Larceny and deed fraud are on the rise, and those with a mind for leaving confusing trails of paperwork are profiting from illegitimate purchases of land. A classic case of this can be found on Maple Street in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Brooklyn. https://vimeo.com/6258261 According to a report by The Nation, the area became a tranquil community space in the summer of 2013. Using a lot no bigger than one-eighth of an acre, local residents constructed vegetable patches and seating areas that successfully brought people together to make use of a shared space. The residents' retreat however, was short-lived. The owners, Joseph (Joe) and Kamran (Mike) Makhani, apparently have a history of using illegitimate signatures to gain property and have even been to prison in the past for selling homes they did not own. Their company name, H.P.D., LLC, is quite similar to the government agency, NYC Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). When questioned in the video above, Joe Makhani said, "if the client is stupid, that's not my problem." Cut to 2014 and the Makhanis show up and start destroying the lot that the residents had carefully made. Ignoring calls to stop, they only do so when the police turn up demanding a court order to prove ownership. The Makhanis promptly left after no document was produced. So what of the significance of this debacle? The sad truth is that these ordeals are cropping up more and more with cases being becoming increasingly complex with name irregularities making documented selling and purchasing of land harder to find. "No one is talking about it, but we're seeing this every day," said Sonia Alleyne told The Nation on behalf of the Department of Finance. "I don't think anyone realizes how big this story is." The ordeal features all the tell-tale signs of larceny and deed fraud. The initial purchase of land from the nephews of the deceased owners for $5,000 (an incredible and questionably low price); Social Security numbers failing to match up; spelling "mistakes" (McKany rather than Makhani); illegible notary names and the fact that the license number isn't even present; traits that, in the City of New York Sheriff Joseph Fucito's eyes, scream fraud. Anyone attempting to investigate ownership/sale history of the land, it seems, is lead down rabbit hole after rabbit hole. Sheriff Fucito stated that 15 deed-fraud arrests were made in in the last year, and that (as of August 2015) his office was on the trail of over 1,000 cases. Gardens in Bushwick and Crown Heights have likewise found themselves embroiled in similar conflicts. Fucido believes that many fraudulent cases go undetected and that the real number of cases is much higher. Why the sudden rise in deed fraud? Gentrification may be partly to blame. Brooklyn residential prices are increasing at an alarming rate, and land with debatable ownership is the perfect target for fraudsters. Experts such as Christie Peale, executive director of the Center for New York City Neighborhoods, say that paperwork is deemed legitimate all too easily. "The problem is this open process that allows people to just walk in and file false instruments," said Peale.
Posts tagged with "Development":
More than 40 years after its last high-rise fell, the site of St. Louis’ Pruitt-Igoe public housing development remains basically empty. Design competitions, documentaries, and local developers have all pondered its future. Now the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency has said it’s considering the 34 acres once home to the infamous housing project as a location for 3,000 jobs. The website nextSTL reported this week that the NGA—a federal agency created in 1996 to provide maps and data for national defense—is looking at Pruitt-Igoe as it relocates its St. Louis offices from the city’s Kosciusko neighborhood. The site is one of six under consideration, but officials say the decision won't be made until 2016. The city recently sought $25 million in infrastructure improvements to the area, which some called a necessary investment regardless of the site’s future. Others disparaged it as a handout to developer Paul McKee, who has an option on the Pruitt-Igoe site and already owns nearly 2,000 other parcels of land in St. Louis. In January the city extended McKee's option, which he purchased in 2012 for just over $1 million, for another two years. The infamous post-war development in St. Louis’ DeSoto-Carr neighborhood (now Carr Square) was demolished less than 20 years after its construction in 1954. Photos of its demolition with the Gateway Arch in the distance have come to symbolize the failure of midcentury public housing projects in the U.S. Several of the development’s smaller buildings remain, including a one-story brick building that served as the development’s electric substation, three churches, a library, a school and a health center.
Chinese real estate developers Wanda Commercial Properties announced Wednesday plans to build an 89-story mixed-use tower in Chicago’s Lakeshore East neighborhood that would unseat Aon Center as the city’s third tallest building. At approximately 1,150 feet tall, the tower at 375 E. Wacker Dr. would be among the tallest buildings in Chicago. AN reached out to Alderman Brendan Reilly’s office to confirm the announcement, which was reported in the Wall Street Journal and Chicago Architecture Blog Tuesday, but so far our calls have not been returned. A spokesman for Lakeshore East developer Magellan Properties declined to comment. Chinese news agency Sina reported the building will house a five-star hotel and apartments, and is expected to open in 2018. Along with a retail component, that should total 1.4 million square feet of space, according to Chicago Architecture Blog. The designer is still unspecified, but a rendering from Wanda Group shows three staggered volumes constructed from stacked frustums, or cut-off pyramid shapes. If built, it would occupy the lot adjacent to the new GEMS World Academy building, designed by bKL Architecture. The Beijing-based company, commonly called Wanda Group, is known in the U.S. for buying cinema chain AMC Entertainment Holdings, and has amassed dozens of hotels and department stores in China. The $900 million Chicago project would be the first step in what Wanda Group Chairman Wang Jianlin said will be a big move into U.S. real estate. "Investing in Chicago property is just Wanda's first move into the U.S. real estate market," Jianlin said in a statement, "Within a year, Wanda will invest in more five-star hotel projects in major U.S. cities like New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. By 2020, Wanda will have Wanda branded five-star hotels in 12–15 major world cities and build an internationally influential Chinese luxury hotel brand." We’ll update this post as more information becomes available.
Dunlavey Street in central Houston typifies the image of a Southwestern city street. It's a sprawling, four lane affair that is approximately 50 percent usable, 80 percent pedestrian unsafe, and, in this case, 100 percent in need of an update. Transportation officials are evening out the numbers for a proposed road diet that would reduce the four-lane street to two and using the outer lane space for parking, improved sidewalks, and bike lanes. Currently, many of Houston’s wide streets—and some of its highways—operate under the principle of induced demand. This idea dictates that existing space is utilized by sheer import of its presence. In other words, people use big roads because there are big roads to use. But the outer lanes of Dunlavey are hardly drivable. They are pothole-ridden, with uneven gutters and extensive debris. Because the lanes go largely unused, pedestrians misguidedly utilize them, sometimes with fatal results. Removing the exterior two lanes would remove confusion over what is drivable area and what is not. It would clearly delineate the road’s functionality, and create a responsible message to drivers and citizens about the roadway’s capacity. In years past, expanding outward has been the modus operandi of Southwestern transportation. Cars, and not people, determined the size of roadways. But this proposal overturns that tradition. The space that comes from the unused exterior two lanes will be converted into parking, bicycle lanes, and better sidewalks. According to planners, these changes will facilitate more efficient traffic, increase pedestrian safety, and encourage alternative methods of transportation such as biking or walking. It also curbs the expansion trend’s tendency to impinge upon private property—an aspect that, commuter or not, Houston’s citizens should be pleased about. If all goes according to plan, the proposal aims to not only increase the quality of life in Houston, but to be the beginning of a larger trend. Developers hope that Houston will be the next city that roadway planners look to when considering developments. A June open house meeting will follow up on the proposal’s details, while City Council will officially consider the changes in September. The plan’s announcement comes a week after Houston was named among the ten worst cities for pedestrians.
Houston is set to double the amount of tax breaks it gives to developers for downtown apartments and condos to try to lure people to the city's sleepy business district. The City Council unanimously agreed to expand the Downtown Living Initiative, which first launched a year and a half ago, to offer tax breaks for 5,000 residential units, up from a previous cap of 2,500. Houston will now offer developers up to $15,000 for each residence they build in a complex of at least 10 units, provided they meet design guidelines focused on getting retail built at street level. The idea is to lessen the hurdles to developing downtown, such as high land costs, and to draw in retailers to serve the new residents and create a more vibrant street scene. "We made a judgment that it was needed when we looked at the extra cost of construction downtown," Andy Icken, the city's chief development officer, told the Houston Chronicle. "Retail follows rooftops, and it's our view that critical mass is needed. We've had a lack of retail in downtown. We believe that will follow and we believe this is needed to make it happen, to really continue the momentum that's on right now." In the decade preceding the subsidy, only one new residential development was built. After the subsidy initiative launched, 13 new projects have been announced, including six recent proposals that could add more than 2,200 new apartments to the urban core. The momentum is hard to miss. The total cost of the tax breaks could reach $75 million.
In its last scheduled meeting of the year, Minneapolis City Council could give the go-ahead on a $400 million mixed-use development near the new Vikings stadium. Surface parking lots currently occupy much of that land. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune editorial board called the Downtown East neighborhood “a part of the city’s commercial core in desperate need of new life.” The newspaper stands to benefit from the project, as the editorial announces—they plan to sell five blocks of nearby property, including their current headquarters, and move downtown. With 1.1 million square feet of office space, apartments, retail space, and a park, the Ryan Cos. project could attract tax revenue to the city, as Wells Fargo is reportedly looking to anchor the development as a corporate tenant. It also includes a 1,625-space parking ramp. Mayor R.T. Rybak said that over 30 years the project will generate $42 million in property taxes for the city, $50 million for Hennepin County and $35 million for the Minneapolis public schools. The public-private partnership does not call for tax-increment financing. Instead, it asks the City Council to approve $65 million in bonds, to be paid off by revenue from the project’s parking ramp over 30 years. The developer would cover shortfalls for the first 10 years. Minneapolis has embarked on several large-scale urban redevelopment projects, including a makeover of the city's "Main Street" by James Corner Field Operations.
As plans to makeover Chicago’s Lathrop Homes become more clear, debate becomes more heated over whether the development team has the storied development’s best interests in mind. Twelve years after the Chicago Housing Administration announced its intention to overhaul the 1930s housing projects, the fate of the site remains unclear. Lathrop Community Partners—a team counting among its partners Related Midwest, Studio Gang Architects, Wolff Landscape Associates, Farr Associates, bKL, and Bauer Latoza Studio— revealed a draft master plan [PDF] this month that aimed for compromise between restoration and scaling up. At a community meeting Tuesday night residents pressed the design team to offer more affordable housing, but it appears the ratio of market rate to public housing remains firm. The plan calls for 1,208 residential units on the 32-acre property—504 market-rate units, 400 public-housing residences, 212 affordable homes, and 92 for senior citizen public housing residents. It also includes 752 parking spaces with 259 more on the street. With parks, greenspace, and a landscaped riverwalk, the plan apparently consolidates Lathrop’s celebrated design elements. Taller buildings south of Diversey Avenue would raise property values nearby, but the stepped-up development doesn’t sit well with those who would like to see the renewal of this historic housing project do more for low-income residents.
Abu Dhabi’s dizzying building boom slowed down somewhat after the 2008 financial collapse dried up the liquidity that inspires big projects. The damage appears not to have been permanent, however, as the UAE capital will forge ahead with a 24-story speculative office tower—part of a new central business district on Al Maryah Island. Al Hilal Bank is the first private development on the island, which is the subject of a masterplan designed to accommodate a citywide population of 3 million by 2030. The city proper is currently home to just over 600,000 people. But Abu Dhabi’s modern history is already a story of explosive growth. “When we first visited,” said Steven Nilles, the Goettsch partner in charge of the firm’s recently opened Abu Dhabi office, “the site was a strip of sand with a desert fox and some barbed wire.” Now it’s a canvas for ambitious urban planning. The 2030 plan includes light rail and a subway system for the new district, which Nilles called “a critical link” between the city’s three main islands. The building, which will be Al Hilal’s flagship, features three cubical masses slightly shifted as they are stacked, allowing for column-free spaces inside. A transparent three-story lobby will look out to the north, engaging the area’s urban character with the help of pedestrian arcades to the east and west. All ongoing projects on the island have parking below grade, where underground service corridors reserve podium-level development for pedestrians. “We’re creating a whole new urban fabric for Abu Dhabi’s central business district,” Nilles said. Goettsch expects to complete the development in late 2013, at which point the clean slate of Al Maryah Island will provide some perspective on the city’s 2030 aspirations.
With bright colors, rich patterns, and futuristic forms that would make Verner Panton drool, Italian homewear company MissoniHome has recently completed their first fully-branded residential tower, the 52-story Acqua Livingstone in Manila, Philippines. The project is the fourth tower of six in the $315.9 million Acqua Private Residences project, developed in the Philippine capital by Century Properties Group. MissoniHome is the home goods branch of Missoni, the fashion line whose colorful patterns and prints attempt to elevate knitwear to artform. Set in the lush tropical environment of the Phillipines, the tower is a "lifestyle experience," and features not only vibrant interior design and arresting furniture, but also a skydeck, called "The Canopy." The Canopy’s lower level includes a business center, an indoor and outdoor gym, Jacuzzi, a library and spa. The upper level is a social and entertainment space with an amphitheatre, lounge, DJ booth and dance floor, pool with swim up bar, and barbecue facilities. Click on a thumbnail to launch the slideshow.
The latest bridge from Spanish tension-element guru Santiago Calatrava, renowned architect behind the Milwaukee Art Museum, Puente del Alamillo, and the upcoming World Trade Center Transportation Hub, will be his first vehicular bridge in the United States. Construction has been completed on the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, the first in a series of Calatrava-designed crossings over Dallas' Trinity River. It will act as a literal and metaphorical gateway to the city. This new bridge links the banks of the Trinity River, with hopes of making the area a lively gathering place. Calatrava wants to rethink the riverfront and its capacity to bring in development as part of the city's urban revitalization efforts. He stated he envisions the Trinity River Corridor as the heart of the city, a recreational area much like New York's Central Park. The bridge is the first step in making the waterfront a focal point for recreation. “During my first visit to Dallas I realized that the river basin had the potential to be of defining importance to the city’s future development,” said Calatrava. The structure is a signature Calatrava design with glowing white arch and supporting suspension cables. Supporting over 14,000 cars per day, the new bridge is part of a larger project involving the replacement of Interstate Highway 30. The Trinity Trust Group, a nonprofit supporting revitalization of the riverfront, will host a series of inaugural events, and Calatrava will be in Dallas this weekend for an opening ceremony complete with fireworks, a Lyle Lovett concert, and a ribbon-cutting ceremony. (Fingers crossed that the architect himself will hoist the giant scissors.) The bridge is planned to open to traffic March 29.
While a number of new rental towers have been announced in recent months, Crain's has an informative article about a number of Chicago condominium developers who are beginning to build again, albeit at a very small scale and in tightly phased sequences. Even for projects as small as 14 units, banks are demanding projects be split into two phases, six units first, followed by eight in a second building. Some developers are also willing to accept lower offers from buyers for higher down payments up front. The thinking reflects new stricter lending standards and continuing economic uncertainty. But with Chicago's condo market still over-saturated and the foreclosure crisis just beginning to wane, it also reflects a much needed correction from previous patterns of over building and over lending. And, pardon me Mr. Burnham, but isn't incremental city-making and infill development often the best approach?
Hypothetical Development Organization hopes. The group, created in 2010 by author and New York Times Magazine columnist Rob Walker, examines what the future might hold for some of the hidden, and underused, architectural gems in New Orleans by creating renderings of what the buildings could be, you know, hypothetically. In a city that is still trying to piece itself together after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, this is a creative way to draw attention to buildings that are being overlooked. Walker told the Huffington Post that he sees this project as something of a public service.
"If they're not going to be developed, then let's have fun with them," he said. "It's a pleasure-giving response to this crummy situation with the economy, where development isn't happening. But this is not mean or depressing -- it's joyous.The Hypothetical Development Organization is planning a gallery show planned at the Du Mois Gallery in April 2011. There will even be a specially designed Hypothetical Development Trip, courtesy of Gowalla, which makes a travel-oriented app for smartphones.