All posts in Development

Placeholder Alt Text

Trashing the Competition

Indy developer drops $1.4 billion plan to revamp old GM stamping plant
Update from Ambrose Property Group at 12:30 p.m. on Monday, September 30:  “Ambrose Property Group and Central Indiana Community Foundation, in partnership with Exhibit Columbus, have decided to postpone the Waterside Design Competition Juried Presentations scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 2. Ambrose will not be the long-term owner of Waterside, however, the three organizations hope to work with Hood Design Studio, SCAPE, and Snøhetta to explore opportunities to meaningfully advance important conversations about design for our city. We are thankful for the designers’ work on this project and the important role they play in strengthening arts and culture in Indianapolis.” A former General Motors (GM) stamping plant in Indianapolis was set to become a massive new corporate campus designed by some of the biggest names in architecture. Today, the owner of the site, Ambrose Property Group, announced it is scrapping its plans. AN previously reported that three shortlisted design teams were chosen in May for a competition that would reimagine the 103-acre plot of land, home to the Albert Kahn–designed GM plant formerly known as Crane Bay. The teams included Hood Design Studio with Thomas Phifer and Partners and Arup; SCAPE with SO-IL, Guy Nordenson and Associates, James Lima Planning + Development, Art Strategies, Nelson\Nygaard, and Manuel Miranda Practice; and Snøhetta with Moody Nolan, Arup, HR&A, Art Strategies, and Chris Wangro. Spearheaded by Ambrose in partnership with Exhibit Columbus and the Central Indiana Community Foundation, the redevelopment contest was expected to finalize a vision for what would one day be a new, mixed-use district near downtown Indianapolis. Over 1,300 residential units, 2.75 million square feet of office space, 100,000 square feet of retail, and a hotel would make up the $1.4 billion neighborhood of Waterside. In a letter addressed to the Indianapolis community, Ambrose’s founder and CEO Aasif Bade explained his reason for selling the property: 
I’m writing to update the local community of Ambrose’s decision to focus our business on e-commerce and industrial development both in Indianapolis and nationally. We believe that a focused approach on one segment of real estate development is best for our investors, our clients, employees and the communities where we invest. As part of this decision, we plan to pursue the sale of our mixed-use and office projects, including Waterside. 
The news came as a shock to the designers today, who all presented their design philosophies and approaches to the public in June. The teams were expected to unveil conceptual schemes on October 2 and go into further details about how they would repurpose the old Crane Bay, build an urban plaza surrounding the site, and construct a pedestrian bridge over the White River, connecting Waterside directly to downtown.  SCAPE told AN in an email that while its office understands the complexity of financing, real estate, and strategy, the timing of the announcement was “not ideal.”
Our team has fallen in love with the GM Stamping Plant site, and we have so much to offer this process. We’ve enjoyed ideating on and building out ideas about how this place—a 100-acre slab of concrete—could transform by investing in civic life and landscape at its core. We believe the City, local residents, community members, and other stakeholders that have contributed their time and knowledge over many years will remain committed to an engaged and collaborative process. At the same time, everyone is sobered by this setback and acknowledges the challenge ahead.
Located in an opportunity zone, the project was a top priority for the city of Indianapolis. The nearly-90-year-old structure has sat empty ever since it closed its doors in 2011 following GM’s declaration of bankruptcy. and the Waterside development was a key part of the city’s failed pitch to host Amazon’s HQ2. A representative from the mayor’s office told The Indianapolis Star that Ambrose’s decision is disappointing, but the city will keep trying to find a way to develop the site. “We intend to use all available tools to ensure that the future of this parcel will live up to the years of planning that has occurred and the ongoing White River Vision Plan,” said Thomas Cook, the mayor’s chief of staff. According to Ambrose, the design competition will still be moving forward next week, but it’s unclear if and how those ideas will be used or whether the participants will be reimbursed for their efforts. The Central Indiana Community Foundation said it hopes the momentum will continue regardless:  “Our partnership with Ambrose and Waterside has been unique in the way it connected residents and neighborhoods to community development,” said the Foundation in an email, “and we are proud that the Waterside Design Competition put a spotlight on our city’s current development success and potential by bringing three world-renown and award-winning designers to Indianapolis...CICF will continue to engage the community to ensure Southwest Indianapolis residents are part of the neighborhood’s equitable and inclusive growth.”  AN reached out for comment from the other shortlisted firms and will update this story we hear back. Additional reporting by Shawn Simmons. 
Placeholder Alt Text

Basin-Based

Plans for ex-Amazon site in Queens aim to move forward with the community in mind
Shortly after Amazon backed out of building a new headquarters in Long Island City, Queens, (LIC) on February 14, developers and city officials began revisiting earlier plans for a mixed-use development on the 28-acre waterfront site. Due to the controversy of the failed Amazon proposal, all plans for the site will now have to face New York City’s public review process, meaning the community board, borough president, and city council would all have a say in the plans moving forward.  According to the Licpost, a coalition of community organizations have been calling on the developers since April to produce one comprehensive plan for the area as opposed to rezoning separate sites with different goals. Back in 2017, Plaxall’s residential redevelopment proposal was centered around rezoning the former industrial shipping port, Anable Basin, through the creation of the “Anable Basin Special District” which would include eight mixed-use buildings, light manufacturing, and retail space.  Out of the group of property owners who recently spoke with the de Blasio administration and City Council, one landowner was noticeably absent: Plaxall, who had proposed the original conversion on the site before Amazon moved to claim it and commissioned WXY to create a master plan. However, Plaxall’s managing director, Paula Kirby, told POLITICO earlier this week that they “remain committed to pursuing a vision that builds on LIC’s history as a center of innovation and creativity, and to working with our neighbors and the city on a plan to make Anable Basin an integral part of the future LIC waterfront." While their scheme would require rezoning, the general idea seems to be guiding the future of the site.  Throughout the Amazon debacle, it seems all participants have learned that the swath of land has a great untapped potential for bringing in jobs, but that community needs must be addressed first. Rather than building more condos, developers are now welcoming the idea of multifamily buildings that would have some income-restricted units, per city mandate. Other priorities discussed with the community organizations include several new schools, an arts center, a contiguous bike lane, and open parks.  According to one consultant, the number of new jobs doesn't have to be sacrificed to achieve those things. “Just based on the scale, the scope and breadth of the district, including the Plaxall site…in its full build-out, it approximately comes out to about 50,000 jobs,” MaryAnne Gilmartin of L&L MAG told POLITICO Brent O’Leary of the Hunters Point Civic Association told the Licpost that, “Instead of developers telling us their plans for our neighborhood, the community should express their vision and needs and the developers work within that vision so that the neighborhood develops properly.” He has helped organize meetings with TF Cornerstone and L&L MAG which are expected to take place in October at a currently undecided date.
Placeholder Alt Text

White Claw Summer

Morphosis's claw-like Sunset Strip complex now has a timeline
After months of speculation, a timeline has finally been determined for the construction of 8850 Sunset Boulevard, a 369,000-square-foot development which would rise over 15 stories and occupy an entire block of the Sunset Strip between San Vicente Street and Larrabee Street. Following a recently completed study by the city of West Hollywood, it has been determined that construction can begin on the Morphosis-designed, Viper Room-replacing project in the Spring of 2021 and could be completed in as few as 32 months. The site was originally purchased in 2017 by Silver Creek Development Co. for $80 million, and the project is supported by multidisciplinary real estate company Plus Development. The renderings for the development were first unveiled last December, and it appears that little, if anything, of the design has been subdued since then. The proposal still comprises two aesthetically distinct towers between a 120-foot-wide grassy hill and above a transparent ground floor. The amorphous tower facing San Vicente will be a 115-room hotel, while the rectilinear tower facing Larrabee will contain 31 condominiums and 10 or 11 units of affordable housing. The complex's ground floor will be primarily mixed-use, including a new home for the Viper Room, the infamous bar cofounded by Johnny Depp which is currently on the site. Amenities accessible to both towers will include a movie screening room, a gym, and a rooftop pool and restaurant. In addition, a three-story LED screen will be fitted into a void cut out of the tower facing San Vicente. When completed, 8850 Sunset Boulevard will be one of the most audacious buildings designed by Morphosis in its 47-year run, and will rival some of the firm’s other projects built around Los Angeles, including Emerson College Los Angeles and CalTrans District 7 Headquarters.
Placeholder Alt Text

Taking Titles and Stealing Views

Central Park Tower tops out to become the world's tallest residential building
The 1,550-foot-tall Central Park Tower is officially the tallest residential building in the world. After topping out earlier this week, the Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture-designed structure now stands nearly complete at 217 West 57th Street, higher than any of its neighbors on Manhattan's Billionaire’s Row.  It’s the second project on that strip of premiere Midtown Manhattan real estate from Extell Development Company, the minds behind Christian de Portzamparc’s One57. The latter project became the first supertall condominium on the street in 2016. Since the original unveiling of that design in 2005, over eight similar projects have popped up and are now either finished or under construction along or near West 57th Street. As the latest to top out, Central Park Tower has broken the height record set by Rafael Viñoly’s 432 Park Avenue, with 131 floors. Though largely residential and boasting 179 luxury condos, Central Park Tower—with its glass-clad facade and stainless-steel, pinstripe-like fins—will feature a seven-story Nordstrom flagship store at its base and three floors of amenities for apartment owners. Spanning a total of 50,000 square feet, these areas include an outdoor terrace with a pool, a wellness center with an indoor pool, and a ballroom and cigar bar on the 100th floor (without a pool, sorry).  At 300 feet above the street, the tower cantilevers slightly to the east and then nearly all the way up to the top floor, allowing views of Central Park from the north-facing apartments. Looking up from the park below, the building has the appearance of a series of extremely thin, elongated towers stacked closely to one another. That design move was intentional to maximize those (multi)million-dollar views. Together, the sections created a textured look that gleams during the daylight in different ways. Despite its fancy features, the supertall project might suffer a similar sales fate like the other towers on Billionaire's Row. It’s been widely reported that 40 percent of the seven buildings in the area are unsold simply because they are too expensive and the Midtown market isn't as favored as some Lower Manhattan or even Brooklyn developments. There's one sign, though, that this could be changing: 220 Central Park South by Robert A.M. Stern recently passed $1 billion in sales according to 6sqft, largely thanks to the close on its $238 million penthouse by hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin. Until Central park Tower hits its expected sellout of over $4 billion, 220 Central Park South will remain the most expensive residential building in the United States.  In an interview with Justin Davidson published this week in New York Magazine, Gordon Gill said that, apart from being another competitive project on Billionaire's Row, Stern’s building posed another challenge for the architects from the beginning. It sits directly in front of Central Park Tower and boasts closer views of the sprawling landscape below. 
“It’s like being at the theater; if everyone’s in rows trying to see the stage, nobody can see anything at all,” said Gill. “The solution is to stagger the seats. When we moved the tower off-center to get better retail spaces, we discovered an opportunity to capture incredible direct and oblique views. That’s why the building is stepped and staggered in every direction — north, south, east, and west — walking all the way up to 1,550 feet. If you look at this building from a distance, it has a strong ethos and a sense of stability. On the other hand, there’s a lot of movement. The trick was managing all that activity without getting overly effusive.”
Placeholder Alt Text

No Cars On Campus

Snøhetta unveils new master plan for Ford research campus in Dearborn
Ford Motor Company released initial renderings today for a major remodel and upgrade of its innovation facilities in Dearborn, Michigan. Over the last two years, the Oslo- and New York-based Snøhetta has been working with the automotive giant to develop a new master plan for its 350-acre site, the longtime home of Ford’s Research & Engineering (R&E) Center. According to the design team, the new master plan will consolidate employees in Southeast Michigan into a centralized, walkable campus where interaction, knowledge sharing, and ideation can occur across teams. This is a huge structural change for the automaker’s global headquarters, where open workspaces and access to outdoor gardens and plazas will be available where it wasn’t before. Since the R&E Center was established under a 1946 master plan by Henry Ford II, off-site structures were acquired afterward across the region as the company grew, ultimately dispersing what was once a core group of workers.  Today, that lack of focused community is cost-prohibitive and it's proven difficult for creativity to flourish when thousands of people that work together aren’t physically in the same place. Ford’s new CEO Jim Hackett brought in Snøhetta to change that by designing what they call a “productive architecture and landscape,” 71 percent of which will be open space, the preservation of existing structures, and new, health-focused facilities. A previously announced 10-year plan to overhaul the site served as the inspiration to build upon the company's many real estate projects and garner new talent through design.  “The master plan at its core is a renewed commitment to Ford’s employees,” the architecture firm said in a press release, “creating a people-first workplace that will also prepare the company for another century of innovation as it leads the global automotive industry into a new era of disruption.” When the plan is fully realized, the campus will be able to accommodate over 20,000 employees and boost efficiency. Currently, the campus can hold about 11,000 people and is characterized by car-ridden streets, low-ceiling offices, and unwelcoming iron gates that keep the public from seeing what’s inside. To make space for twice as many workers and create transparency within the Dearborn community, Snøhetta has designed a series of four campus "neighborhoods" and shared, pedestrian-friendly streets that open up the site along its main borders: Oakwood Boulevard, Rotunda Drive, and W. Emdale Street.  The focal point of the campus will be “The Hub,” a figure-eight shaped structure coming in 2025 that will house the R&E Center and replace the existing product development center on the northwestern corner of campus. The building will be naturally-lit with open floor plans and feature terraces, roof decks, and courtyards. Amplifying the indoor-outdoor experience for employees will be a defining design move of the entire campus. Another neighborhood, “Exchange,” will sit to the right of The Hub as the more public-facing portion on campus. Snøhetta sees it being used for product display, demonstration, and events. “The Hamlet” will feature workspaces surrounded by nature and ecologies native to Southeast Michigan. It could include edible gardens, playscape or discovery gardens, and more. Lastly, “The Retreat” will provide stand-alone pavilions embedded into a larger landscape that can be used as conference rooms for client meetings as well as actual retreats.  Early renderings revealed that Snøhetta will utilize different massing techniques to communicate the type of work being done in the new structures. The design team will also preserve existing buildings on campus wherever they can to integrate them into the new project. Hacket is aiming to complete the overhaul as quickly as possible and to keep the project in line with the previous 2016 plan to wrap construction up by 2026. Meanwhile, Ford will continue its work redeveloping Detroit’s Michigan Central Station in Corktown for 5,000 employees, a project designed by Quinn Evans Architects.
Placeholder Alt Text

East Coast Transplant

Gravity-defying 5th and Hill tower with cantilevering pools approved for construction
The Downtown Los Angeles skyline is about to receive a remarkable addition; on September 12, the City Planning Commission unanimously approved the construction of 5th and Hill, a 53-story tower with nearly two dozen cantilevering lap pools and a five-story waterfall. Designed by Miami-based firm Arquitectonica and overseen by developer Jeffrey Fish of JMF Enterprises, the tower will either incorporate 160 condos or be divided between 190 hotel rooms and 31 condos, twelve of which will have private cantilevering pools either way. Both schemes would include a restaurant, bar, and related amenities. The tower's L-shaped site faces Pershing Square Station on one side and Hill Street on the other. Above the entryway on 5th Street will be an ingenious (if not extravagant) waterfall which will obscure the 5-story parking garage directly behind it, while the 13th floor will have an access bridge to Perch, a popular bar and restaurant atop the historic Pershing Square Building. The design of the bottom half of 5th and Hill, however, is tame compared to its top half, which progressively becomes more variegated starting on the 30th floor, with pools cantilevering several feet beyond its envelope and cutting through many of its interior spaces. According to the project's website, many of the adventurous design gestures were inspired by “mid-century California design.” The tower’s design raised eyebrows when its renderings and a draft of its Environmental Impact Report were first unveiled a year ago, yet surprisingly little of its exterior design appears to have changed. This may be due to the enthusiasm the scheme inspired in the planning commission, the members of which agreed that 5th & Hill was “audacious,” “ambitious,” and had exemplary methods for concealing its parking and integrating adjacent buildings into the plan. Fifth and Hill marks the second building Arquitectonica has designed for Downtown, the first being the 19-story Emerson building on Bunker Hill, and will be the West Coast’s answer to the staggering 56 Leonard designed by Herzog and de Meuron in Manhattan (and the many similarly-styled buildings it inspired). It's still uncertain when the project will break ground, but it's estimated that construction will take 30 months.
Placeholder Alt Text

Kickstart THIS

Lawsuit against San Francisco’s largest homeless shelter tossed, for now
Tensions stoked by the increasing wealth inequality of San Francisco have become the subject of a heated (and well documented online) legal debate over the last several months. After it was announced this April that opponents to the city’s largest homeless shelter, the Embarcadero Navigation Center, were determined to undermine the project through a lawsuit they had crowdfunded for, the overseeing San Francisco Superior Court judge decided not to issue a halt to its construction. The project in question, a 200-bed homeless shelter, is already underway on 2.3 acres in The Embarcadero, the strip of land along the city’s eastern shoreline facing Berkeley, and it is projected that it will be finished by the end of this year. The center's construction first caught the attention of the non-profit group Safe Embarcadero For All (SEFA), which argued that the construction of homeless housing in that location would cause “irreparable harm” to the residents of nearby condominiums (one SEFA attorney cited an act of assault against a Watermark resident on August 11th of this year to prove their claim). They then filed a lawsuit against the San Francisco Planning Commission, the state of California, and the city’s Homelessness and Supportive Housing division. Despite their efforts, Judge Ethan P. Schulman claimed that their charges were unfounded and dismissed their case last Monday. The judge found that the construction and operation of the building would not cause harm to the wealthier residents of the neighborhood, as SEFA’s attorneys claimed it would, but instead would provide the homeless community with a safe environment to call their own. In response to several other issues SEFA have taken against the project, Deputy City Attorney James Emery stated that “the project is temporary” and “should the courts ultimately determine the project is unlawful, the site can be restored to its prior use.” Though the future of the homeless shelter remains unclear, the judge’s recent decision makes its completion much more likely than it has been in several months. However, with the sixth-highest income inequality of any U.S. city, tensions between housing shortages and increasing homelessness rates in San Francisco will likely inspire similar litigation as other homeless shelters are considered in its future. Additionally, SEFA may still get there day in court; although the motion to stop construction on the center was denied, the judge has scheduled a follow-up hearing for September 23.
Placeholder Alt Text

One to Watch

The Railyards in Sacramento will be America's next big urban development
A neglected parcel of land once home to a leg of the First Transcontinental Railroad could become the next Hudson Yards-like mega-development in the United States. The former Union Pacific Railyards spans 244-acres just north of downtown Sacramento, California,—the largest urban infill site in the country—and is currently being eyed for several large-scale projects. Built in the 1860s, the site served the western terminus of a 1,912-mile-long stretch of rail line that extended from Council Bluffs, Iowa, to the Oakland Long Wharf in San Francisco Bay. Old, existing brick buildings used as maintenance shops in the yard's heyday still exist on the massive industrial plot and serve up sour views for drivers along Interstate 5 or passengers on flights headed into the nearby airport.  Sacramento has long had a difficult relationship with the Railyards—environmental remediation has been ongoing for decades—but recent investment in the adjacent Downtown Commons district has brought in significant interest in revamping the underused land next door. For example, the Golden 1 Center, a new high-tech arena for the city’s NBA franchise, the Sacramento Kings, finished up construction in 2016 and has spurred the introduction of new hotels and businesses in the area.  Around the same time the venue was completed, the local city council approved a planning entitlement submitted by Downtown Railyard Ventures, a subsidiary of the development group, LDK Ventures, that bought the Railyards in 2010 for $18 million. The ambitious company has a masterplan to make the Union Pacific return to its roots as a central hub of activity and innovation. In the next several decades, The Railyards, as the project is formally being marketed, will become a mixed-use urban landscape made to attract local residents, tech workers, and tourists. In total, there’s set to be 30 acres of green space, 70,000 square feet of retail, up to 10,000 residential units, 5 million square feet of office space, a 1,000-room hotel, and a mass transit hub with a new Amtrak station.  Preservation will be a key component of redevelopment on the site—unlike at Hudson Yards—with the partial reuse of the “Central Shops” buildings and the old Southern Pacific Sacramento Depot. It’s suspected that this area will become some sort of tech district for the city. In addition, three major architectural projects already in the works will anchor the initial phase of development.  By far the biggest and most-talked-about development coming to Sacramento is a new, $250 million soccer stadium for a future MLS franchise. The city has been in talks to upgrade its own team, Republic FC, to major league status now that it’s secured long-term funding from billionaire businessman Ron Burkle. The proposed development would include a 20,000-seat sports and entertainment arena situated on 14-acres of the Railyards’ northeastern corner, as well as a surrounding 17-acres of commercial buildings and retail.  Visuals for the project have already been revealed by architecture and infrastructure engineering firm HNTB and feature a square-shaped, open-air bowl with red inverted triangles that wrap and protect a 360-degree canopy. Fans will have unencumbered views of the surrounding city from anywhere around the pitch. Housing is planned in between the arena and an upcoming 900,000-square-foot hospital by Kaiser Permanente. The healthcare giant announced in January that it had purchased 18 acres of land to build a state-of-the-art medical facility on the northwestern edge of the Railyards that will open in 2025 and offer services to the thousands of people who live downtown.  Other structures slated to come online include a light rail stop, two six-story office and retail buildings by RMW Architecture & Interiors, as well as a 175,000-square-foot museum. On the southernmost portion of the Railyards, there will be a 17-story complex housing the Sacramento County Courthouse. Designed by Miami-based studio MOTIV in collaboration with NBBJ, the largely-glass-clad structure is supposed to start construction this fall and open in 2023. 
Placeholder Alt Text

Google reveals the future of its San Jose Transit Village
In a San Jose, California, community meeting on August 22, Google revealed its plans for the San Jose Transit Village. The mile-long village along the former industrial area west of Highway 87 is anticipated to house 5.5 million square feet of office space for the tech company, 3,000 to 5,000 housing units, a combined 500,000 square feet of space for retail, culture, and education, and 15 acres of green spaces. The proposed plan holds the potential to provide employment for 20,000 to 25,000 people.  The project's goal is to create an urban hub centered around people rather than cars, with paths connecting various plazas and green spaces in Google’s (and planners SITELAB Urban Studio's) Framework Plan. At the heart of the village is the extant Diridon Station, which has become one of the largest transit hubs on the west coast. The station not only services San Jose but also functions as a transit hub for Santa Clara County and Silicon Valley. As part of the San Jose Diridon Station Area Plan, the stop is planned to incorporate a VTA light rail and BART extension to the available services. Google and Trammell Crow, a Texan private commercial real-estate developer and investor, have spent over a year acquiring privately owned land in the area. Last November, Google negotiated the sale of 10.5 acres of publicly owned property around Diridon Station for $109.87 million. Google's proposal offers a complete transformation of the area and an exchange of the traditional closed-off corporate tech campus design for an open concept plan that welcomes the community.  Alexa Arena, Google's director of real estate development, insisted that both Google workers and San Jose residents want to emerge from the station directly into a vibrant city. San Jose’s director of economic development, Kim Walesh, agreed with Arena’s sentiments, and told Mercury News, “They have designed a district that meets their office needs but that is going to feel like an extension of the downtown...and like a very high-quality, regular urban area, I think that must be a first.” The Framework Plan map released at the San Jose meeting provides a clear idea of the company’s vision. As for the design, the intention is to preserve some of the industrial characteristics of the San Jose neighborhood in the north portion of the village and focus on local retail and landscape in the south.  Following the current plans for project development, Google will receive feedback from the San Jose residents and refine their plans for city application in October. San Jose’s City Council will then formally review the project and take a final vote in fall of 2020, potentially allowing for a portion of the project to open by 2024.
Placeholder Alt Text

Towers of Tokyo

Japan's tallest tower revealed in Tokyo's new Heatherwick-planned district
Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects has unveiled its vision for a 64-story tower in Tokyo, which, once finished, will be the tallest in Japan at 1,082 feet. The project is part of the upcoming Toranomon-Azabudai district, an ultra-green, mixed-use destination with an urban design plan devised by Heatherwick Studio Located in Tokyo’s Minato Ward, the skyscraper will be one of three new soaring structures when completed in 2023. Other projects in the new district designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli include an 862-foot-tall tower that is currently coming online and another that is already finished and caps out at 935 feet. The latter will soon be the second tallest in the city. According to the architects, each building was designed to reference the nearby Tokyo Tower, with gleaming facades that break down towards the base of the structures into a lattice-like pattern with wider windows. The 1950s-era landmark that doubles as communications and observation tower features the same texture, but without the glass.  The Toranomon-Azabudai Tower, as the tallest one is formally called, will house office and retail space, as well as 10 floors of apartments at the top of the building. Where it meets the sidewalk, the base will be activated with a series of terraced public spaces. The other two skyscrapers will largely be filled with apartments and one will include a 120-room hotel.  The entire district—a "modern urban village" with a focus on health and wellness—is being built out by Tokyo-based developer Mori, which has also enlisted Thomas Heatherwick to envision the surrounding streetscape. Early renderings show that bringing green space to the center of the city was on the London architect's mind; he’s created a massive landscaped pergola at one corner of the 19-acre site. Largely a piece of architecture with green terraces straddling its roof and glass siding, the pergola will include interior space for offices, shops, and more.  In addition, Heatherwick has also designed a series of low-lying buildings throughout the entire district with the same distinct identity. Each mimics the surrounding mountainous region that Tokyo sits in, and altogether, the structures will undulate from one side of the site to the other and propagate that pergola-like design. Hidden gardens, sunken courtyards, and terraced spaces will be well mixed among the apartment buildings, retail, office spaces, museum, and gallery. A seven-story international school is also slated for the site as well along with an underground pedestrian tunnel and food hall.
Placeholder Alt Text

Being John Malkovich

NYC Department of Buildings fines owner who split two condo into 20 apartments
This week, the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) busted a Lower East Side landlord who had divided part of a building into hobbit-like warrens with ceilings as low as four-and-a-half–feet. Owner Xue Ping Ni subdivided his 634-square-foot condo on the fourth floor of 165 Henry Street into 11 tiny units by splitting the space with a new floor. DOB photos show a male inspector kneeling beside one lilliputian door, his head just below the top of the frame. The illegal units, home to nine people at inspection time, were climate-controlled with double-stacked window-mounted air conditioners. It almost goes without saying that the SROs lacked adequate egresses as well. During a later visit, a reporter noticed from the street that the air conditioners in the windows on the floor above were installed in a similar pattern. When inspectors entered the fifth-floor apartment, they found another nine diminutive single room occupancy units that looked like those in the first apartment. All tenants in the micro micro-units were evacuated. According to one, the closet-sized dwellings rented for $600 per month. The New York Post reported that the DOB slapped Ni with over $144,000 in fines for the sprinkler-less rooms and a lack of permits for plumbing, electrical, and structural work. According to paperwork on file with the DOB, the five-story building is supposed to have just 27 apartments.

Councilmember Ben Kallos likened the firetrap half floors to the 1999 film Being John Malkovich where John Cusack's character takes a job at Lester Corp, which is on the short-ceilinged seven-and-a-half floor of an office building in Manhattan. (Kallos does not represent the district that includes the building in question)

"It was funny in fiction, but a horror story in real life," he told the Post.

Placeholder Alt Text

Big Money

Alibaba cofounder set to buy SHoP-designed Barclays Center (and the Nets, too)
The cofounder of online retail giant Alibaba is buying the Brooklyn Nets as well as their home arena, the SHoP-designed Barclays Center. The Brooklyn complex is home to the Nets as well as the NHL's New York Islanders (although that team is set to split its games between Brooklyn and Nassau County, New York before its final move to a new stadium complex in 2021). Alibaba's Joseph Tsai already owns 49 percent of the stakes in the Nets—the to-be-signed deal will grant him full ownership of the team as well as the building. The deal is worth more than $700 million, but it's not clear how much of that sum is for the arena. Including the stake he already owns, Tsai is expected to shell out $2.35 billion for the Nets. The soon-to-be previous owner Mikhail Prokhorov started to acquire the Barclays Center and the Nets in 2010 and finished the acquisition in 2015. According to the New York Post, Prokhorov bought the team for $875 million and the building at $825 million, which means he's about to rake in a ton of money on his investment. The Brooklyn Paper reported that the NBA Board of Governors has to sign off on the sale before it's official, a deal which should be sealed by the end of next month. Since 2012, the 19,000-capacity Barclays Center has crowned the intersection of busy Flatbush and Atlantic avenues. The building's glass curtain wall facade is fitted with 12,000 parametrically-modeled weathered steel panels, and the sloping, concave green roof makes it easy to spot from above.