It’s official. Atlanta is about to take on one of the most ambitious and controversial building projects in its history. Last Monday, in a midnight vote before election day, the Atlanta City Council approved a $5 billion proposal to redevelop “The Gulch,” a 40-acre swath of sunken rail yards and parking lots in downtown Atlanta. Thanks to the decision, CIM Group, the Los Angeles-based agency that’s been eyeing the site for some time, will now likely receive a large government subsidy as the sole bidder on the project. CIM’s big plans for The Gulch came to light last November when people started speculating the meaning of an impact fee assessment filed with the city that month, which proposed the redevelopment of over 10 million square feet of publicly-owned land next to the Philips Arena. Over time, it became evident that CIM, a company founded by the brother of Atlanta Hawks owner Tony Ressler, was responsible for the filing and wanted to offer The Gulch to the city as part of Atlanta’s bid for Amazon’s HQ2. Despite news that Amazon will definitely not be coming to Atlanta, it seems that CIM’s plans to revitalize The Gulch are still underway. The scope of the project is nearly unparalleled, comparing only in size to Manhattan’s 28-acre Hudson Yards neighborhood and CIM’s 27-acres Miami Worldcenter development. Within The Gulch, the developer aims to create 9 million square feet of office space, one million square feet of retail, as well as room for residential and hospitality. The “mini city within the city” will sit atop a podium of parking garages and connect with a new grid of streets and parks. It could include more than a dozen new buildings, completely reshaping the city’s skyline. Newly-elected Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is a large supporter of the project. Leading up to last week’s vote, she started a massive campaign to “Greenlight the Gulch,” asking for the public and the city council to approve the around $1.9 billion subsidy package for the private project. In a tight 8-6 vote, her plan won out. Though the government is now on board, many locals aren’t game. Critics of the project say the area should be dedicated to a new transit hub (an idea that started in 2012), while others argue that an increase in luxury housing will raise rents and property taxes in low-income communities near downtown. While Bottoms's proposal requires CIM to build at least 200 units of affordable housing within The Gulch and invest $28 million into a citywide trust fund for affordable housing, some still hope for a better deal. Many say the process for approvals has been rushed and the public hasn’t gotten enough say. Since CIM’s plans were unveiled last year, things have moved at an unprecedented speed. Even opponents seem eager to build something in The Gulch, but only if it benefits the city, not the just owners who develop it. Given CIM’s large-scale goals for the site, this will be a fight with the public for decades to come.
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The dilapidated and boarded-up Lincoln Heights Jail—a five-story, 229,000-square-foot art deco and modernist complex adjacent to the Los Angeles River—is on the verge of transformation as L.A. City Council officials prepare to implement redevelopment plans for the three-acre site. Sandwiched between Downtown Los Angeles and the city’s economically-stressed Eastside neighborhoods, the shuttered complex is one of the city’s most prominent historic landmarks. The triangular site sits in the city’s Cleantech Corridor and is written into the Cornfields Arroyo Seco specific plan as well. Those designations help poise the site for the type of high-end industrial redevelopment that is currently remaking the nearby Arts District while also threatening nearby communities with displacement. The jail was built in 1927 and was designed to hold 625 prisoners, though by the 1950s, it imprisoned more than 2,000 individuals, according to the Los Angeles Conservancy. Because of overcrowding, it was expanded in 1953 with a modernist wing. The jail has played an important role in the city’s history, holding individuals arrested during the Zoot Suit Riots of 1943 and the Watts Riots of 1965, for example. Individuals who had been arrested over suspicions regarding their sexual orientation were also imprisoned at the Lincoln Heights jail, which even contained a separate wing dedicated to incarcerating gay prisoners. The jail was decommissioned in 1965 and became vacant in 2014. Currently, developers CIM Group, WORKS, and Lincoln Property Company are each vying for the opportunity to remake the site. Developer CIM Group has proposed redeveloping the site as a mixed-use district called “The Linc” containing offices, housing—including multifamily and low-income units—retail shops, restaurants, and a community garden. The proposal calls for converting the art deco portion of the structure into a hotel with a rooftop restaurant. The 1953 addition would be converted to residential use while a triangular structure on the far end of the site will contain a single story of retail programming. CIM has partnered with architects LOHA, LA Más, and landscape architects Superjacent for the proposal. Nonprofit housing developer WORKS—Women Organizing Resources Knowledge and Service—is looking to re-envision the site as a community-driven enterprise called “Las Alturas.” The complex would include 122 housing units, including 66 permanent supportive housing and 47 moderate-income homes. The proposed complex would also include a community center, child care facilities, theater, and generously-landscaped areas designed by Mia Lehrer + Associates (MLA). Mia Lehrer, principal at MLA explained to The Architect’s Newspaper that the WORKS-led proposal represented “the kind of community-focused investor you imagine exists but you don’t get meet very often,” adding that the design team included partnerships with Cal Poly Pomona’s agriculture program, and architects Omgivning and Killefer Flammang Architects. A third proposal by Lincoln Property Company, Rios Clementi Hale Studios, and Fifteen Group is also on the table. That scheme—called the Lincoln Heights Makers District—calls for a commercial- and manufacturing-focused district containing four acres of open space. The plan includes 268,250 square feet of residential space, including an affordable housing component; 220,000 square feet of commercial space; and 57,000 square feet of manufacturing and retail spaces. The designers envision repurposing the existing jail facility as a manufacturing center with associated housing and commercial spaces located alongside. The project has been proposed by the developer as part of a larger scheme that includes an adjacent, privately-owned 3.2-acre site that will contain live/work spaces. The proposal would include connections to the L.A. River as well as outdoor community-oriented leisure and work spaces. The schemes are currently being vetted by the City's economic development committee before heading to the full City Council for consideration. The City Council is expected to decide on the proposals as soon as this fall.
AN had the unique opportunity to walk around the top floor of the supertall 432 Park Avenue tower, where the full-floor penthouse with a $95 million view of Central Park is nearing completion. A Saudi billionaire, Fawaz Al Hokair, was recently announced as the buyer. Ironically, The Real Deal has reported this week that it was also announced by one of the architects—at a Cornell Center for Real Estate and Finance lecture in December—that the Rafael Viñoly design was inspired by, wait for it, a trashcan. It's no ordinary trash can, however. The alleged inspiration is a design by Viennese Secession/ Wiener Werkstätte mastermind Josef Hoffmann. His gridded designs represented a new rational, rigorous way of composing objects in the beginnings of modern industrial design. Today, apparently, they are being copied at a larger scale for entire building. The geometric purity of the tower originally looked to us like it came from Aldo Rossi, but Hoffmann makes more sense, especially given the urban context/political ambiguity of the building. In the lecture, Harry Macklowe, who co-developed the building with the CIM Group, revealed that Renzo Piano was also considered for the tower but didn’t work out. The idea for a tall building with a pure form came from Piano, and Macklowe carried that idea forward through the project. “Renzo Piano had said to me—if you have a pure architectural form like a square and you uphold the integrity of that architectural form you will build a beautiful building,” Macklowe to the Real Deal. “That stayed in my mind, and I had considered Renzo Piano for the architect, but it didn’t work out for several reasons.” While the world's super-elite who will soon call the tower home likely would snub the idea of living like an albeit more sophisticated Oscar the Grouch, they might do well to pick up their own Hoffmann trashcan, available for a cool $225 from the Neue Galerie.