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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There may be a few hoops left to jump through before Bruce Ratner can begin construction of his SHoP- and Ellerbe Becket-designed arena for the Brooklyn, né New Jersey, Nets, such as completing a partial sale of the team to a Russian oligarch, prevailing in some outstanding lawsuits, and going ahead with eminent domain against the area's remaining holdouts. But the developer appears to have cleared the final major hurdle standing in his way with the successful sale of $511 million in tax-exempt bonds today for his $900 million arena. (There are still taxed bonds and an equity stake to be taken care of, but they lacked the December 31 deadline.) Yes, those hoops may still present challenges, but none had the same drop-dead, end-of-the-year deadline the bonds did, and they seemed the likeliest chance for the project's opponents to succeed. Instead, they sold briskly in a matter of hours, or, as Ratner put it in a release, "The interest in the arena bond offering was beyond our expectations," expectations that have always been highly optimistic, though also always on the money. Perhaps this is why they are already preparing to divert traffic starting next Monday to make way for construction.
Or so they like to say, when referring to the Cooper Hewitt’s National Design Awards, or more accurately, the Cooper Hewitt, National Design Museum’s National Design Awards. And that’s exactly what it was like: a little too much of a mouthful of an event. But it was also an undeniably bounteous banquet of everyone Who’s a Who in architecture and design of all stripes. The party was held last night not in the backyard tent as of old, but in the marbled bank hall palace of Cipriani 42nd Street. The stars were all out and too many to name as this year the museum was also celebrating its tenth year anniversary for the awards. Herding everyone to table was not easy but a hush spread as gala chair Richard Meier passed the podium to Desiree Rogers, the White House social secretary who expounded on our nation’s children and the great role modeling that designers/architects could provide. Everyone was impressed with themselves as next up was broadcast princess Paula Zahn, the evening’s tirelessly beaming emcee. And for the next three hours great awards were dished out (along with some seriously thick slabs of prime beef) to the very deserving and, among them, our especial friends SHoP Architects (winsomely introduced by Reed Kroloff) who received the Architecture Design Award; Calvin Tsao and Zack McKown (nicely roasted by Rodolfo Machado and Jorge Silvetti who recalled days when the four sculpted the great women’s hairdos of the 20th Century in the Long Island sands) who received the Interior Design Award; Constantin and Laurene Boym who gamely shared the mic just like Julia Roberts and Clive Owens might at the real Academy Awards; and Walter Hood of HOOD Design whose urban landscapes we want to know much more about. As often happens at the Design Awards, the presenters outshone the winners in matters only of sheer star dust: Chuck Close presented the Corporate Award to the Walker Art Center (the first museum ever to get one); John Waters riffed hilariously through the Boym’s disaster building paperweights; actress Eva Longoria had trouble with the teleprompter (everyone else handled their 4x5s or 8x11s adroitly enough) when awarding Francisco Costa of Calvin Klein the Fashion Award; Charlie Rose was so smooth I have forgotten which award he presented, but Armory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute was surely the bravest and coolest of them all when he bared his Pocket Protector & Pens when accepting the Design Mind Award for among very many other things, his Passive-solar Banana Farm.
SHoP's new designs for the Barclay's Center at Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards site has probably gotten the firm more attention than any of its previous ones, including its rather controversial plans for Pier 17 at the South Street Seaport. Today, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn penned an open-letter to the firm, calling out "Mr. Sharples, Mr. Sharples, Ms. Sharples, Ms. Holden, and Mr. Pasquarelli" for signing on to "a very contentious and troubled project that faces widespread resistance from the communities it would impact—and well beyond." Meanwhile, "Mr. Pasquarelli" sat down with the Observer to, uh, talk shop on the project and defend his firm's involvement in the project: "We gave serious consideration as to whether we wanted to do it. And I think the thing that convinced us was, after speaking with Bruce, we were convinced he really wanted to make a great building." SHoP and Barclay's collaborator Ellerbe Becket will be discussing their new designs at a special hearing in Brooklyn tonight at 6 o'clock, as will DDDB, no doubt—and us. If you can't make it for the fireworks, we'll recount them here for you tomorrow. Or follow us on Twitter, where we'll be live-blogging the main event.
When I bumped into Gregg Pasquarelli at the LPC on Tuesday, I asked him about a certain map that had been floating around the Internet a day or two before. The SHoP principal began to fulminate. "That was totally taken out of context," Pasquarelli said. Turns out it's a SHoPping map. "It was one of a series of maps we had made to illustrate the retail landscape in New York and why an anchor store would work so well down there," he continued. "It has nothing to do with New York as a whole." He added that, yes, obviously, it's an omage to Maira Kalman and Rick Meyerowitz. And he couldn't help but wonder how anyone got a hold of the map since it was the property of General Growth. Granted, they don't own much anymore, now do they?
Say "Hoboken" to a New Yorker and Irish Bars (and rowdy ex-frat boys), quaint row houses, and the Path Train might spring to mind. Thanks to the recently completed Garden Street Lofts (on sale now!), you can add high-end green condos designed by name brand architects to that list. Designed by SHoP, the project incorporates new construction into an old coconut processing plant, and is expected to receive LEED silver certification. Garden Street Lofts gets lots of merit badges: adaptive reuse, urban infill, green features, good design in Jersey, etc. But it also bears a striking resemblance to an earlier SHoP project, the Porter House, at 15th Street at Ninth Avenue in Manhattan. Hoboken! It's like the Meatpacking district, only farther west, and green, and with less expensive cocktails nearby. And the view from the green roof is better (at least until the High Line opens)!
The news that General Growth Properties--which is on the verge of bankruptcy due to a massive debt-load related to its acquisition of the Rouse Company in 2004--put three historic properties up for sale has led some observers to speculate that development plans for one of them--New York's South Street Seaport--have hit the dustbin. Not so, AN has learned. Two sources have confirmed that the project is not for sale, as has been widely reported, but instead that the developer is seeking an equity partner to help keep the Seaport plan afloat through these choppy economic waters. In fact, they still expect the plan to go before the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission for another review in early 2009 as originally scheduled, which commission spokesperson Lisi de Bourbon also confirmed. "The status of the seaport is that the application remains active at this time," she wrote in an email. And in a statement, GGP re-emphasized its commitment to the project:
Jim Graham, senior director of public affairs, General Growth Properties, Thursday said: “South Street Seaport is among a group of properties for which General Growth is seeking partners, investors or buyers. We intend to continue working with the City of New York on a plan for the property’s development that they and the community will embrace.”In the end, the project's fate remains up in the air at the moment, like so much else in the development world. Which is all the more reason not to jump to any conclusions. As for the other two properties involved--Baltimore's Harbor Place and Boston's Faneuil Hall--the latter may have just become worth a little bit more, having been recently honored with the 25 Year Award by the AIA.
Thirty-five cents. One quarter, one dime. That's how much—or how little—it cost to buy one share of stock in General Growth Properties at the end of trading today. It's been a rough year for the 54-year-old mall developer and operator as it stock has tumbled—in concert with the real estate and retail markets—from a high of $67 per share in March 2007. Yet that stock was still valued at $38 as recently as June 18, when the company announced its plans for new South Street Seaport. Even when it presented those plans to the Landmarks Preservation Commission on October 21, when the stocked closed at $4.84, GGP remained confident in the future of the project. But that was before Monday's report in The Wall Street Journal that General Growth might file for bankruptcy. Bloomberg News blames the problems on the company's $11.3 billion leveraged buyout of the Rouse Companies in 2004. "They took a big, big gamble, and it did not pay off," real estate analyst Richard Moore told the financial news service. What, then, does this mean for the Seaport project? Nothing, insisted Jim Graham, a company spokesman:
Regardless of our situation, our properties and company will continue to operate, stay vibrant and remain open. We are looking forward to a prosperous holiday season. [As for the seaport:] Our intent is to continue as developer, that’s why we have invested so much in working with world-class planning experts and with the community to create our proposals. Our plan for the South Street Seaport sets the course for the future. Getting the plan in place protects the community against market cycles by setting the framework for development over a multi-year window. Approving the plan now sets the stage for development later when the economy improves.