Posts tagged with "business incubators":

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More details emerge for the new Center for Community and Entrepreneurship in Flushing, Queens

A New York nonprofit powerhouse has commissioned two local firms to build out its mission in Flushing, Queens.

Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE), an advocacy and community development agency based in Flushing, selected JCJ Architecture and Leong Leong to design the Center for Community and Entrepreneurship, a 90,000-square-foot business incubator and event space that will serve as a fulcrum for the neighborhood.

The announcement comes at a time of great growth for the neighborhood, a major commercial center for New York’s Asian-Americans. 70 percent of Flushing’s 72,000 residents are Asian, and the area is home to one of the world’s largest ethnic Chinese enclaves. “Vibrant,” that go-to good streets descriptor, doesn’t adequately capture the level of activity along Flushing’s main thoroughfares—Roosevelt Avenue, Main Street, and College Point Boulevard. Main Street is second only to Times Square in New York City foot traffic. Here, shoppers from all over the region access multi-story mini-malls through ground-level stores whose wares spill onto packed sidewalks that the city is spending nearly $8 million to widen.

The Center for Community and Entrepreneurship addresses a dark side of this prosperity: International real estate investment and a growing population have raised property values and commercial rents, making it tough for new enterprises to get off the ground. The center will sustain AAFE’s holistic development approach and build on its legacy of community investment. Since its founding 42 years ago, the organization has created more than 800 units of affordable housing and given $44 million in loans to 1,000-plus small businesses.

For design inspiration, the two firms looked both at AAFE’s mission and the surrounding area. “In Flushing, there are already a lot of pre-existing hybrid typologies,” said Dominic Leong, cofounding principal of Leong Leong. “It’s an interesting urban context—because of the history and the influx of immigrants from Asia, there are mixed-use typologies that just don’t exist anywhere else in the city. This project falls in line with that DNA, and takes it to an institutional level.”

The building’s seven-story gradient of public-to-private use beckons residents inside, while the program—a twist on the Flushing commercial typology of stacked retail—tackles challenges posed by the neighborhood’s rapid growth. A public plaza at 39th Avenue and College Point Boulevard, the architects explained, anchors the building to the neighborhood by drawing people in from the street, while private offices occupy the upper levels.

The space is organized as four connected volumes, each joined to an outdoor terrace. At ground level, the plaza’s 5,000-square-foot marketplace connects to Flushing’s street life, while upstairs, a flexible event space opens onto an adjacent terrace. A three-story open staircase, wide enough at its base for seating, connects the space through the third level. “From the plaza up to the stairs, you are metaphorically tracking the mission of AAFE,” said JCJ principal Peter Bachmann.

A third-floor incubator will provide co-working space, where emerging businesses will get assistance from the AAFE-affiliated Renaissance Economic Development Corporation. “The center is not only about providing affordable space,” said Christopher Kui, AAFE’s executive director. “It’s about networking opportunities and resources.” The nonprofit, whose offices will occupy the fourth floor, will lead entrepreneurship classes geared specifically to small businesses. As they grow, firms can rent space on floors five through seven.

A reflection of the hybrid program, the facade is most transparent at the two lowest and most public floors. The glass increases in opacity as the eye ascends to the upper, non-public floors, explained Chris Leong, Dominic’s brother and cofounder of the firm. The lot line wall is clad in metal panels and roughly mirrors the glass walls’ spacing.

Overall, the building respects its lot line, but, unlike a “jewel on the block,” it’s not trying to define itself against its context, Dominic said. It has a slight curvature in plan that brings it up the lot line, while the corner lot ensures that adjacent developments will respect the building’s profile.

AAFE awarded the project to the firms last fall, and the center is expected to be complete in 2018. Leong Leong and JCJ have mutual respect for each other’s desire to work with mission-driven organizations, and the architects stressed the strengths they bring to the project. JCJ has seven offices and a deep portfolio of community-minded projects, while Leong Leong is known for bringing its impossibly cool aesthetic to projects like the U.S. Pavilion at the 2014 Venice Biennale and the Anita May Rosenstein Center, a new campus for the Los Angeles LGBT Center.

In Flushing, both firms see architecture as a platform for community. “We are in a post-icon paradigm. This generation is trying to understand a different way to relate to context.” Dominic said. “Here, we interface with the community on the urban level of the plaza, then create building forms that respond to those criteria.”

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Renderings revealed for Queens entrepreneurship center designed by Leong Leong and JCJ

Leong Leong is bringing its design talents to Queens at the behest of a local nonprofit.

Nonprofit Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE) selected the New York and Los Angeles–based firm to design the Center for Community and Entrepreneurship, a 90,000-square-foot business incubator, retail, and community space complex on a busy Flushing corner.

The building seeks a fluid interface between public and private space. "How do you take a conventional office typology, with staked uses and different tenants, but find a way to pull a public space through those different layers and create an interface between the different users?" said Chis Leong, founding principal of Leong Leong. "We wanted to create synergy and collaboration between the users of the building."

In collaboration with JCJ Architecture, the firm's seven-story building is a "vertically-integrated campus" expressed as four connected volumes, each with an outdoor terrace programmed for different uses. A three-story open staircase, wide enough for terraced seating at the ground floor, opens up the space—and encourages walking.

On the ground floor, a plaza hosting a 5,000-square-foot marketplace connects the building to the neighborhood's vibrant street life, while upstairs, a flexible event space beckons people inside or onto an adjacent terrace. Floors three through seven are offices: A third-floor business incubator provides co-working space, where firms may seek assistance from Renaissance Economic Development Corporation, an AAFE affiliate. AAFE's offices occupy the fourth floor, with the remaining above-ground floors are available to rent. Two levels of below-ground parking round out the program.

The facade's transparency is greatest at the two lowest and most public floors, but the glass increases in opacity as the eye ascends to the upper, more private floors. The lot line wall is clad in metal panels and roughly mirrors same spacing as the glass walls.

The firms were awarded the project last fall, and the center is expected to be complete in 2018.

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Detroit doubles down on startups and young creatives with new “innovation district”

As Detroit nears the one year anniversary of the largest municipal bankruptcy filing in U.S. history, creative professionals in a busy downtown corridor are the target of a Washington, D.C.–funded “innovation district" that hopes startups will rev Detroit's stalled economic engine. Bruce Katz and Jennifer Bradley's book for the Brookings Institution, The Metropolitan Revolution argued that since Congress is frozen, cities must save themselves. In a follow up report, the authors argued for the creation of “innovation districts” to encourage startups and business incubators. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan last month announced the city’s first such district would comprise a stretch of Woodward Avenue from the riverfront to New Center. The area has previously been branded a “creative corridor,” and already enjoys a growing startup culture—most of it formed organically. So what will the new designation change? Perhaps nothing by itself. But as Crain's Detroit Business reported, clusters of young professionals are happy to have the spotlight:
"The thing we have realized is that we actually have districts within this creative corridor geography," said Matt Clayson, director of DC3, a partnership between the College of Creative Studies and Business Leaders for Michigan. "There is a certain density of creative practioners [sic] that we did not have four years ago. That's a good 1,100 creative workers. Four years ago, no." … When Patrick Thompson was looking to open his interior design studio — which is well known for designing the Detroit Institute of Arts' Kresge Court — he was interested in being in Midtown. He didn't realize there was a creative cluster forming, but he liked the activity on the street and wanted to be around other design businesses. So when a first floor retail spot in The Auburn building opened, he moved in last summer. "As a landmark alone, it's been great," he said. "Everyone is starting to know this area. It's a pretty high-profile area, so it's been beneficial for our business being there."
The three clusters with the most activity at the moment, writes Amy Haimerl for Crain's, are around Grand Circus Park, near Cass and Canfield Streets, and near DC3 and TechTown Detroit in the city’s New Center neighborhood. Mayor Duggan convened a 17-person panel to chart more innovation clusters around the future and help guide growth in existing creative communities. As must be noted with any story of rebirth in Detroit, the city’s challenges are beyond the ability of any one intervention to overcome. But “innovation districts” are far from the only solution proposed for Detroit’s problems. Immigration reform, perhaps tied to a special city-specific Visa, has been touted as a potential shot in the arm for the struggling city. And transit improvements, especially along Woodward Avenue—which now has national attention—are a long time coming.