Search results for "affordable housing"

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Corona Column

How architecture is exacerbating the coronavirus crisis for minorities and Black Americans
For the duration of the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, AN will use this column to keep our readers up to date on how the pandemic is affecting architecture and related industries. This weekly article is meant to digest the latest major developments in the crisis and synthesize broader patterns and what they could mean for architecture in the United States. The previous edition of the column can be found here.  While the coronavirus pandemic continues to pummel the entire country, it is hitting certain populations harder than others, particularly Black, Latino, and Native American people. The New York Times reported on Wednesday that the CDC released its first national data tracking race among COVID-19 patients, which showed that in March, “the percentage of Black [hospitalized COVID-19] patients (33 percent) was much higher than the percentage of African-Americans in the population as a whole.” Local data from cities and states tracking race among COVID-19 patients showed that the health disparity is even worse in certain areas: In Louisiana, about 70 percent of the people who have died are Black, though only a third of that state’s population is; “African-Americans account for…72 percent of virus-related fatalities in Chicago, even though they make up a little less than a third of the population,” according to the Times; the virus has killed more people in the Navajo nation than in the much larger state of New Mexico; and, as of Thursday, all the people who have died in St. Louis so far from COVID-19 complications have been Black Why is this the case? The answer could have something to do with architecture, particularly housing. According to public health experts, while other factors, like implicit bias in healthcare and higher rates of heart disease and diabetes, certainly play a role in the racial coronavirus disparities, crowded housing in low-income neighborhoods could be facilitating the spread of the disease and increasing “weathering,” or the wear and tear of environmental stresses on the body, which increases the severity of coronavirus cases. Urban design inequities also almost certainly play a role in transmission—even with social distancing rules in full effect, subway stations in predominantly Black and Latino neighborhoods in the Bronx in New York City are packed with commuting essential workers. “COVID-19 has been a magnifying glass on the weaknesses in our systems,” said Kimberly Dowdell, principal at HOK and president of the National Organization for Minority Architects (NOMA). Though racialized housing disparities are nothing new, the stark death toll of the pandemic is harshly illustrating those disparities’ effects. “There’s a saying that when America sneezes, the Black community catches a cold,” Dowdell said, pointing to an enormous wealth gap between Black and White Americans as one of the main reasons why Black people in the U.S. suffer more acutely during crises like the current one. The Brookings Institution recently reported that in 2016, the net worth of a typical white American family ($171,000) was nearly ten times greater than that of a typical Black American family ($17,150). While a variety of discriminatory policies have sowed the seeds for the current imbalance, racist urban planning has played an enormous part. Redlining, which started in the early 20th century and often continues in some form today, is a term for the once-legal practice of denying investments and bank loans to predominantly Black neighborhoods—banks would outline such areas in red on maps. The practice discouraged investment in Black-owned homes and businesses, which lost value over generations, resulting in not only a racial wealth gap but spatial disparities, as well. Many predominantly Black neighborhoods have fewer grocery stores, are closer to polluting industries, and lack high-quality affordable homes. Even after the pandemic subsides, vulnerable populations will still be at risk from the next crisis and will potentially be in even a weaker state. One answer, Dowdell said, is for communities to invest in predominantly Black and brown neighborhoods to decrease the wealth gap and increase resiliency. That kind of recovery will require a mix of policy, development, and design professionals working together, ideally with teams that reflect the communities they’re serving. “Diverse teams are really important,” Dowdell said. “Architecture should reflect the communities that they serve form a racial perspective.” Dowdell pointed to Chicago, where she lives, and where Mayor Lori Lightfoot has focused on the city’s racialized spatial inequality in her mission to eliminate endemic poverty within a generation. “If there’s a team that goes into certain communities, it would be great if there were certain people who were from that community or at least have some level of familiarity with the culture and of the community,” Dowdell said. “For example, if we’re looking at the South Side of Chicago [which is over 90 percent African American], and you don't have African-African team members, that’s a missed opportunity.” Building teams that reflect underserved neighborhoods could be more difficult after the pandemic, as the economic downturn may be harder on architects who come from those areas. “I do think that Black communities are going to have a harder time recovering,” Dowdell said. “It’s going to be a challenge for everyone, but I think that given the wealth gaps, architects of color will probably struggle to get back to where they were.” As jobs, internships, and salaries decline, even if only temporarily, as a result of the pandemic, those without a cushion of family money or who financially support loved ones could have to leave the profession for greener pastures. The racial wealth gap means that Black and other minority architects may flee in greater numbers, damaging diversity in a profession that is already overwhelmingly white. As of 2019, only 2 percent of NCARB certificate holders identify as Black or African American, and less than 1 percent identify as Latino. What can architects do? Dowdell touted NOMA’s national network as a way for architects of color to support each other and find opportunities, including the group’s new NOMA Foundation Fellowship, which offers a stipend and internship for architecture students. NOMA is launching a new weekly web series, “Stay All In for NOMA,” which will help members stay informed during the pandemic. Dowdell also suggested that architects get involved with local NOMA chapters to organize and advocate for city and state planning policies that invest in underserved neighborhoods. For those already working on projects advancing social justice, NOMA is partnering with the NAACP and the SEED Network advocacy group on the Design Awards for Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI), which will recognize excellence in those categories. “No matter what,” Dowdell said, “an architect can do something.”  In other corona news from this week, AN covered new hospitals and healthcare spaces deployed for the pandemic, and the AIA’s new assessment tool for adapting existing buildings into coronavirus treatment sites. The crisis continues to demand innovative thinking, and in Florida, autonomous vehicles are delivering medical supplies. For the housebound, we also highlighted many exhibitions you can check out from home, including robot-assisted gallery tours, a French show exploring AI and architecture, virtual Frank Lloyd Wright tours, and a virtual exhibit on a balmy shore. We picked some books to catch up on, too. Enjoy, and be well!
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Oof

AIA sees residential design demand derailed by coronavirus
The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has released its first economic examination of the damage wrought by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and the results aren’t great. This morning, the AIA sent out a press release summarizing the findings of their HDTS Special Report, painting a not-so-rosy portrait of the future. “The momentum building in the housing market since the Great Recession,” wrote the AIA, “has completely reversed itself over the course of just a few weeks.” The AIA surveyed a number of firms working on residential projects and found that revenue in March fell on average 15 percent below what was expected, while April revenue projections were on track to come in 20 percent below expectations. Some more key takeaways:
  • 70 percent of firms indicate that inquiries for new work declined in March.
  • 78 percent of firms have already seen slowing or stoppage of projects.
  • Around 90 percent of firms have seen problems with current projects due to COVID-19.
  • Most residential firms, about two thirds, indicated that virtually all/majority of their staff are now working remotely.
  • Residential firms anticipate accelerated revenue losses in April, with almost 70 percent expecting losses of 10 percent or more for the month relative to their expectations in early March.
A number of compounding issues are contributing to the slowdown. State-mandated construction freezes have stopped or slowed most residential projects (some states are allowing affordable housing construction to continue). Supply chains have been disrupted by the pandemic, and building departments have been slowing their approvals as they try to make the transition to working digitally. Of course, looming large over the heads of developers and homeowners alike is the potential of an extended economic recession that could linger well after social isolation orders have been lifted. With unemployment growing to unprecedented levels and the stock market undergoing roller coaster-like peaks and valleys on a daily basis, many prospective clients are putting a hold on future projects. As the AIA also noted in the special report, firms with a focus on residential projects have thus far been hit the hardest; only 13 percent on non-residential-focused studios faced losses of 25 percent or higher in March. However, that may soon change as well as even institutional projects, long stalwarts for firms looking for stability, get placed on hold or canceled. New York City, for example, recently halted all public design work as it deals with the gaping hole coronavirus has blown in the budget. As noted in a recent AIANY town hall, this sort of cost-cutting measure didn’t happen even at the height of the 2008 recession, as the city tried to buoy architects with public work.
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Canadian Cut-Outs

Michael Maltzan Architecture reveals variegated new dorms for the University of Toronto
The University of Toronto (UT) recently unveiled a proposal for the Harbord Residence, a 10-story graduate dorm building designed by Los Angeles-based firm Michael Maltzan Architecture, with local firm architectsAlliance serving as the architect of record, for the St. George campus north of Downtown Toronto. Currently pending approval from the University Council, the proposal would provide housing for over 200 graduate students as well as much-need social and study spaces for the 180-acre campus. “One of the things we wanted the architect to do for us was to have the ground plane be a more welcoming place for the broader community—for our neighbours and other U of T community members to come in,” said Anne Macdonald, the university’s assistant vice-president of ancillary services, according to a press statement. “As you go up the building, there are different levels of community-building, with shared spaces and private spaces upstairs.” The ground floor would contain a food court and retail space, while the upper floors would host common lounges, meeting spaces, and quiet study rooms which, according to the university, would be designed to accommodate group work. While clad in red brick to blend into its relatively squat surroundings (representing a rare deviation from the firm’s penchant for all-white facades), the Harbord Residence is also designed to stand out, most notably through the addition of a gestural window layout on its narrowest elevation that contrasts the overall rectilinear geometry. The building will be further integrated into the campus by physically sharing its amenities with those of The Graduate House, a neighboring dorm building completed by the Los Angeles-based Morphosis in 2000, via an underground pedestrian tunnel and a sky bridge on the third level. If approved, construction on the Harbord Residence would break ground this fall and be completed by the end of 2022. The firm was commissioned to design the dorm as a part of the university’s ‘Four Corners' strategy,’ which intends to add approximately 2,500 units of housing to the campus over the next 15 years.
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Tighe-ing the Neighborhood Together

Tighe Architecture designs a steeply arched complex in newly developing portion of Los Angeles
Los Angeles-based firm Tighe Architecture recently received approval for its Barranca, a mixed-use, six-story building in the newly developing western edge of Lincoln Heights, one of the oldest neighborhoods on the east side of L.A. The project is across the street from Fuller Lofts, former industrial buildings adaptively reused into loft apartments and retrofitted with a distinctive metal rooftop by local firm Brooks+Scarpa. Developed by 4Site Real Estate, the project will replace 12 existing low-rise structures with a single 200,000-square-foot building that will house a 100-bed hotel, 100 apartment units, and commercial retail on its ground floor intended to revitalize the formerly industrial, underserved stretch into a pedestrian-oriented neighborhood. To resolve the project’s presence as one of the largest buildings in the area while occupying the entire western end of a city block, Barranca was designed to appear as two distinct yet still connected buildings. The hotel constitutes the southern side of the project, which is distinguished by steep archways rendered in an off-white texture and large windows with metal accents that, together, are reminiscent of a castle wall. According to the firm, the hotel side was designed by taking “classical staples and reintroducing them to an area in need of a fresh new vision for an emerging neighborhood.” The northern portion is relatively demure in a grey and black palette that contains apartment units (five of which will be affordable housing) and corresponding amenities that include two courtyards, shared offices, a lounge, and a swimming pool tucked away on the third level. A wealth of greenery will be added to the perimeter of the site, a much-needed amenity for the predominantly concrete neighborhood. Barranca represents the third mixed-use building Tighe Architecture has designed for 4Site throughout Los Angeles, following 2300 Beverly and 2510 Temple. The firm has also made a name for itself locally by designing other, similarly striking affordable housing projects with limited budgets, including La Brea and Sierra Bonita.
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First of the Month

Temporary eviction bans roll out across America, residents ask for more
With more than 160,000 known cases and 3,400 deaths in the United States estimated as of today, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has already resulted in the unexpected closure of countless museums, restaurants, bars, schools, and other establishments integral to the country’s economic growth. A record 3.3 million people have already filed for unemployment within the last few weeks with many more expected on the way, leaving the subject of housing as one of the most pressing issues among city and state officials. Within the last week, prior to the April 1 deadline at which most rent and mortgage checks are expected under normal conditions (aka today), state officials have independently announced eviction moratoriums with varying term dates. In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo released an executive order on March 7 that includes a 90-day eviction moratorium, while California Governor Gavin Newsom, at the helm of the most populous state in the country with over 40 million residents, released a similar order that prevents residential evictions for two months to those who have been laid off due to the pandemic. “For tenants, there will be no eviction proceedings; there will be no enforcement as it relates to pay for COVID-19,” said Newsom, according to the Los Angeles Times. Renters in both states will, however, have to make up the rent they owe after their respective moratorium periods, and rent payments are expected of those who do not provide written testimony that they are unable to pay them (The Hill reports, meanwhile, that New York state lawmakers are working on a rent suspension bill that is currently in committee but will likely be held up by Governor Cuomo). While many might be relieved to learn they can stave off eviction until they find the necessary funds, affordable housing leaders feel the measures are minimal and shortsighted. “I think we’re deeply disappointed that it isn’t just a blanket moratorium on evictions,” said Francisco Dueñas of the California-based advocacy group Housing Now. Residents of major American cities have called upon government officials to institute rent freezes and other initiatives to stave off the financial hardships being felt across the country. Over 15,000 Chicagoans, for example, have signed an online petition spearheaded by a tenants union that includes a city-wide freeze on rent, utility payments, and mortgages, according to The Chicago Tribune. More than 82,000 residents of New York City have signed a similar petition seeking to ensure that “every New Yorker is safely housed.” At a time when housing security has never been more important to obtain, a unified message of dissatisfaction is likely to become amplified over the coming weeks as millions of renters make the difficult choice between pouring into their savings, writing pleas to their landlords, and participating in a burgeoning nation-wide strike (made visible through the growing #RentStrike hashtag on Twitter). The delayed governmental reaction to the pandemic felt among renters is shared among homeless Americans, some of whom have already taken the matter into their own hands. Homeless families in Los Angeles, for instance, have seized vacant homes owned by the city to protect themselves against the health crisis during the shelter in place order.
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when the jackhammers fall silent

New York puts freeze on all nonessential construction
Following in the cautious footsteps of cities like Boston and San Francisco, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has put the kibosh on all “nonessential” construction projects—and not just in booming New York City but also across the entire state during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. “We’re closing down nonessential construction sites,” said Cuomo during one of his oddly therapeutic daily press briefings held last Friday. “Some construction is essential to keep the place running, but nonessential construction is going to stop.” Similar to citywide construction pauses, New York’s temporary statewide ban includes several exemptions that allow for work to continue or commence on affordable housing projects, hospitals and healthcare facilities, homeless shelters, emergency repairs, transit, and public infrastructure including roads and bridges. Additionally, underway projects of any kind that could be considered unsafe if abandoned will also be allowed to proceed for now. Reads updated guidance issued by the state agency Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC):
At every site, if essential or emergency non-essential construction, this includes maintaining social distance, including for purposes of elevators/meals/entry and exit. Sites that cannot maintain distance and safety best practices must close and enforcement will be provided by the state in coordination with the city/local governments. This will include fines of up to $10,000 per violation.
Under his initial PAUSE shutdown directive, Cuomo had classified all types of construction sites as being “essential” along with banks, grocery stores, pharmacies, and the like. This, in turn, meant it was largely business as usual at building sites across the state although workers were instructed to follow difficult-to-enforce social distancing practices while on the job. Cuomo, however, faced considerable pushback from construction workers and their families along with city leaders, notably City Council members Carlos Menchaca and Brad Lander along with New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. “Anything that is not directly part of the essential work of fighting coronavirus and the essential work of keeping the city running and the state running, and any construction that is not about the public good, is going to en,” New York City Mayor de Blasio clarified on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show following Cuomo’s announcement. “So, luxury condos will not be built until this is over, you know, office buildings are not going to be built so that work's going to end immediately. We need to protect people.” The day before Cuomo ordered work to be halted on all nonessential construction projects, the New York Times published an article detailing how laborers in the city were being exposed to conditions that, although likely to raise very few eyebrows during ordinary circumstances, seemed downright perilous as a deadly, highly contagious rages through New York and beyond:
“Construction sites, even during normal times, are notoriously dirty. Workers often share a single portable toilet, which rarely has soap or hand sanitizer. Running water is not common. None of the recent safety protocols recommended by public health officials are practical at a job site, workers said. They share tools, and procedures require that they closely watch over one another. There is no social distancing. Some workers wear protective masks, which are in short supply.”
Cuomo’s directive also came after work on two infrastructure projects considered essential by the ESDC, the overhauls of LaGuardia Airport and at Moynihan Station, came grinding to a temporary halt when workers at both sites tested positive for COVID-19. Although initially not wholly supportive of a Boston-style moratorium on construction due to the so-called “devastating” economic impact, Carlo Scissura, president of trade group New York Building Congress and former president and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, has since thrown his support behind Cuomo’s updated directive. “The health and safety of building industry workers and every New Yorker remain the highest priority as we continue to respond to this pandemic,” said Scissura in a statement obtained by the New York Post. “Just as the governor has outlined, we must carry on with New York’s most critical projects, from infrastructure and public works to healthcare and affordable housing. These projects are essential to our region’s future and will benefit our most vulnerable populations.” Some have pointed out a not-so-tiny loophole, however, in the ESCD’s new guidelines, specifically with regard to the construction of affordable housing. The exemption that allows for work on affordable housing projects to continue doesn't just apply to project that are strictly affordable; rather, work on residential developments with at least 20 percent affordable housing can proceed. This, in turn, means that a lion’s share of residential constructions projects in New York are essentially off the hook.
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Takeaways from the AIA New York’s COVID-19 town hall

This afternoon, the New York chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIANY) hosted a webinar designed to explain what’s going on in New York City during the ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, how resources are being shared with the national chapter, and what architects can do to contribute. In Town Hall: Coping with COVID-19 Together, Barry Bergdoll, president of New York’s Center for Architecture joined Ben Prosky (executive director of AIANY), Jessica Sheridan, (AIA director at-large), and Kim Yao (AIANY 2020 president) to discuss how the chapter is navigating these difficult times (moderated by Kavitha Mathew, AIANY leadership and engagement coordinator). Most of the concerns raised and addressed by participants were practical ones. To start, AIANY staff is now working from home, like many of its members. Because of that, the Center for Architecture is closed for the time being and is working to move lectures and other events online for those who are self-isolating. Their K-12 education programming will also ramp up as well while schools are closed. On the business side, Yao mentioned that they had reached out to 770 firm principals in the last few days—so far AIANY has spoken with over 300 of them and left messages for the rest. Their aim was to see how offices were moving to remote work, how principals and their staff were handling things, and software was being used. As one could probably guess, having to juggle nine-plus hours of Zoom meetings with familial duties, or being stuck home with no human interaction, is wearing thin on morale and many architects are growing increasingly stressed. Compounding that stress is the payment issue; how are architects transitioning to digital checks and wire transfers, while avoiding the fees? Clients have also been slow to send their payments in many of the instances raised by town hall attendees, and the chapter is working to put together resources for getting paid digitally, and may hold a future webinar to help firms apply for local and federal loans in the meantime. Kermit Baker, the national AIA’s chief economist, is also working to put together an economic outlook for early next week to gauge the impact of coronavirus. One elephant in the room, especially for the New York-minded attendees, was Governor Andrew Cuomo’s announcement this morning shutting down all “non-essential construction” across the state. That means job sites across New York State, except for affordable and homeless housing, hospitals, infrastructure projects, transportation, and power generation, have been shuttered for the time being. If construction sites are closed, will architects working on those projects still get paid? Prosky spoke on how they’re in conversation with the city’s Department of Design and Construction (DDC) to make sure firms are paid, but continuing work was an ongoing discussion. While the city was willing to contribute money to public projects during the 2008 recession, this time, it seems, they’re drawing a hard line and may soon start implementing severe cost-cutting measures citywide; the coronavirus crisis has already blown a $15 billion hole in the state’s budget and could cost the city over $6 billion. Still, the chapter noted they would continue to advocate for their members, though many ongoing projects could be scrapped. On a more uplifting note, many of the attendees wanted to know how they could contribute to combatting the spread of coronavirus, and mentioned that Pelli Clarke Pelli and a number of schools had begun 3D printing face shields for medical personnel. The AIA is currently working to coordinate between interested firms to help them more efficiently pool and distribute resources to those who most need them. Managing construction administration and figuring out site visits, students looking for potential internships, and the ramping up of virtual continuing education programs were all touched upon as well, but the meeting was more for members to voice their concerns and let the AIA know where they should focus their attention. The AIANY is coordinating with its neighbors and the national chapter to figure out the best path forward, and in the meantime has put together a resource page for those looking for more support and updates at aiany.org/resources/covid-19-resources/.
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Hooray for hollywood

A timber-topped terraced office tower could be coming to the heart of Hollywood
Plans have been unveiled for a rather snazzy 14-story Hollywood office tower designed by Gensler that will take shape on a 1.7-acre Sunset Boulevard site currently populated by a Staples and a smattering of surface parking lots. Dubbed Sunset + Wilcox, the commercial high-rise would include of 445,158 square feet of office space, with 2,141 square feet carved out for a ground-level restaurant and retail space as well as a substantial amount of space dedicated to parking, some of it subterranean. Compared to a decidedly humdrum 1968 Maxwell Starkman-designed high-rise located directly across Wilcox Avenue at 6430 Sunset Boulevard that’s home to CNN’s West Coast headquarters, Sunset + Wilcox will provide, literally, a breath of architectural fresh air. Each floor of the tower will include outdoor space, with the sixth floor featuring a lushly landscaped outdoor “Campus Commons” spread out over 10,000 square feet. Starting on the seventh floor and moving up, a series of stepped terraces, all connected by an exterior staircase, will provide additional open air space. A mass timber crown—a unique addition to the surrounding skyline—will encase the “penthouse” levels of the building. This largely workaday stretch of Sunset east of Highland Avenue has been on the up-and-up in recent years as the demand for both housing and entertainment industry-earmarked office space in Hollywood proper grows. “With the majority of this underutilized site being surface parking, Sunset + Wilcox provides a tremendous opportunity to further Hollywood’s ongoing transformation into a true live-work neighborhood,” said Mario Palumbo, managing director of Seward Partners, an affiliate of infill-centric developer MP Los Angeles, in a press statement. “Hollywood is world-renowned for its association with the entertainment industry, and the demand for new creative office space in the area is substantial.” Other major projects in the immediate area include a mixed-use megaproject designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and RCH Studios surrounding the Crossroads of the World site, an iconic 1936 outdoor shopping center-turned-office complex encircling a Streamline Moderne building shaped an ocean liner. Once complete, the $1 billion Crossroads Hollywood project, which has been opposed by preservationists since its inception, will include over 900 new housing units, a large hotel, and over 190,000 square feet of commercial space spread across nine new buildings. Most of the original Crossroads of the World complex and the neighboring Hollywood Reporter Building, a Regency Moderne landmark declared as a Historic-Cultural Monument in 2017, will not be razed and instead be incorporated into the new development. Further east along Sunset, is the future home a 26-story residential tower that will replace beloved indie record store Amoeba Music, which has been a fixture on Sunset Boulevard since 2001. The redevelopment scheme has been highly contentious although just last month Amoeba formally announced it will reopen in a new location, also in Hollywood, later this year. Not far from the Sunset + Wilcox site and also developed by MP Los Angeles is Hollywood Center, a “mixed-use vertical community” with a substantial amount of affordable housing. It too has been met with controversy. As Sunset + Wilcox enters the planning stages (per the Real Deal the city will need to green-light several zoning changes before the project commences), it doesn't seem that many objections will be made about demolition work at the site when compared to these other redevelopment projects in the immediate area. “Our goal is to retain existing Hollywood businesses and attract new businesses that have to-date overlooked the area because of a lack of supply,” said Palumbo. “With this large site, we see an opportunity to create a truly exceptional creative office experience in the heart of Hollywood.”
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Tall Timber in Tinseltown

Michael Maltzan Architecture designs affordable mass timber housing tower for Skid Row
The newest supportive housing development is in the works in the Skid Row neighborhood of Downtown Los Angeles at the hand of one of the city’s most experienced designers of the typology. Local firm Michael Maltzan Architecture is currently in the design phase for The Alvidrez, a 14-story tower containing 150 studio apartments and “support spaces” on the ground floor, which will include case management, individual and group counseling, and group activities to improve the health and well-being of residents. The massing of The Alvidrez was determined in part by the construction logic of the mass timber frame system that the firm will employ to meet sustainability guidelines, while the units were designed using modular building blocks made of cross-laminated timber (CLT) column, beam, and deck members. The building’s overall appearance is described by the firm as a “collection of vertical bundles” that provide a series of rooftop terraces providing spaces for unprogrammed community spaces, though it may draw comparison to Kisho Kurokawa’s endangered Metabolist Nakagin Capsule Tower in Tokyo. The 77,000-square-foot project will provide housing exclusively for the homeless community of Skid Row, with 30 percent of its units reserved for those with mental or physical disabilities. Each unit will come with all the features required for independent living, including a bathroom, kitchen, appliances and furnishings. “Individual apartments and on-site supportive services have proven, time and again, to be key to breaking the cycle of homelessness,” wrote the firm.  The Alvidrez was commissioned by the Skid Row Housing Trust, a local nonprofit group that has completed 26 buildings throughout Los Angeles County, to provide affordable, permanent supportive housing for nearly 2,000 people and was named in honor of the Trust’s former CEO Mike Alvidrez. Michael Maltzan Architecture has designed several other buildings for the nonprofit in the past, including Crest Apartments in Van Nuys and the Rainbow Apartments and New Carver Apartments in Downtown Los Angeles. The group has also employed other notable architecture firms, including Koning Eizenberg and Brooks + Scarpa.  Following the completion of an environmental impact report, construction is expected to begin early next year and be finished by early 2023.
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Beantown Lockdown

Boston imposes citywide moratorium on construction

Boston has suspended construction activity throughout the city as a precaution against the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Mayor Martin J. Walsh announced Monday that the moratorium on construction work would go into effect on Tuesday, March 17, and construction sites need to be secured by March 23.

Walsh’s action comes after he declared a public health emergency in Boston, postponed the Boston Marathon, and canceled the St Patrick’s Day Parade over infection concerns. It makes Boston one of the first cities or districts in the U. S., other than those in complete lockdown or quarantine, to ban construction activity as a way of fighting the coronavirus. The move comes at a time when the city and region are booming with construction activity, from affordable housing to high-rise office buildings. Walsh did not say how long work will be suspended, but he indicated it’s likely to be at least 14 days.

“Effective tomorrow, Tuesday, March 17, 2020, we are suspending all regular activity on construction sites in the city of Boston,” Walsh said in a briefing yesterday. “The only work that we are anticipating right now moving forward in the city will be emergency work” approved by the city’s Inspectional Services Department.

“These decisions that we make are not easy, but they’re out of an abundance of caution,” he added. “It’s about protecting the worker and preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

“This is a critical time for us right now… I think if we can prevent the spread from happening and try and level the virus off, we’ll be in a better position long term.”

The mayor said he didn’t have an exact figure for how many construction projects are affected by his order, but he knows it is substantial.

“It’s massive, massive,” he said at the briefing. “I don’t have a number. It’s tens of thousands. We’re in the middle of a boom right now, and…today is a difficult decision to make… Construction is at the core of our economy here in Boston. I come out of the trades. I was a construction worker myself. This is something that is very personal to me and to a lot of us.”

Mayor Walsh added that city officials will monitor the situation closely to determine when the moratorium can be lifted.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we ‘re looking at 14 days potentially, and then we’ll revisit it and hopefully they can be the first workers back to work.”

The moratorium is “something that we’re going to be monitoring literally week to week,” he said at another point. “Hopefully, in the next couple of weeks, we’ll be able to change the policy. But right now, out of an abundance of caution for the workers on the job site and to prevent spreading the virus, we want to make sure those workers are safe.”

According to a statement posted on the city’s website, the city is instructing employers to “maintain necessary crews to keep their sites safe and secure, keep any materials from blowing away, and prevent trespassing. This work needs to be completed in the next week, by Monday, March 23, 2020.” Once sites have been secured, the message said, skeleton crews will be permitted on site “for the remainder of the suspension” to ensure safety, but no construction activity can take place.

Walsh said Boston has 33 confirmed cases of Boston residents with COVID-19 as of Monday, March 16, and the construction moratorium is part of a multifaceted effort to address the spread of coronavirus.

“The coronavirus is one of the greatest public health challenges that our city has ever faced,” he said at a press briefing. “Our primary objective right now is to slow the spread and flatten out the curve so that our medical centers don’t get overwhelmed. This strategy is crucial to helping our most vulnerable residents and make sure that we can rebound from this as soon as possible.”

According to Walsh’s order, the only exceptions to the construction ban are: “emergency utility, road or building work,” such as repairing gas leaks, water leaks and sinkholes; new utility connections to occupied buildings, mandated building or utility work; work that “ensures the reliability of the transportation network,” work on facilities that support “vulnerable populations,” and work needed to make occupied buildings “fully habitable.”

Walsh said the city may make exceptions on a case-by-case basis for “essential” projects that “support increased public health and safety.” But he said new projects cannot be started after March 17, unless approved by the city. In his briefing, Walsh said he hopes employers don’t fire their employees as a result of his action.

“I want to remind Boston employers that we’re in a robust construction market,” he said. “Boston is home to a talented, hard-working construction workforce and when we get back to work as usual, employers need to bring these workers back and the right thing that we need to do right now is to lay them off and not fire them.”

Meanwhile, one state away, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he wants to increase construction of at least one type of building, medical facilities, and he wants the federal government to do it.

“Let’s bring in the Army Corps of Engineers and let’s start building temporary medical facilities because we know we’re going to need them,” Cuomo told CNN. “As many as we produce, if we started today, as many as we can produce, we would need twice.”

Cuomo said he has confidence in the Army Corps of Engineers to move quickly and complete projects that individual states need but don’t have the resources to take on. New York State has one of the highest volume of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, more than 600 people.

“The Army Corps of Engineers builds. I used to be in the federal government. I worked with the Army Corps of Engineers. They build bridges. They build airports. They’re builders. They’re engineers… They build. Let them come in, build with me.”

Cuomo also said he can identify state-owned properties that can be retrofitted to accommodate coronavirus patients. “I’ll find an old dormitory, an old nursing home. Let’s convert it to a hospital and let’s do it quickly so we have some backup space when the wave crashes on the health care system.”

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a tall order

KPF’s skyline-altering residential towers get green-lit in London
A pair of Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF)-designed high-rises are set to become two of the tallest all-residential towers in London after receiving a crucial blessing from the Ealing council. This marks a major step forward for a rather contentious project that has residents and officials in Acton, West London, taking opposing sides since it was first announced last year. As Architects’ Journal reported, a relatively new Holiday Inn will be razed to make for the snugly situated twin buildings, one of which will be 45 stories and the other 55 stories, with the tallest topping out at about 705 feet. A sky bridge will connect the towers between their 26th and 34th floors while a podium with a sizable hotel, retail, and some office space will link the residential towers at their respective bases. Composed of nine habitable floors, the sky bridge is decidedly more substantial—more of a bulky suspended housing block wedged into two slender volumes than a proper bridge—than other notable skyscraper-linking appendages found at buildings like SHoP Architects’ American Copper Buildings in Manhattan or César Pelli’s Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur. Building Design noted that 36 of the development’s apartments will be located within the sky bridge, and that the sky bridge along with both towers will have rooftop garden terraces. There will be 702 new residential units in total between the towers, which are being developed by Egyptian company Aldau. Currently, the tallest residential towers in London are One Blackfriars (557 feet) and the St George Wharf Tower (594 feet). The Aldau project may ultimately not be the tallest in London, however, when considering that work on another lanky residential tower, Landmark Pinnacle, is underway on the Isle of Dogs. When complete, the 75-floor Landmark Pinnacle will top out at 764 feet, making it the tallest residential building in all of the United Kingdom, a title currently held by a 659-foot tower at the Deansgate Square development in Manchester. In addition to getting an all-important go-ahead from the borough, council planning officers gave the yet-to-be-named development a warm reception, noting in a report that “in its own context, the scheme will act as a catalyst for change in the surrounding area whilst providing an acceptable balance of employment generating uses and animated street frontages, combined with a substantial amount of much-needed housing and including a significant number of affordable homes.” “This brings to life our vision for a mixed-use ‘hub’ with a hotel, flexible workspace, residential use and a public venue at the top of the building,” said John Bushell, design principal with KPF, in a statement. “It will be an active anchor to the emerging area and we are very pleased to see this vision received a resolution to grant.” Other reactions to the highway-flanking, skyline-altering project, located in the Old Oak Common section of Acton on Portal Way, have been less gracious. Per The Guardian, local residents have called KPF’s design “extremely aggressive,” while Nicholas Boys Smith of Create Streets, a London based research institute that champions high-density but low-rise/street-scale residential development, referred to the twin Acton high-rises as “London’s Trump Tower.” “This is solving London’s housing needs with false logic,” Boys Smith explained to The Guardian. “We need housing. This is housing. Therefore we need this. But human beings don’t appreciate being reduced to the scale of ants.” Planners with the office of London Mayor Sadiq Khan are also not entirely keen on the development, noting last year that “the bulk, height and massing of this very tall building raises concern in terms of its impacts on townscape and on the Old Oak & Wormholt conservation area.” Khan, who has the authority to squash Ealing Council’s approval and veto the development, also found that dedicating only 35 percent of the towers’ 702 units to affordable housing to be “not acceptable.”
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Skyscraper in the Seaport

Howard Hughes and SOM attempt another tower in South Street Seaport
Manhattan’s South Street Seaport might look pretty different in a few years if the Howard Hughes Corporation (HHC) moves ahead with its new residential development. The Lower Manhattan historic district could soon have a new 990-foot tower. HHC has hired Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) to master plan a new mixed-use development for the Seaport. The project could feature a new building with four floors of office and retail space topped with a residential tower that could range from 570 to 990 feet at 250 Water Street. The tower could have between 550 and 700 units, 200 of which would be designated affordable housing, following the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing goals of the Department of City Planning and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development. “Together with the community, and with the necessary approvals, we have a rare opportunity to bring affordable housing to an area where it’s in short supply,” an HHC spokesperson told AN. “Following the stakeholder workshops, we are continuing to engage with a diverse range of neighbors, businesses, and civic groups as well as elected and government officials as we further develop our plans for the 250 Water site and other district improvements.” The current zoning for the Seaport only allows for 12-story buildings, and the proposal requires Howard Hughes to negotiate the purchase of up to 700,000 square feet of air rights from three surrounding properties with the New York City Economic Development Corporation, as well as complete the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, which ends in a city council vote. This project comes after earlier HHC’s failed attempt at building a 600-foot tower in the neighborhood in 2014. The project was ultimately rejected by the Seaport Working Group, a community task force, for being out of scale with the lower-rise Federal-style brick context. The HHC spokesperson said the company is looking forward to continuing the conversation with the community to create a long-term solution for the neighborhood. “Through our extensive community engagement process, we have been working to generate a planning framework for the Seaport historic district that everyone can get behind.”