Posts tagged with "Expo Line":

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Another L.A. parking lot bites the dust for MLA’s Ishihara Park

Since opening in 2016, the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority’s (Metro) new Expo Line light rail has yielded an array of world-class public amenities at its western end in Santa Monica, including the new Ishihara Park by Mia Lehrer + Associates (MLA).

The 2.35-acre buffer park—named after local World War II veteran George Haruyoshi Ishihara and commissioned by the City of Santa Monica—is built on a slight 110-foot-by-55-foot space set aside during construction of a new maintenance facility servicing Metro's Expo Line fleet.

Astrid Sykes, senior associate at MLA, said that the firm designed Ishihara Park to be “more than just a buffer” between the low-rise neighborhood and the monolithic maintenance depot. “We designed it to be a true asset for the community as well,” Sykes explained. The multifaceted park, shaped by local input, reflects a desire to create spaces for recreation and decompression that also sequester carbon and groundwater.

To meet these ends, the park is organized as a series of discrete “garden rooms”—a bird habitat, community pavilion, rock garden, fruit grove, and meadow—connected by a meandering half-mile-long walking trail.

The far western end of the park not only contains vine-covered trellis structures, salvaged pine trees, and lush undergrowth habitats for birds, but also has a collection of stationary exercise equipment. Tranquil wooded trails flow through the bird-habitat/exercise area and lead to a central community space. Here, a pair of lawns and two picnic pavilions flank a plaza. The picnic pavilions are spared in their construction: A set of steel-beam structures that provide shade over streamlined cast-concrete picnic benches. Between the pavilions, low concrete walls studded with integrated cantilevered seating frame the plaza, while four light poles run tidily through the center of the space in parallel with surrounding trees. The eastern pavilion runs into a second, diminutive lawn populated by smooth concrete sitting-rocks and benches made from planed-off logs.

Beyond the lawn is a fenced playground—called the “rock garden”—containing a parabolic swing set, climbing-rock area, merry-go-round, and an assortment of sinuous cast-concrete benches. Further down its length, the park contains a fledgling orchard and a teaching garden. At the far eastern end, the walking path splinters into a series of sand-packed trails that frame a collection of ficus trees.

The ends of the park are populated by trees, some already existing on the site, others transplanted from along the light rail line’s path. The end result, according to Sykes, is “a new park in the spirit our changing metropolis.”

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L.A.’s expanding menu of transit options is challenging the city’s auto-urbanism

Los Angeles’s newly completed Expo Line extension creates the first rail connection between Downtown and the Pacific coast in almost 60 years. An east-west route linking residential and employment centers at either end, the line represents an opportunity to change the characteristically low-rise region by enabling a 15.2-mile-long spine of mixed-use development. In the four years since the first spur of the Expo opened, developers have begun to wake to the untapped market for transit-oriented development along the corridor, signaling a shift not only in the ways in which Angelenos get to and from work, but where and how they live their lives beyond business hours. Now that the line has been completed, development along the western length of the corridor has sped up. Because of the transit-oriented nature of Expo-adjacent sites, designers must juggle multiple urban considerations such as density, parking, and pedestrian access. The following projects, all still under design and permitting, emphasize mixed-use configurations, offer an array of unit types, including affordable apartments, and are connected by generous, public open spaces.

Our trip down the Expo begins in Culver City, the former terminus of the line, where developers Lowe Enterprises, AECOM, and Cunningham Group have designed the 5.2-acre Ivy Station complex. The new development will sit on a current park-and-ride lot for the Expo Line and contain 200 apartments, a 150-room hotel, 200,000 square feet of offices, 75,000 square feet of ground-floor commercial space, and 1,600 parking spaces, with 300 spots reserved for transit riders. The wedge-shaped site offers an office complex designed by Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects, who also serve as architects of record for that portion of the project, and a retail block along Venice Boulevard, with a multiarmed courtyard apartment complex sandwiched between it and the hotel at the eastern end of the site.

Since completion of the master plan by Cunningham Group, Killefer Flammang Architects has taken over the project’s design documentation through the development’s completion. Landscape architects Melendrez also provided site and landscape design services for the project.

On its southwest corner, the site hosts a transit stop as well as a paseo bounded along its perimeter by porous ground floor connections, including colonnades and heroic staircases. The buildings have stepped and sharply angled facades, with each of the glazed office and retail floors bound by terraces. Meanwhile, the apartments and hotel are clad in modular metal sheathing articulated as coursed masonry or geometric panels, for the apartments and hotel, respectively. Renderings showcase red floor plates and structural walls in the office and retail areas with carved out loggia and projecting balconies along the facades of the apartment blocks.

The 4.76-acre Martin Expo Town Center development at the Bundy Station further west is located on the current site of the Martin Automotive Group’s Cadillac dealership. Gensler, with landscape design by Rios Clementi Hale Studios, designed a terraced, 10-story, 160-foot tower containing 200,000 square feet of creative office spaces at the corner of the site, jaggedly staggering back and forth across its height, creating variable outdoor spaces accessible from the offices within. A mid-block paseo below is flanked by 99,000 square feet of commercial space, including a proposed 50,000-square-foot grocery store. The site’s 516 mixed-income residences are organized in a similarly terraced, seven-story perimeter block formation, with residences directly overlooking either the paseo or an interior courtyard. The complex will feature 192 studio, 181 one-bedroom, 137 two-bedroom, and six three-bedroom units. Of the total, 20 percent of residences will be affordable, with three-fourths of those affordable units operating as workforce housing and the remainder consisting of “very low income” units. “We wanted to design this project as a model transit development for L.A. by combining two things that have historically been perceived to be incompatible [here]: desirability and density,” Gensler’s design director for the project, Tom Perkins, said. “We are planning for multimodal access—including bus, metro, automobile, bicycle, and pedestrian—in order to connect with the neighborhood and create an active outdoor environment surrounded by new retail, residential, and office uses that attract local residents, office workers, and transit users.” As a part of this multimodal effort, the complex features parking stalls that are “decoupled” from the apartment units, allowing apartment dwellers to opt into renting a parking spot if they own an automobile while opening more parking spots for transit users. At the western terminus of the Expo Line in Santa Monica, two notable projects apiece by Koning Eizenberg Architects and Michael W. Folonis Architects aim to bring a variety of multifamily configurations to the coast. Koning Eizenberg Architects’ 84-foot-talldevelopment, 500 Broadway, features 249 market-rate residences and is organized as a bundled quartet of buildings connected by 35,000 square feet of ground-floor commercial space. The building features generously fenestrated and bifurcated facades, with louvered siding and simple, stucco walls alternating along courtyard faces. An unzipped, rumpled facade made up of extruded floor plates, canted walls, and corner windows marks the project’s northwest-facing front along Broadway. The development is notable for its commitment to exceeding the city’s affordable housing requirements, providing 64 deed-restricted affordable units around the corner at 1626 Lincoln Boulevard. This five-story structure will rent entirely to households earning 30 to 60 percent of the area median income (AMI). Owners of the complex preferred an off-site location for affordable units to better provide support services for residents, like after-school tutoring and healthcare. Also, the off-site location allows for more affordable units to be built overall, since integrating as many affordable units within a market-rate complex would have been impeded by height limitations imposed on 500 Broadway’s site. 1626 Lincoln consists of 17 three-bedroom apartments, 18 two-bedroom apartments, and 29 one-bedroom apartments, and features simply rendered massing that incorporates a mix of punched windows and doors across expanses of stucco walls with storefront glazing along the ground floor. Michael W. Folonis Architects (MWFA) is working on two mixed-income projects that also push the envelope in terms of urban program and form. MWFA’s Lincoln Collection, a 90-unit, mixed-income complex featuring 13,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space, is organized as a tight mass of apartment blocks connected by exterior circulation. The complex will have 18 affordable units, half of which will be set aside for households making 80 percent or less of the regional AMI, while the remaining nine affordable units are for those earning less than 50 percent of the AMI. The building’s white stucco facade is chopped up by inset, and sometimes interlocking, balconies. Walls along recessed areas are clad in blond wood or glass, as is the ceiling of a triple-height corner loggia space supported by a massive Y-column. The apartments themselves are organized around a central courtyard with a swimming pool and other leisure areas. This balcony-lined courtyard allows the building to utilize natural ventilation for individual units, while also providing an interior urban condition that is uncommon for L.A.

This “rear window” quality is better exhibited in MWFA’s 1415 5th Street project, an 84-foot tall mixed-use block that experiments with the city’s setback requirements by utilizing a mid-building doughnut hole to maintain a monolithic cornice line. MWFA’s stocky and pixelated apartment is carved into

by the designers, who, by removing more building mass than typical step-backs require, have arrived at a provocative method for embedding traditionally urban frontage in a community where development is highly contentious. “We thought we were going to have a huge fight on our hands,but [city officials] were very enthusiastic about it and encouraged us,” Folonis said. The project contains 64 units, 13 of which are affordable, and includes a mix of unit types that look out onto the complexly articulated, carved-out courtyard. These projects are among the first to make their way through planning and permitting phases since the Expo opened. Though with early ridership estimates already surpassing projections, it is likely that L.A.’s new transit corridor will soon be home to many more residents and workers.
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How does the design of Los Angeles's new Expo Line stack up?

The L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) has finally rebuilt one of L.A’s original commuter streetcar lines: The Expo line, a 15.2-mile long appendage that will link Downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica. Completion of the $2.5 billion route marks an important milestone for the region’s maturing 25-year-old rapid transit system. The lead architectural and urban design was by Gruen Associates who, with planning and design firm RAW International, crafted the system’s transit stops; Parsons Brinckerhoff carried out overall planning; and Skanska spearheaded construction. The Expo line is the transit agency’s latest effort to weave light rail travel into a growing, multimodal web of mobility options available to Angelenos—it is as much a new way to see Los Angeles as it is a train.

While the system’s 1990s-era subway stations play fast and loose with decorative schemes—from massive boulders at Beverly and Vermont to highly polished kitsch at the Hollywood and Vine and Chinatown stops—Expo stations are subdued. Mostly located at-grade and topped by a half-hexagonal mop of ocean wave–inspired, perforated aluminum panels supported by a sinuous, pale-blue, crisscrossing armature, the stations try hard to be poetically mundane. A product of tight budgets, the line’s many at-grade crossings and stations result in a crude and dangerous construct: Drivers are forced to acknowledge light rail trains and passengers as a legitimate urban presence through their sheer occupation of the street. This condition could benefit from a more aggressive transformation of the intersections and sidewalks leading up to each station: Introducing simple elements like bollards, contrasting paving strategies, and other speed mitigating measures would do much to improve what should be nodes of pedestrian activity.

Stations between Downtown L.A. and the University of Southern California campus are easily approached from the street via handicap ramps and feature no-frills signage. The concourses are, again, simple in their articulation, with a smattering of concrete and aluminum benches. These stations are earnest attempts at creating planted flags in what might one day be a larger, more prototypically pedestrian urban expanse. The empty storefronts along many of the tacky, faux-Italianate perimeter block apartment complexes in the area, while highlighted by the stations’ electric bolt silhouette, have yet to benefit from the line’s booming ridership. As of now, these stops are desolate, quite a few gentrification waves away from being viable transit-oriented developments. At-grade stops between USC and Culver City are also unsuccessful as stations, with complicated tangles of pedestrians, trains, and drivers.

The elevated stations further west, however, like those at Culver City, La Cienega, and Bundy, announce themselves from a distance as a new type of elevated object in the Southern California sky. Less majestic than Chicago’s industrial-era L stations, the elevated Expo stops gently appropriate the language of freeway vernacular, subverting the typical L.A. overpass by co-locating a landscaped bicycle path and potentially, future stations for the system’s new bike share program, along the length of most of the line. These areas are straightforwardly open spaces; the overhead bridges’ weights reach the ground via four discrete and compact piers, leaving room for drop off and transfer areas. Large concrete walls designed in great relief, populated with complex, pixelated geometric motifs and lushly planted with drought-tolerant flora line the bike path itself. Instead of dank, unwelcoming troll bridges like those associated with the freeways, Expo’s overhead crossings are places for collective movement, an aspect exemplified by their minimal treatment and the location of a variety of specially-commissioned art installations at each stop. Riders ascend via elevators and stairways to reach the platforms that provide molehills from which to gaze out over the city’s flatlands. But, because one is walking—and waiting—instead of driving, the effect is potentially one of true introspection.

The western terminus at Santa Monica is also a fundamentally pedestrian urban gesture. The station is built as an elevated plaza that cascades to the north in a broad set of stairs, funneling travelers toward major pedestrian shopping areas and into the intersection of Colorado Boulevard and Ocean Avenue, redesigned as a massive diagonal crossing intersection. Here, the intersection is striped with massive white bands of paint in a strangely fitting plaza and civic space for Los Angeles.

If it is indeed Metro’s goal to normalize multi-modal transit in Los Angeles, then the Expo train, with a few tweaks, is a good template for what the rest of the region’s rapid transit system might look like in the future. Expo’s design and existence is an unexpectedly powerful, if somewhat work-in-progress expression on behalf of transit-mixed streets.

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New transit line links Downtown Los Angeles to the beach

For transit boosters and urbanists in Los Angeles, last weekend’s opening of the 6.6 mile extension to the city’s Expo Line linking Downtown Los Angeles with Santa Monica represents a capstone over a quarter century of hard-fought rail construction in a city notorious for its auto-dependent populace. Los Angeles systematically dismantled its pre-World War II Red Car system in the post-war era and did not begin rebuilding its rail transit infrastructure until in the late 1980s. Metro opened the Blue line in 1990, a 22-mile light rail route linking Downtown Los Angeles with Long Beach. Since then, the system has grown exponentially, with two subway routes, four light rail lines, and two rapid bus lines completed since. Much of the recent expansion has been funded with money collected via sales tax increases. The Metro has another such initiative, Measure R2, on the November ballot this year aiming to help the agency continue its vigorous growth. A first phase of the Expo Line opened in 2012 linking downtown to Culver City. The now-completed 15.2 mile route reestablishes rail transportation between the beach-adjacent westside communities and the region’s symbolic heart downtown by essentially reviving the route taken by the Pacific Electric Red Car service’s Air Line service that ran along the former Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe right of way between 1908 to 1953. The new line is expected to take around an hour end to end, about the same amount of time it takes to drive in good traffic. The Expo Phase II project was constructed via a design-build partnership between Skanska USA and Rados Construction Inc. and was administered by Expo Authority, the independent agency created by Metro to build the line. Skanska USA tapped Parsons Brinckerhoff to design the route’s tracks, stations, and bicycle facilities. Parsons Brinckerhoff also designed 24 at-grade and above-grade intersections for the line. Celebrations took place at each of the seven new stations last weekend and Metro offered free fares on Friday and Saturday to commemorate the completion of the new line. The much-hyped weekend saw so many Angelenos flock to stops along the route that service got backed up as enthusiasts and skeptics alike rode rail transit to the beach for the first time in sixty years. But in perhaps a sign the difficulty Metro faces in changing L.A.’s car-dependent culture, service ground to a halt for nearly two hours Monday morning when a drunk driver drove onto the Expo Line’s tracks along an at-grade run of the line near downtown, snarling the line’s first weekday morning commute.  
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Eavesdrop> Expo Line’s First Riders? Unexpected patrons swarm Santa Monica

There’s been a lot of sunny news revolving around the incoming Expo Line in Santa Monica, which is scheduled to open sometime in 2016. But with all the feverish construction, it appears some unwelcome guests are coming out of the shadows (or actually, the ground). Several businesses around the construction—including those of architects—are reporting increased numbers of cockroaches making their way into their offices. Some have even called it an infestation. Who knew mass transit would attract such a wide ridership?
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Morphosis HQ Surprise

Our friends at Morphosis just moved into an interim location (as posted on their website) at 3440 Wesley Street in Culver City. The firm has been hesitant to give many details about their upcoming space, a former commercial building right next door that they say they are remodeling, merely stating that it will “be sustainable” and “bring back the integration of the shop with the studio space.” But when we checked out the location we were surprised to find the approximately 13,000 square foot building razed except for the north and east walls. No one mentioned that they were constructing a new building! Of course, it could still be a ‘remodel’ because they didn’t completely destroy the building. The site has been cleared and whatever interior restraints had existed are now gone.  So who knows what really is going to pop up here?  It’s a key location next to the new Exposition Rail Line (going from downtown to Culver City), putting it in the heart of the pedestrian and commuter traffic that will follow after the rail line’s completion.  Our contact at Morphosis stated they are hoping to be complete with the space by the end of the year or early in 2011.