Posts tagged with "Development":

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Design Writer Has Sweet Dreams for New Domino

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
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Walmart? Fugedaboutit!

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.
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SHoP Floats

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.
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Dark, Brooding, and Tangley

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.
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Kingsbridge Conundrum

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.
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Riverside Redo

Typically, developers don't do any more work than they have to in New York, given how much work it takes to build around here, and input at the community level is even rarer. The architects and renderings usually make the rounds of the community boards during the public review process, and that's about it. Which is what makes Extell Development's approach to their Riverside Center project so interesting. Not only has the developer made a number of presentations to community since announcing the project in 2008, but it appears Extell has even made some concessions, according to Curbed. As the image above shows, the heights of the three buildings facing the water have been reduced considerably, though those nearer to West End Avenue have been slightly increased. That the project still calls for 2,500 units suggests that the density is still the same and the tower have been reduced but bulked up, likely more a concession to the Department of City Planning than the community. After all, Curbed points out that, with the exception of no big box stores being included, the locals are still pretty peeved:
Already complaints about affordable housing and environmental impact (including exhaust from the auto dealership) are surfacing, but the most damning critiques could be those coming from people who say the whole thing reeks of Battery Park City.
So it seems like some of the alternative ideas were considered, they were barely incorporated. With the plans expected to become official next month, we'll see if the "exclamation point to Riverside South," as it's been called, doesn't turn out to be a question mark.
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Swallowed by the Green Monster

The Rose Kennedy Greenway was supposed to transform downtown Boston, and while the Big Dig has had some impact on traffic, its above ground success have been far fewer, at least in the three years since the project was completed. At least two major developments have been forestalled because of competing demands on the Greenway's open space, which itself has not been a smashing success, and now the Boston Globe reports the demise of yet another cultural institution that had been planned for the 1.5-mile park. The latest loss is the New Center for Arts and Culture, an $80 million project designed by Daniel Libeskind that was meant to foster diversity and dialogue between disparate groups. Other of the glassy, glitzy victims—blame falls largely on poor fundraising due to the economy—include a new YMCA, Garden Under Glass, and the Boston Museum, which has since relocated to a different site where it also struggles to get off the ground. After the jump, a graphic from the Globe breaks the blunders down.
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Willets Wonderings

It appears the city's plan to trifurcate development out at Willets Point has been a smashing success, as the Economic Development Corporation announced on Friday that 29 developers from across the country have expressed interest in the first phase of the project, an 18-acre swath of land on the western section of the 62-acre Iron Triangle that contains the densest mix of uses. “The quantity and quality of these responses are strong indicators that the development community has confidence in the successful redevelopment of Willets Point despite current economic conditions,” Seth Pinsky, president of EDC, said in a release. An RFP is expected sometime in 2010 for a selection of those 29 respondents. After that, the next hurdle is finishing land acquisition, which stands at 75 percent of the phase one area controlled by the city. If need be, the city has not ruled out acquiring what's left through eminent domain, a specter that has cast a long shadow over the area's redevelopment, though one that could be sunsetting. Following a court ruling that the state could not seize land in the Manhattanville section of Harlem so that Columbia could build a new campus there, Atlantic Yards opponents are hustling to have their ultimately unsuccessful case reheard, a last-ditch effort to impede the sale of Forest City Ratner's bonds. Whether or not they succeed, all this eminent domain tumult—combined with the recent collapse of plans for the Mother of Them All in New London, Connecticut—could nudge New York over the edge, taking it off the list of a handful of states that have yet to enact eminent domain reform since the Kelo decision four years ago. State Senator Bill Perkins certainly thinks so, calling for the governor to live up to his previous promises of a moratorium on eminent domain in the state. How could this all pay out in Flushing, Queens? David Lombino, a spokesperson for EDC, emphasized the agency's strong track record on reaching deals with business owners in the area, despite the continued intransigence of some. "The response from the private sector is encouraging," he said. Should it come down to eminent domain, but eminent domain is no longer there? EDC, while proffering hypothetical projects, does not respond to hypothetical questions.
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So Long SCI-Arc

"I hadn't even heard about it," Ray Kappe told us when we called him to find out about an item in Curbed the other day noting that the Santa Monica City Council had overturned a ruling by the Landmarks Commission that would have designated SCI-Arc's original home as a historical icon worthy of preservation. Kappe, who founded the school in 1972 at a 1950s industrial building at 3030-3060 Nebraska Avenue [map], actually sided with the council in its decision, calling the building "messed up completely." He said it used to sport "a pretty good 30s modern look. It had good character, but now it's got dumb character." That's because at one point the landlord replaced the ribbon windows with generics, among other changes. According to Curbed, "The city's Landmarks Commission made the site a landmark in February 2008 based on its relationship with SCI-Arc and Kappe, its reflection of the neighborhood's development, and its architectural merits, which include what the Commission's action says is a 'late Bauhaus, mid-century fenestration pattern.'" But now, the council has overturned that decision because, according to a staff report, "The structure is a common example of a utilitarian, vernacular industrial building that has been significantly altered. It is not unique in design or rare architecturally." With appeal in hand, Curbed speculates new owners NMS Properties are going to build apartments on the site, which Kappe thought was a fine idea. "The building was good and it served its purpose, but I don't think it should stand in the way of somebody's development," he said. Might we suggest a certain Southern California architect educator for the job of building NMS' new apartments?
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Atlantic Yards Money Pit?

When Forest City Ratner released new designs by SHoP Architects of the Barclays Center yesterday, it was seen as an effort to right a listing ship. But no sooner had those copper-hewed renderings hit the presses than the city's Independent Budget Office released a report [PDF] today noting that the arena will cost the city $40 million in revenues over the next 30 years as a result of financial incentives granted to the developer. Furthermore, the city lost a potential $181 million in lost opportunities through tax breaks and incentives provided to the developer, which cost the state $16 million and the MTA $25 million, though the report also notes both will release a net gain of $25 million and $6 million, respectively, if the deal goes through.
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Never Surrender Admirals Row

Having lost its political fight to preserve most of Admiral's Row in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the Municipal Art Society has hit upon a novel idea and is now focusing its energy on the developers who are vying to redevelop the old naval officers’ houses into a grocery store. The RFP was recently released for the project, and through that process, MAS is hoping to persuade prospective builders where the Army National Guard and the city were not. "We hope that our experience and information will be helpful to responders looking to create an exciting new development at Admiral’s Row that combines both new construction and the preservation of the incredibly-significant historic buildings," Melissa Baldock, a preservation fellow at the MAS, recently wrote on the group's blog. The effort seems like fighting a nuclear submarine with cannon balls, but who knows. In these cash-strapped times, a developer might look favorably upon some pro-bono design work and the imprimatur of one of the city's leading civic groups.
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Two Strikes for Chiofaro

After the recent mixed reviews of his KPF-designed Boston Arch project, local developer Don Chiofaro has been told within the last few days by both state and city officials that his proposal is considerably too large and may take years of regulatory review and planning to get off the ground. No worry, as the infamously forthright developer has taken his project to the people, counting on concerts and blaring signs like the one above to show that it is the mayor and the BRA that are bullying his grand vision and not the other way around.