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.
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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.
After years of trying to land a second Walmart in Chicago, the world's largest retailer succeeded in a big way yesterday when the City Council unanimously endorsed a Supercenter on the Far South Side, the anchor of a 270-acre mixed-use development. While only a few months ago the outcome of that store seemed uncertain, it all broke last week, when the unions reached a tentative agreement with Walmart to pay $8.75 an hour in its stores, more than the current minimum wage but less than was initially sought. On top of that, the retailer has cast doubt on whether a surefire deal has been set. Meanwhile, the city is bracing for the prospect of dozens of stores, through a deal arranged by Mayor Richard Daley, both a bane and a boon as it could mean an investment of $1 billion though also a costly one if it undercuts current retailers. The Sun-Times' incomparable Fran Spielman spells it all out for us:
An Olympic dream denied, with no other job- and revenue-generator on the horizon. Aldermen weary of being squeezed from both sides. A retailing behemoth thwarted in other cities desperate to advance its urban strategy. All of those factors--and a site change to a Far South Side ward whose alderman is more popular than his Chatham colleague--helped to bring the long-running Wal-Mart saga to a successful conclusion. But the six-year battle over Wal-Mart's plan to expand its foothold in the Chicago market ultimately came to a close because it was too big to pass up and because the world's largest retailer blinked.How an agreement for 21 stores is considered blinking is news to us, even if Walmart has made wage agreements (or not!) for the first time in its history. With this one settled, how long before Brooklyn is next?
The simmering opposition to the New Domino plan from the local community and especially its City Council rep has been well-noted, but the reaction from the design community has been more muted. And while the approval from the City Planning Commission, and the forthcoming showdown at with Councilman Steve Levin mean the project is pretty much headed for an up-or-down, maybe slightly tweaked if not entirely scrapped vote, design writer Stephen Zacks had made a bolder proposal, calling for the plan to be scrapped not because it is too dense and under invested, but because it is not visionary enough. "These unique sites are opportunities to generate new forms of urbanism and orders of magnitude greater revenue, instead producing the high volumes of similar units that are now languishing on the market," Zacks declares in a letter to the Council (in full, after the jump). He has a few ideas of his own, something called Domino University, but is also soliciting them from others. Feel free to leave them in the comments section, or on his Facebook page.
Dear Honorable Members of the New York City Council: As a part of the New York City community of architects, designers, and urbanists, we recognize that condo developments in upzoned areas have brought enormous benefits to the public through new tax revenues, high-quality architecture, affordable housing, waterfront parks, and remediation of brownfield sites. But as the market has seemed to have been over-saturated by condos and the rental vacancy rate remains unaffected by the inclusionary rezoning process, we are inviting you to consider a new model of development for the Domino Sugar site, one of the great icons of manufacturing in the area of North Brooklyn and, indeed, the United States. As you may know, Domino was the first sugar company to use branding to sell its products, and it remains one of the most recognizable brands in the country. We believe that the current plan to preserve the landmarked buildings and provide open space, affordable housing, waterfront access, and generous community space is a good start, but we think there can be a more ambitious and visionary approach to this site‹and to waterfront development in general‹which embraces the history of Domino and uses the site to prove that there is another way. As a city, we have progressed far beyond the point we had to beg developers to invest in New York. We are in the unique position of having investors compete for the right to put billions of dollars into complicated sites that require hundreds of millions in infrastructure, even during the worst recession in decades. The Domino site presents an absolutely unparalleled opportunity, and we ask whether its redevelopment according to the same model befits its enormous significance. While we have made great progress, this model still has not lived up to the standards for design and urbanism that the city must aspire to for the next century. The Domino Sugar site is Williamsburg¹s High Line. It is clear that the market is still supporting well-designed, high-quality architecture and urbanism. These unique sites are opportunities to generate new forms of urbanism and orders of magnitude greater revenue, instead producing the high volumes of similar units that are now languishing on the market. We believe that Rafael Viñoly is a superb architect capable of great work, but this inclusionary condo model does not permit the creativity and dynamism that could be supported by this architect, this community, this site, or this city. We ask you to send this plan back for revision, to incorporate the care and attention to detail in site planning and land use that it deserves. As a body empowered with the ability to accept or reject this plan but not, perhaps, to propose a new model of development, we ask you to take a risk. We all remember the terrible plight of New York during the fiscal crisis of the 1970s, and we never want to go back to a time when burning buildings was more profitable than designing new ones. Rejecting a 1.5 billion dollar investment in our city, especially one that is loaded with community benefits, is a risky step. But it¹s also a vote of confidence in New York City: that we can do better, that we can begin to create a city and an architecture, and a model of urban development that is fitting for a world-class city, a city that embraces its immigrant communities, a city that is in constant transformation as every generation takes hold of it and reshapes it for itself. We ask you to consider the Domino site an example for what can be accomplished in every neighborhood and every district in the city with more attention to detail, more care, more originality, and a greater level of inclusion, not represented by percentages of units, but by a vision that connects to the history of the place and the future of the city. The Domino University plan is the beginning of a process that can begin to impact the core problem that we still face after decades of redevelopment: a rental vacancy rate that remains below three percent. We need new housing in New York City, but not of this kind. It's time to explore a new way, and the Domino site is the place where it can begin to happen. Respectfully, Stephen Zacks
In the last Midwest issue, we recounted Walmarts struggles to infiltrate urban centers, notably in Chicago. But the world's largest retailer and the nation's largest employer has also been eying New York for years, and the Daily News reports that it is making a new push in Brooklyn, which has already met resistance from locals and labor without even being officially announced. The weird thing, though, is how eerily similar there approach is in East New York as with the Pullman project on Chicago's Far South Side. Both are meant to be the anchor tenant in a larger mixed-use development that involves affordable housing (the former is part of Gateway II, the latter Pullman Park) located in the fringes of their respective cities, places that have been historically economically depressed. This puts Walmart in a better position of arguing that the area is in need of jobs, any jobs, not to mention affordable housing, so how dare politicians and unions try to stop it. Whether it works in Brooklyn or the Far South Side, only time will tell, but if Kingsbridge is any indication, it probably won't happen in the Five Boroughs any time soon. Pullman, however, might be an entirely different story, as Mayor Daley continues to agitate for the project's approval.
One of the many flashy architecture projects believed to have been killed off by the recession was SHoP's highly impressionistic proposal for the waterfront portion of the South Street Seaport. The bankruptcy of mall owner and would-be developer General Growth Properties seemed to scuttle plans for the sail-and-net-inspired complex, but having emerged from court protection, GGP is evaluating what to do with its remaining properties and it appears SHoP may once again be in the mix. The company is being spun off into two pieces following its bankruptcy, with the one made up of mixed-use and development-worthy projects getting a $6.55 billion infusion from three outside investors. It remains up to this new person what to do with the Seaport, but a GGP spokesperson tells Downtown Express, “Presumably the new company would continue to pursue the highest, best use of that property, which we felt was the proposal we put out." Should the project return, there is still the issue of appeasing the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which saw it as more barnacle than beautiful.
When Smith-Miller + Hawkinson was brought in to design a new, Landmarks-worthy facade for 25 Great Jones Street, a 13-story sliver of concrete and steel in Noho, some people complained that the architect's proposal remained too modern, even despite such genre-bending neighbors as 40 Bond Street. Regardless of such complaints, the LPC approved the new facade a few weeks ago, and as if to prove the doubters wrong, the designers have installed a mock-up on site. "In the context of the neighborhood I think it works perfectly—and curiously familiar in scale and coloring to the cornice ornament of the building adjacent to the East," Henry Smith-Miller said, adding with a chuckle: "It's dark, brooding, and tangley. The jungle is coming. Watch out for King Kong." To see what he's talking about, check out the mock-ups after the jump.
What to do with the Kingsbridge Armory, empty for more than two decades? That was the question the Related Companies answered with a proposal for a new mall, which was resoundingly rebuffed last year by the City Council, in part because that mall would have lacked union labor. The question of what to do with the mall was implicit in Related's offer, as well, the suggestion being that without the mall, the massive nearly 600,000-square-foot building would continue to sit empty for more decades. Well, Bronx Borough President Rueben Diaz, Jr., one of the pols that led the fight against the mall, thinks he has an answer of his own, as the Observer reports, or at least he hopes the taskforce he's appointed to come up with a solution does. As Diaz put it in a statement:
"My critics have challenged me to come up with something better for the Kingsbridge Armory, and I am prepared to answer that call. There are a number of different options besides retail that could eventually make their home in the armory, be it the expansion of the film industry, arts and recreation space, green manufacturing, or a combination of these and many other uses."The taskforce itself is rather impressive, including big names like Majora Carter, an influential environmental consultant formerly of the Sustainable South Bronx, developer and political big wig Jack Rosen, Kathy Wilde, head of the pro-business Partnership for New York City. It'll be interesting to see what this influential group comes up with.