's Plaza, which will create a new subway portal on the southern side of 7th Street.  One block west, the 73-story Wilshire Grand Center will add 400,000 square feet of office space and 900 hotel rooms by 2017.  Most importantly, the Regional Connector will eventually create a new 1.9 mile subway tunnel in-between the Financial District and Little Tokyo.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Repeal of Orange Line Rail Ban Clears State Assembly

Last summer, LA City Councilman Tom LaBonge began pushing for the repeal of SB 211, a law passed in 1991 which bans the construction of light rail on what is now Metro's Orange Line busway.  While a light rail conversion has become a popular cause amongst San Fernando Valley transit users, the reality is that the LA City Council has no power to overturn state law.  However, it appears that Sherman Oaks Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian has successfully taken the fight to Sacramento.  In late January, the State Assembly gave unanimous support to a bill sponsored by Nazarian which would repeal the ban on above-ground rail in-between North Hollywood Station and Hazeltine Avenue.  The bill, designated AB 577, has since moved on to the State Senate for consideration.  While this is another step towards correcting the Valley's 20 year old mistake, it's important to remember that Assemblyman Nazarian's bill is no silver bullet.  Even if AB 577 becomes law, you won't wake up to trains running down the middle of Chandler Boulevard the next morning.  A light rail conversion is possible, but there are no funds currently set aside for such a project.  There's also the question of what happens to the 30,000 people who ride the Orange Line every day during this hypothetical conversion.  Still, this could be something to consider for the 2016 Measure R++ wish list.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Ava Little Tokyo Starts Getting Its Skin

With all of the excitement over new high-rises in South Park, you may have forgotten about some of Downtown's mixed-use developments that aren't rewriting the skyline.  Perhaps it's time for a refresher.  When we checked in on Ava Little Tokyo last Fall, construction on the TCA Architects designed project had just progressed above podium level.  Flash forward to 2014, and both of its six-story structures are topped out, with exterior work underway at 2nd and Los Angeles Streets.  When Avalon Bay's two building project opens between late 2014 and early 2015, it will create a combined 280 residential units above 20,000 square feet of ground floor retail space.  Outdoor amenities will include landscaped courtyards and a rooftop chill lounge (check out renderings from the MJS Design Group below).  Also under construction next-door is a 240-unit development from the Irvine-based Sares-Regis Group.  These two TCA-designed projects will finally complete the re-development of Little Tokyo's Block 8, formerly home to acres upon acres of parking lot blight.  A residential mid-rise is also planned across the street by the Malibu-based Weintraub Real Estate Group.  The nine-story mixed-use building, dubbed the Vibiana Lofts, would create 238 new apartments and help bridge the gap between Little Tokyo and the Historic Core.