Walmart, Wages War in Chicago (Guess Who Won)

Midwest
Thursday, July 1, 2010
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These pro-Pullman protesters got what they wanted. (Ira and Andrea/Flickr)

After years of trying to land a second Walmart in Chicago, the world’s largest retailer succeeded in a big way yesterday when the City Council unanimously endorsed a Supercenter on the Far South Side, the anchor of a 270-acre mixed-use development. While only a few months ago the outcome of that store seemed uncertain, it all broke last week, when the unions reached a tentative agreement with Walmart to pay $8.75 an hour in its stores, more than the current minimum wage but less than was initially sought. On top of that, the retailer has cast doubt on whether a surefire deal has been set. Meanwhile, the city is bracing for the prospect of dozens of stores, through a deal arranged by Mayor Richard Daley, both a bane and a boon as it could mean an investment of $1 billion though also a costly one if it undercuts current retailers. The Sun-Times‘ incomparable Fran Spielman spells it all out for us: Read More

Design Writer Has Sweet Dreams for New Domino

East
Thursday, June 17, 2010
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You can do better! (Manu_h/Flickr)

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. Read More

Walmart? Fugedaboutit!

East Coast, National
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
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The stores of Gateway Center 1. Might the second phase include a Walmart? (Courtesy Related)

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.

SHoP Floats

East, East Coast
Thursday, April 8, 2010
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SHoP's plans for the South Street Seaport may be back from the dead. (Courtesy SHoP)

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.

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

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

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

Swallowed by the Green Monster

East
Monday, March 15, 2010
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The Rose Kennedy Greenway has yet to take root, at least not from a land-use perspective. (Danielle Walquist/Flickr)

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. Read More

Willets Wonderings

East, East Coast
Monday, December 14, 2009
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The city saw a robust response to an RFQ for the development of the western portion of Willets Point in Queens.

The city saw a robust response to an RFQ for the development of the western portion of Willets Point in Queens.

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. Read More

So Long SCI-Arc

West
Friday, September 11, 2009
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3030-3060 Nebraska Avenue, once home to SCI-Arc, is no longer worth preserving says Ray Kappe. (Courtesy Santa Monica City Council)

3030-3060 Nebraska Avenue, once home to SCI-Arc, is no longer worth preserving, says Ray Kappe. (Courtesy Santa Monica City Council)

“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. Read More

Atlantic Yards Money Pit?

East
Thursday, September 10, 2009
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SHoPs new design for Forest City Ratners Barclay Center arena in Brooklyn. (Courtesy SHoP Architects)

SHoP's new design for Forest City Ratner's Barclay Center arena in Brooklyn. (Courtesy SHoP Architects)

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.

Never Surrender Admirals Row

East
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
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The timber shed, the one building—out of 10—to be saved at Admirals Row under current plans. But not if the MAS has anything to say about it. (Courtesy Brownstoner

The timber shed, the one building—out of 10—to be saved at Admiral's Row under current plans. But not if the MAS has anything to say about it. (Courtesy Brownstoner)

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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