Posts tagged with "SWA/Balsley":

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SWA remakes a historic plaza in downtown El Paso to appeal to Millennials

From the 1880s to the late 1960s, El Paso’s San Jacinto Plaza was the place to see alligators at alarmingly close proximity. Crowds would sit around the fountain in the middle of the park to watch the sad spectacle of captive reptiles circling their enclosure. When the city asked landscape architecture firm SWA to redo the plaza seven years ago, the firm’s Los Angeles office had the tall task of designing a park that would preserve the turn-of-the-century Arcadian layout beloved by residents and draw crowds, just as the alligators once did.

SWA found harmony between programming and design, despite the trend toward “shoehorning” as much programming as possible into outdoor spaces. “The community wanted a concept that respected the formal axes [of the Arcadian layout], so the axes are still there, but now you come to a destination,” explained Gerdo Aquino, CEO of SWA. SWA collaborated with San Antonio, Texas–based Lake|Flato, which designed a cafe and shade canopy that activate the heart of the roughly two-acre park.

The canopy shelters “Los Lagartos,” Luis Jiménez’s fiberglass alligator statue, an homage to San Jacinto’s one-time residents. SWA encircled the statue with a balustrade and decorative mosaics that radiate out toward a botanical garden, custom chess and ping-pong tables, an outdoor reading room with a lending library, a produce market, and an area for washoes (a game similar to horseshoes but played with washers).

Aquino noted a recent shift in emphasis in park design from beauty and ecology toward beauty, ecology, and programming. According to him, the reason can be distilled to: “One word: Millennials. They ask, ‘Is the landscape a place where I can play? Is it a place where I can meet my friends? Can I FaceTime here?’ It’s all about me. You can’t design a park like you did five years ago.”

Second- and third-tier cities are luring all demographics, not just Millennials, back to the city center with open space projects, Aquino explained. San Jacinto’s landscape plan preserved existing older trees, while pairing native species of oak, agave, and grasses with non-native, but adaptive, plants for pops of color. “If mayors want to make their downtowns more livable,” Aquino said, “they need open space that’s ecological, financially feasible, programmed to the hilt, and also beautiful. You don’t have to live in New York, L.A., San Francisco, or Boston to have access to great design. Great design can be created right where you live.”

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Here's a First Look at the Finalists Vying to Redesign Downtown LA's Pershing Square

Here’s the first look at the four final designs by Agence Ter and team, James Corner Field Operations with Fredrick Fischer and Partners, SWA and Morphosis, and wHY and Civitas for LA’s Pershing Square. Angelenos are being invited to comment on the finalists’ proposals over the next few weeks as Pershing Square Renew, a collection of designers, business leaders, and officials civic leaders, seeks to redevelop the centrally-located, five-acre square at the heart of Downtown LA. The teams of finalists hail from an original pool of ten groups that presented work to the nonprofit in October of 2015. That grouping was reduced to four teams in December, with those finalists' final submissions are now vying for the final selection, to be announced in May. The proposals are shown below and will be formally presented to the public at the Palace Theatre in Downtown Los Angeles on April 28th at a sold out event. See Pershing Square Renew’s website for updates on further public viewings.
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Gustafson Guthrie Nichol to design San Francisco Shoreline Parks at the India Basin Waterfront

Seattle-based Gustafson Guthrie Nichol (GGN) will design Shoreline Parks and 900 Innes along the India Basin coastline. GGN was awarded the commission after coming first in the design ideas competition put forward by the San Francisco Recreation & Parks Department and the Trust for Public Land, in partnership with the San Francisco Parks Alliance.

According to the brief, the competition encouraged candidates to "reimagine" the two locations around India Basin Shoreline Park in order to establish a "spectacular and seamless 1.5-mile-long network of public parks on the City’s southeast shoreline."

Well-recognized in the field of landscape architecture, the firm already has designed the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation campus in Seattle, the Lurie Garden at Millennium Park in Chicago, North End Parks in Boston.

The India Basin Waterfront Parks, Trails and Open Space Plan, a public-private planning consortium is also underway, taking a regulatory stance to safeguard the project and make sure that the developments  "along the 1.5-mile shoreline eventually look, feel and operate as a coherent, comprehensive, and integrated parks system."

“As our City continues to grow, we are committed to the sustainability of our City by making investments in parkland that enhance our world class waterfront,” said San Francisco mayor Ed Lee in a press release. “I’m pleased with the progress of the India Basin Waterfront that ensures a legacy for future generations to come.” 

GGN fought off competition from 19 other proposals including one from AECOM and a joint submission from SWA and Stanley Saitowitz/Natoma Architects. A PDF, part of GGN's winning submission, can be found here.

“We are honored to be entrusted to work with India Basin's neighbors and visitors, to enhance the things that people already treasure about this gem of a site,” said founding principal of GGN, Shannon Nichol. “India Basin includes a rare expanse of original tideflats and preserved boatyard architecture. Our approach to the competition further softened the shoreline, added walking routes across Innes Avenue between the water and the neighborhood, and sized the park's spaces for everyday activities. We look forward to working with the community to test and hone that initial approach with the full input of neighbors and the people who will be using this park every day.”

Situated in a remote untouched alcove of San Francisco, the brownfield site that is the India Basin offers rare opportunity for the city to confront environmental and ecological issues with the implementation of a park complex. Currently, the site has little to offer in the way of amenities, but landscape development could see an influx of visitors to the area, to which business would undoubtedly follow. 

As for the competition, five necessities were put in place. These included continuous connector trails, bike paths, increased access to the shoreline, and enhanced habitats and gathering spaces. As for the historic landmark of the Shipwright’s Cottage at 900 Innes, submissions required a brief outline of how this would be restored. After being announced as winners, GGN will seek to install a "21st-century legacy park" with particular focus on "public access, recreation, resiliency, and habitat enhancement."  

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Four finalists selected to redesign Pershing Square in Los Angeles

Pershing Square Renew just announced the four finalists of the Pershing Square design competition: SWA with Morphosis, James Corner Field Operations with Frederick Fisher & Partners, Agence TER with SALT Landscape Architects, and wHY with Civitas. These teams will now develop fully fleshed out proposals for the five-acre park in Downtown Los Angeles. The finalist concept boards offer clues as to what to expect from the final proposals: SWA and Morphosis identified four strategies for their reorganized park: ecology (native trees and a drought-friendly water feature), mobility (a road diet along Olive Street and better Metro connections), programing (a market and a day/night event venue), and sustainable business (reworked parked concession, food vendor, and retail spaces.) James Corner Field Operations with Frederick Fisher & Partners held off at hinting at a design. Their concept boards show increased porosity between the park and the both the surrounding neighborhood as well as the cultural life of all of downtown and the Arts District. Expect the design to engage both in the park and along the adjacent streets and sidewalks. Agence TER with SALT Landscape Architects’ boards depict a boldy understated proposal. They envision Pershing Square as a giant lawn with several atmospheric gardens: a foggy garden, a scent garden, a dry garden, a wind garden, and an edible garden. Services are discretely tucked under a large shade canopy. wHY with Civitas landscape architecture group’s concept boards was also slim on design details. Although the proposal echoed some ideas seen in other team proposals, such as connections to the surrounding neighborhood, an emphasis on natural ecology, and food/market vendors, it uniquely suggested that the park offer education programming as well as something that could be digital connectivity entitled “Syncing Urban Hardware and Software.” The four finalists will develop their proposals over the first quarter of 2016, leading to another round of jury interviews and a public presentation in March. It’s unclear how and when the design will be built, since at moment the only funding for the project seems to be the $2 million pledged to by the Department of Recreation and Parks and MacFarlane Partners, who each chipped in one million. The Pershing Square Renew jury is: Janet Marie Smith (Jury Chair) SVP, Planning and Development, Los Angeles Dodgers José Huizar, Councilmember, 14th District, City of Los Angeles Donna Bojarsky, Founder and President, Future of Cities: Leading in LA Simon Ha, Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council and Downtown LA Resident Mary McCue, Founder, MJM Management Group Rick Poulos, Principal, NBBJ Janet Rosenberg, Founding Principal, Janet Rosenberg & Studio Michael Shull, General Manager, Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks Michael Woo, Dean, Cal Poly Pomona, School of Environmental Design
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Pershing Square Renew wants your input on Semi-Finalist Concept Boards

In October, Pershing Square Renew selected 10 teams as semi-finalists for the redesign of Downtown Los Angeles’ oft-maligned urban space. The international design competition drew hundreds of entries and the two-handfuls selected represent both local and global practices. Reviewing the initial presentation boards, there’s common interest in opening up Pershing Square to the surrounding urban blocks, a porosity currently lacking in Legoretta’s scheme. The teams’ approaches are split between active and passive landscapes with some concepts showing large lawns and water features meant for calm reflection and light recreation, others packed the square with programming: dog parks, cafes, yoga zones, performance venues, etc. Pershing Square Renew posed the concept boards on their website and are now asking the Los Angeles community to weigh in with comments for the jury. Soon, the organization will select four top teams out of the field of semi-finalists and have them each develop a more comprehensive final design. Until then, have a gander at the boards below.
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Semi-finalists Announced for Pershing Square Competition

A shortlist was announced for the Pershing Square Renew competition. Ten teams were selected to have a chance at a crack at redoing Ricardo Legorreta's scheme. The five-acre park is seen as the centerpiece of a revitalized Downtown Los Angeles and the competition, a public-private partnership backed by councilmember José Huizar, is a critical step toward that effort. The ten semi-finalists are global, national, and local—and often in combination. They include: Paris-based Agence Ter with SALT Landscape ArchitectsSnohetta, James Corner Field Operations and Frederick Fisher and Partners, New York-based W Architecture, San Francisco-based PWP Landscape Architecture with Allied Works Architecture, Mia Lehrer Associates with NYC’s !Melk, Peterson Studio + BNIM, Rios Clementi Hale with OMA, SWA with Morphosis, and wHY Architecture These teams will continue to develop designs, which will be reviewed later this fall and a group of four finalists will be announced in December. Pershing Square Renew will select a winner in February 2016. On bets as to who might emerge from the pack, it seems that the organization is looking for details over gesture. “Their challenge isn’t to win awards; it’s to win over hearts,” said executive director Eduardo Santana. “More than anything else, these groups need to focus on the experiences their design will inspire and the memories the Square will create.”
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How landscape architects at SWA created the country's largest Zero-Net Energy community at UC Davis

In 2011 SWA built the nation's largest planned Zero-Net Energy (ZNE) community. Working in collaboration with the University of California Davis and developer West Village Community Partnership (WVCP), the project houses over 2,000 students and 500 staff and faculty families. When UC Davis started the West Village Energy Initiative (WVEI) in cooperation with WVCP in 2003, the university initially only aimed for a 50percent reduction in energy consumption (compared to the California Energy Efficiency Building Code). However, in 2008 the initiative proposed that without losing quality and at no extra cost to the developer, West Village could become a ZNE community. A public-private partnership with the developer and UC Davis has been able make WVEI's 2008 proposal a reality. SWA master planned the 225-acre neighborhood and prepared landscape strategies for its development. Included in the housing scheme is a network of parks, storm water ponds and corridors, bicycle and pedestrian trails, a community college, and retail and recreational services. These areas incorporate on-site energy generation which are aesthetically designed and in harmony with local environmental conditions. In preparation, SWA conducted analyses at regional, site, and building/garden scales in order to maximize opportunities for passive cooling. Designers arranged buildings in loose clusters that allow breezes from the Bay Delta to filter through the site. SWA also proposed the planting of deciduous shade trees, reducing the need for air conditioning. In a bid to promote zero-energy methods of transportation, SWA integrated an extensive cycling network into the scheme making it the primary way of getting around the neighborhood. Davis is, after all, home to the first bike lane in the United States. SWA integrated drainage into the site's system of parks, sports fields, trails, and gardens. Storm water drains to the site's large northern ponds, where it is purified by native wetland planting in a series of basins. The slopes of the site's ponds incorporate native shrubs and trees, selected in cooperation with UC Davis' horticulturists, botanical garden curators, and ground and maintenance personnel, to provide a sustainable habitat for migratory birds, while also providing a visually appealing natural landscape for residents year-round. UC Davis' internal monitoring shows that the West Village ZNE community achieved an exceptional 87 percent of initial ZNE goals in its first year. In 2013, West Village received the ULI Global Award of Excellence, which honors outstanding development in both the private and public sectors, with an emphasis on responsible land use.
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Thomas Balsley unveils design for 8-acre green space at Pacific Park Brooklyn

After countless delays, plenty of controversy, and a few lawsuits, Brooklyn's Pacific Park mega-development (formerly Atlantic Yards) is starting to take shape. The Barclays Center's green roof is showing progress, SHoP's long-delayed modular tower is rising again next door, and a pair of COOKFOX-designed residential buildings are underway at the development's eastern edge. And now, the project's new namesake, the 8-acre Pacific Park, has finally been unveiled. The New York Daily News has posted the first renderings, and a master plan, of the Thomas Balsley-designed green space which replaces a street-level parking lot and will stretch through the development's crop of new towers. Besides the requisite grassy lawns and planted areas, Pacific Park is packed with cruise-ship-like amenities including a bocce court, basketball court, maisonette court, water garden, and play areas for kids and toddlers. There is also cafe seating, lanterns, and a "gateway portal" with graphic signage. The green space is a major amenity for the development's new tenants, but will also be open to the public. The first piece of Pacific Park will run between COOKFOX's two under-construction buildings and be completed next summer. The full eight acres will be built out over the next 10 years, along with the rest of the development.    
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Center for Active Design announces its 2015 Excellence Winners

The Center for Active Design (CfAD) has announced the winners in its annual Excellence Awards, which honors buildings, public spaces, and, for the first time this year, research, that promotes active lifestyles. All competition entries had to meet at least one of CfAD’s “Active Design approaches,” which include Active Transportation, Active Recreation, Healthy Food Access, and Active Building. After a blind selection process, a jury picked six winners and five honorable mentions. “Regardless of the size, location, or use, the Excellence award winners serve as catalysts for broad based community transformation, maximizing their impact by embracing a cross discipline approach to the design process, which in many cases included use of the Active Design Guidelines from the outset,” said Joanna Frank, the center's executive director, in a statement. This year’s winners will be recognized at “Celebrate Active Design” in New York City on May 11th. For more information on the event visit the CfAD's website. You can read more about the winners and honorable mentions below. City of Pontevedra, Spain From CfAD:
City council members led by Mayor Fernández Lores, began their quest in 1999, by developing a community-driven master plan that prioritized people and public spaces. ... The occupancy of the public spaces post-renovation was almost immediate. 81% of schoolchildren walk to school, half of them on their own. Traffic has decreased by 70% in the downtown area and 30% in the city overall between 1996 and 2014, with zero fatalities due to accidents in the last eleven years. The space devoted to pedestrians and cyclists in streets and squares increased over 60%, using space that was previously devoted to motor mobility and parking. Sidewalks were widened, streetlights improved, and over 400,000 street trees were planted throughout the city. By prioritizing resident health in the design, construction, and maintenance of public spaces, Pontevedra is a pioneer in the Active Design movement.
Guthrie Green, Tulsa, OK By SWA Group From CfAD:
Submitted by the SWA Group, the 2.7-acre Guthrie Green Park serves as a central hub for social and cultural events for the community, now receiving over 10,000 visitors annually. Given that Oklahoma has some of the worst obesity and life expectancy rates in the country, team members aimed to use this project to promote health and physical activity among residents. The design converts a former truck yard into a flexible venue for community gatherings set among gardens, a central lawn, park pavilion, outdoor stage, and interactive fountains that invite visitors to connect with nature and join community events. A geo-exchange grid under the park supplies heating and cooling for nearby non-profit organizations, further contributing to revitalization of Tulsa's downtown Brady Arts District.
New Settlement Community Campus, Bronx, NY By Edelman Sultan Knox Wood Architets with Dattner Architects From CfAD:
The New Settlement Community Campus in the Bronx, New York started with a simple desire for a public swimming pool, but soon expanded into an innovative, joint-use project that tackled school overcrowding and a dearth of local community services. Bringing together community activities that were previously located in various neighboring affordable housing buildings, the New Settlement Community Campus provides a resource for both students and residents in this low-income community. Designed by Dattner Architects and Edelman Sultan Knox Wood / Architects the New Settlement Community Campus is a vital community hub providing 1,160 K-12 students and the surrounding neighborhood with a wide range of indoor and outdoor learning spaces, fitness classes, and activity hubs, along with a healthy food program and on-site health clinic.
Casitas de Colores, Albuquerque, NM By Dekker/Perich/Sabatini From CfAD:
Casitas de Colores brings much needed affordable housing to families in downtown Albuquerque. With a walk score of 94/100, it has been recognized as an important project for supporting activity in the downtown area. Located within walking distance to city amenities, transit networks, and employment areas, the project promotes walking, rather than driving to daily destinations. Submitted by Dekker/Perich/Sabatini design firm, the Casitas de Colores community includes open stairwells, terraces, and patios, that maximize visibility and provides community facilities with an array of amenities to promote their health and wellness. Staircases are prominently located near entrances, elevators, and walkways, are wide enough for group travel, brightly colored, and offer views to the courtyards and downtown area. Walking paths are artfully decorated and exposed to natural light, enhancing the pedestrian experience, connecting residents to outdoor courtyards, and supporting a range of activities and social interaction.
Stanford Healthy Neighborhood Discovery Tool, United States, Mexico, and Israel Stanford Prevention Research Center and the Stanford University School of Medicine From CfAD:
The Stanford Healthy Neighborhood Discovery Tool, is a research project that empowers citizens with technology to have an impact on policy decisions that effect the built environment. Researchers from the Stanford Prevention Research Center and the Stanford University School of Medicine, equipped resident 'citizen scientists,' with technology, allowing them to asses their neighborhoods and advocate for more support for healthy living. Using recorded, geo-coded photographs and audio narratives, GPS-tracked walking routes, and survey responses, residents have successfully engaged policy makers and collaborated on funding decisions for built environment improvements. The citizen scientist application has now been used in three countries (Mexico, Israel, USA), leveraging resident 'citizen scientists' and mobile technology that empowers communities to promote active living and healthy eating.
Queens Plaza From CfAD:
Queens Plaza has shifted the way New York City conceives of its public spaces, recognizing them as a critical part of its urban infrastructure, capable of creating vibrant neighborhoods. The application of Active Design principles transformed a parking lot surrounded by 16 lanes of traffic and noisy subway lines into a space that prioritizes the pedestrian.
Honorable Mentions Space to Grow: Greening Chicago’s Schoolyards Chicago, IL From CfAD:
Space to Grow is a multi-sector partnership that transforms Chicago's aging, and in many cases underutilized, schoolyards into dynamic outdoor spaces that support physical activity, learning and community engagement. Selected Chicago Public School schoolyards are located in urban neighborhoods that have a deficit of recreational facilities and green space, and that are also prone to flooding during heavy storms. The project is co-managed by Healthy Schools Campaign and Openlands – two Chicago based nonprofit organizations, and is funded by Chicago Public Schools, the Chicago Department of Water Management, and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago.
Gateway Community College New Haven, CT From CfAD:
The Gateway Community College project represents how thoughtful design can create an educational environment that promotes health, while anchoring the urban revitalization. Submitted by Perkins + Will, this project is designed around a central atrium and open stairway, which links the academic spaces and doubles as the primary gathering space. Informal stadium seating and lounges are provided around this central core. Classroom wings also offer open access to a series of egress stairs, enhanced with hold-open devices, abundant daylight, comfortable width, and views to a rain garden. A range of exterior spaces, like a roof garden and multi-purpose courtyard, are offered to support on-site recreation and special programming. Located in a formerly neglected part of New Haven, Gateway Community College enhances the neighborhood pedestrian environment through the addition of more public elements, such as an interactive, LED art installation visible through the building facade. The images that are projected as part of this art installation are curated by the students and provide a greater identity for themselves and the campus community.
New York City Police Academy College Point, NY From CfAD:
The New York City Police Academy was designed from its outset using the Active Design Guidelines. It consolidates many of the Police Department’s existing training facilities into one consolidated campus. Built on a former landfill site and submitted by the New York City Department of Design and Construction, the campus offers numerous opportunities for occupants to engage in physical activity. A monumental stair is featured at the building’s entrance that connects physically and visually to the circulation stairs located throughout the plan. Egress stair doors on each floor use hold-open devices to maximize visibility into stairwells. Fitness facilities include a swimming pool, indoor exercise spaces, outdoor running tracks and walking routes that move users around landscaped gardens, which are also usable by the surrounding community.
Fulton Center New York, NY From CfAD:
The newly renovated Fulton Center transit center in New York City’s financial district effectively organizes the circulation patterns of about 300,000 daily riders between eight train lines. Designed by Grimshaw Architects under prime design consultant Arup, the Fulton Center is focused around a new civic space with a grand oculus bringing in ample light into waiting areas that were previously dimly-lit and confusing. The improved Fulton Center not only simplifies transit connections, but also provides 65,000 square feet of retail and office space. Features such as wider and brighter concourses make walking between subway lines a more enjoyable and less confusing experience. A spiral staircase located centrally in the atrium attracts the attention of visitors, and wayfinding signage and interactive information kiosks are strategically placed throughout the station. A new pedestrian tunnel offers expanded connections to additional subway and transit lines.
Safe Cycling Design Manual for Istanbul Istanbul, Turkey From CfAD:
The Safe Cycling Design Manual for Cycling is an evidence-based report that aims to raise awareness of cycling as a mode of transportation in Istanbul. After undertaking an extensive literature review, and a series of surveys, interviews, site visits, and visioning workshops with cyclists, the research team at EMBARQ Turkey, found that residents prefer cycling because it is healthy, fast, affordable, and flexible. They also noted however that challenges to cycling in Istanbul include, lack of police enforcement, supporting infrastructure and fast flowing traffic. Leveraging the research and corresponding proposed solutions outlined in the Manual, the EMBARQ team has a created a valuable source on sustainable urban transport for the national government, local authorities, and community members in Turkey.
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Thomas Balsley's geometric pedestrian plaza reclaims roadway for neighbors in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn

After years of planning and workshops, Brooklyn's Community Board 2 recently approved a redesign of Putnam Triangle Plaza in Clinton Hill. The $3.75 million project, led by Thomas Balsley Associates, will significantly upgrade and expand the existing plaza that opened in 2011. The new space comes with a gray geometric paving pattern, new lighting, benches, tables, chairs, and bike racks, along with twice as many plantings and trees. There will also be new space for public art and events. The green light for the project comes months after Thomas Balsley Associates presented four options for the site to community members. That was the final stage in the plaza's public review process that had become notably heated; some local stakeholders decried the current plaza and the expensive plan to expand it. DNAinfo reported that the project will be primarily funded by the federal Transportation Enhancement Program with money also coming from New York City's PlanNYC and some local officials. Construction on the plaza is slated to start summer 2016 and last about one year.
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It's Friday, so why not let this drone give you a birds-eye tour of New York City?

We know, we know, we know—the internet is being overrun with drone-photographed, time-lapse videos of cities and ruins. They are like cat videos, or BuzzFeed quizzes, or thought-pieces on Hillary Clinton's ground game in 2016: they're everywhere and they're unavoidable. But sometimes they're pretty great. This five-minute video by Victor Chu is called “Ultimate Aerial Video of NYC!," and, well, yeah, it kind of is! The video starts with a quote from (who else?) F. Scott Fitzgerald and then finds its way through the five boroughs with the help of an agile drone. Some architectural highlights include Four Freedoms Park, Hunters Point South Waterfront Park by Thomas Balsley Associates, and pre-demolition 5Pointz. The drone also travels directly through the Unisphere, which is known best from the 1964-65 World’s Fair and second best from Men In Black. [h/t Gothamist]
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COOKFOX's second Pacific Park tower in Brooklyn breaks ground near the Barclays Center

This morning, Greenland Forest City Partners broke ground on 535 Carlton Avenue—the second tower to rise at Pacific Park in Brooklyn, the development formerly known as Atlantic Yards. The COOKFOX-designed masonry tower will rise 18 stories and include nearly 300 affordable units: 50 percent middle-income, 20 percent moderate, and 30 percent low-income. COOKFOX is also designing the nearby 550 Vanderbilt, a market-rate condo tower that is expected to get underway shortly. An eight-acre, Thomas Balsley–designed park—called "Pacific Park"—will run between these two towers, replacing what is currently a surface-level parking lot. Today's groundbreaking also came with the unveiling of a glossy new website for Pacific Park and some new renderings of 535 Carlton, seen below.