The Public-Private Pit

East, East Coast
Monday, April 5, 2010
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If you build it... Well, will ya? (D-Box/Courtesy Silverstein Properties)

The most recent deal to get the final pieces of the World Trade Center site off the ground was supposed to be, or so the players involved made it seem, the final one. No more handouts, no more delays. But as our colleague Eliot Brown over at the Observer points out, this is far from the first deal that has been brokered between the Port Authority and Silverstein Properties. It is in fact the fourth, and it quite possibly has brought the public’s total investment in the private portion of the site—to say nothing of such public expenditures as the $3.2 billion (formerly $2 billion) PATH station—to possibly $2 billion. “While the ultimate public tab may never come to be that high, what is clear is that the amount of public assistance for what is now to be two private World Trade Center towers with 4 million square feet is exceptional, and far more than ever advertised or anticipated when the rebuilding plan was sold to the public,” Brown writes. Read More

Detroit Harkens

Midwest
Monday, April 5, 2010
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Detroit's "grand past." CLICK TO ZOOM (Courtesy Raymond Cekauskas)

Last week, we reported on a new, rather unprecedented plan by new-ish Detroit Mayor Dave Bing to condense the city to fit its current population, which is half what it was six decades ago. Among the people we interviewed was local AIA President Raymond Cekauskas, a huge Detroit booster who sent along the picture above, a reminder of the city’s “grand past,” as Cekauskas put it. But it is also a fitting image of what the city could very well become under Bing’s plan, still in its chrysalis—a little smaller, tightly knit, transit-oriented (yes, transit is coming to the Motor City), in a word, homey, which we mean in a good way. Just look at all the gorgeous homes wanting for salvation. Meanwhile, a Tufts professor looks to Flint and Youngstown for similar shrinking models, though by no means on the same scale. Welcome to the Brave New Midwest.

Dark, Brooding, and Tangley

East, East Coast
Thursday, April 1, 2010
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The Noho Hotel will soon bloom with metallic flower petals. (Photo courtesy Curbed)

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. Read More

The Bright Side of Collapse

East, East Coast
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
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The 250-foot crane on Saturday, before its collapse and after. (Adam B./Courtesy Gothamist)

It may have been a jarring reminder of the two deadly crane accidents two springs before, but fortunately little more. A smaller mobile crane toppled onto 80 Maiden Lane in the Financial District on Saturday evening, but it caused little damage and no fatalities, unlike the collapse of two tower cranes in March and May 2008, which claimed seven and two lives, respectively. The exact cause of this latest accident remains unknown, but it was believed to be a combination of human error (the boom was not sufficiently lowered) and mechanical failure (bad hydraulics). In a twist of fate, the crane fell onto the building occupied by the city’s Department of Inspections, which is charged with routing out the corrupt inspectors who let the prior accidents happen, though there appears to be no malfeasance in this incident. Two days later, two Brooklyn condos under construction collapsed, Read More

Soho Salvage

East, East Coast
Thursday, March 25, 2010
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How long before 74 Grand Street is put back in place? (Courtesy Curbed)

Another piece of New York City’s historic fabric is disappearing. But only for a short time! We hope… Curbed swung by 74 Grand Street today and discovered that deconstruction of the five story cast-iron building was just getting under way. The building has been leaning for years after being undermined by construction a neighboring lot. Because it had gotten so bad recently—some 30 inches out of alignment in spots—the Department of Buildings declared the building would come down before it brought the entire blog along with it. Afraid a unique piece of the city would be lost, the LPC demanded the facade be replaced whenever a new building gets built on the site, and it would be locked up in a city warehouse until then. The LPC signed on reluctantly, as the oldest cast-iron facade in the city was once stolen from such a warehouse and sold for scrap. We’ve got our fingers crossed this time around.

LA Gets Gold (Energy) Star

West
Thursday, March 25, 2010
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LA leads the country in Energy Star-rated buildings. Perhaps it will help clear up that smog problem. (Courtesy Rubicon Project)

LA is rarely thought of as the country’s greenest town, what with all the traffic and sprawl, but it’s doing a lot better than you think, as the News informs us. For the second year in a row, Los Angeles has been ranked number one in terms of energy efficient buildings, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star ratings. LA made it to the top of the list by having the most rated buildings—ones that use 35 percent less energy than the average—with 293. The top five include Washington, D.C. (204), San Francisco (173), Denver (136) and Chicago (134). This does not exactly mean it is the most efficient period, Read More

Blood on the Tracks

East, East Coast
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
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God forbid, but we'll probably be seeing a lot more of this in the near future.

The MTA finally passed its so-called Doomsday Budget today. If this comes as a surprise, well, you’re not the only one taken aback. Last year, the transit authority was in a similar predicament—in part because the Legislature refused to implement congestion pricing but mostly because of the recession. But, as with most things in (at least New York) politics, an eleventh hour deal was brokered and the funds were found to stave off the draconian cuts. We figured that would be the case this time around, especially since the MTA’s new and particularly shrewd boss Jay Walder made all the right cuts that would be politically unpalatable for Albany to keep in place, like, say, Student MetroCards. So then why did they pass? Read More

Kingsbridge Conundrum

East, East Coast
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
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That's a lot of empty space to fill. (Courtesy Bing Maps)

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: Read More

A Day at the Park

East, East Coast
Monday, March 22, 2010
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New York's newest park, Brooklyn Bridge Park. (Click to launch slideshow)

We’ve already mentioned the opening today of Pier 1, the first piece of Brooklyn Bridge Park. But for those of you less concerned with park governance and public-private funding mechanisms—most of you, really—than with the actual park itself, herein is our guided tour (click the photo above to begin). While the rain may have dampened the mood of some New Yorkers today, not here in the park, which seemed brighter for the downpour, verdant as Ireland and twice as lucky for having opened after a 25-year struggle. The park, and even this first sliver of it, is magnificent and majestic, a transformative place so different and particular—not unlike the High Line—that it can change your entire perception of the city. Dan Kramer, chair of the BBP Conservancy, agrees. “When I walk around, I get the same feeling I get walking around the High Line” he said at today’s ribbon cutting. “This park feels like it was always here, like it always belonged here.” Read More

Riverside Redo

East, East Coast
Thursday, March 18, 2010
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Extell downsized near the water, but the density remains about the same. (Courtesy Curbed)

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. Read More

Rise of the Archi-doc

East
Thursday, March 18, 2010
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Archi-docs (TM) seem to have become an ever-more popular film form, from My Architect to Sketches of Frank Gehry and Snakebit. Starting tonight, the National Buildings Museum in D.C. is hosting an entire film festival dedicated to the archi-doc. The festivities kick off tonight with a screening of Moving Midway, about one relatives plans to move the family’s plantation home away from the sprawl encompassing it while at the same time selling the land to developers while others—including some former slaves—try to stop the move. On Monday, there is the debut of A Necessary Ruin, the work of LA-based filmmaker Evan Mather about the destruction of Fuller’s Union Tank Car Dome, the largest free-span structure in the world at the time of its completion in 1958 with a diameter of 384 feet (trailer above). And a week from tonight, Read More

$1K per Square Inch

East, East Coast
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
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It's not exactly one-of-a-kind, but for a thousand bucks, this model better be special. (Courtesy eBay)

Who says starchitecture is dead? While most projects, high-profile or otherwise, are still on the rocks, the market for boldface design remains strong. How do we know? That rinky-dink model of Herzog & de Meuron’s 56 Leonard Street that we mentioned last week, well, the eBay auction for it closed just past nine o’clock this morning. After 43 bids, the final price was an astonishing $1,166.11 (if you factor in the 30 bucks for shipping). Seeing as how that’s more than some East Village apartments, we’re going to take this as a leading indicator of better times ahead. Or maybe it’s just further proof of the problems that got us here in the first place.

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