The latest news on New York architecture.

Webmaster

Voulpat dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Sed diam nonummy nibh euismod tincidunt ut laoreet dolore magna aliquam erat volutpat.
%PM, %15 %600 %2013 %13:%Aug

Un-Cloistered View

Nicole Anderson Reports for The Architect's Newspaper. palisades_02 Hok's Design for LG Electronic USA. Courtesy Hok & Neoscape. For nearly 75 years, the view from the Cloisters—a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in northern Manhattan—overlooking the verdant cliffs of the Palisades in New Jersey, has remained unmarred by new development. Now the silhouette of LG Electronic USA’s 8-story headquarters will likely extend above the tree line and permanently alter the natural landscape. After a hard-fought legal battle by community members and environmental groups, the court has ruled in favor of LG’s plans to build an 8-story HOK-designed office complex, giving the company the green light to move forward with construction on the 27-acre site. “Clearly we are disappointed with the results. We view this as one step or one battle in a long and multipronged effort to get LG to lower the height of its headquarters,” said Hayley Carlock, the environmental advocacy attorney for Scenic Hudson. “It can be a win-win situation: LG can still provide as many jobs on that site while still preserving the iconic vistas of the Palisades.” Critics, public officials, and advocacy groups have been calling on LG to consider a redesign of the 143-foot high building that they say wouldn’t interfere with the historic vista. Officials at LG, however, have stated that their opponents have exaggerated the scale of the building, which is being designed by HOK. palisades_01     palisades_03 Proponent (left) and Opponent (right) renderings of how the project would look. Courtesy of Hok & Neoscape/ Courtesy Protect The Palisades. “It is really hard to understand why the tall building is so important to them,” said Edward Goodell, Executive Director of New York-New Jersey Trail Conference. “They argue that the building just peaks above the tree line when it is more than double the height of the tree-line.” Two Englewood residents filed a lawsuit in March 2012 contesting the decision by Englewood Cliffs Zoning Board of Adjustments to grant LG a variance change to exceed the 35-foot height limit in the area. Several groups, including Scenic Hudson, the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, and the New Jersey State Federation of Women’s Clubs, came to the aid of the litigants this winter to provide legal support and guidance. The two opposing parties had initially attempted to settle this dispute outside of court with the help of a mediator, but negotiations failed after several meetings. Carlock said that the groups plan on the appealing the decision within the next 45 days. “We have to band together and map out a strategy. We intervened after the trial took place unfortunately. But our whole reason of intervening at this point was to reserve out rights to appeal.” Meanwhile LG is already prepping for the demolition of the existing structures on the property to jump-start the construction process. "LG is not concerned about threats of the appeal,” said John Taylor, vice president of public affairs at LG. “Municipalities have the authority to determine the best zoning decision. LG did everything correctly during the approval process and we plan to proceed.”
resize_armory A plan to build the world's largest ice sports in the Kingsbridge Armory has the support of developers, the city and a coalition of community groups. Jordan Moss reports for the Bronx Bureau. For 20 years, community groups and the city wrestled over the Kingsbridge Armory. The latest and most likely proposal includes a landmark community benefits deal that could be a national model. Almost a century ago, in 1917, the Kingsbridge Armory opened for the National Guard. But the longest battle related to the landmark was launched in 1993 when the soldiers left the building as the state handed it over to the city. Twenty years later, peace is at hand. A proposal to turn the 575,000-square-foot landmark, on Kingsbridge Road in the northwest Bronx, into a widely unexpected athletic ice-skating center is just at the beginning of a six-month approval process, but it's widely expected to get the go-ahead. But already, the Armory saga offers a critical policy lesson for ordinary New Yorkers and grassroots organizations working to achieve the greatest degree of community influence on significant projects using public property. Over the past 20 years, the Armory has been the subject of proposals by school superintendents, who sought to relieve overcrowding, and neighborhood organizations, who wanted school space and community facilities—all shot down by the city. Mayor Giuliani proposed a sports and retail complex. That flopped. Mayor Bloomberg backed a mall, but that proposal failed amid a dispute with a community alliance over whether tenants would pay a living wage to their workers. Almost four years after the Bloomberg proposal's defeat, it now looks like an ice center boasting nine athletic skating rinks – the largest such facility in the world – is headed for approval, thanks to support from the community alliance (called KARA, or the Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance) the borough president, mayor and councilmembers. There appears to be zero organized opposition. The Kingsbridge National Ice Center would be the first permanent ice skating facility in the Bronx, a borough with thousands of immigrant families who've never skated in their lives. Some might scratch their heads wondering why the plan is considered a win by so many activists and community leaders. The reason, supporters say, is the Community Benefits Agreement the leaders of KNIC, KARA and other Bronx organizations signed. Its strength is unprecedented in New York City, according to experts. And it could be the model for other projects. A 20-year saga National military cutbacks and the structure's growing deterioration caused the state to vacate the Armory in 1993 and hand it over to the city. Between 1993 and 1996, two consecutive school superintendents had forums and armory tours with the public, hoping there was a shot at creating schools within the massive facility in a desperately overcrowded District 10, the second worst in the city. And while that didn't go anywhere, in 1998 leaders of the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition got to work, laying out their ideas with the help of the Pratt Center for Community Development. That led to an ambitious proposal for a project including three 800-seat schools, a sports complex, an exterior park and green market, restaurants, a bookstore and a community center. Despite years of meetings and rallies, that plan was essentially put aside. The city ruled out schools in the inner part of the building, claiming problems with lighting that community advocates were certain could be remedied if the Giuliani administration had committed to the idea. In January 2000, Giuliani picked RD Management and its partner, Basketball City, to replicate at the Armory their large sports facility in Manhattan. In addition to sports, the companies proposed setting it up a mall that included a movie theatre. But they never came through with a completed plan to push through the approval process. Officials like Adolfo Carrion, Jr., then a councilman, said the developer balked at a high redevelopment expense they didn't expect. Unlike Bloomberg, Giuliani never even issued an RFP (request for proposals). For almost five years after Bloomberg came into office in 2002, there were meetings, discussions and tours by officials that led to nothing. Many focused on where to relocate the National Guard, even though they were in separate buildings behind the Armory. So it wasn't until the fall of 2006 that the city's Economic Development Corporation released an RFP. It took three years for the city to choose Related Companies' proposal for a giant shopping mall, much like its controversial re-do of Bronx Terminal Market. But KARA, with strong support from the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) and Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., decided to vigorously oppose the plan unless Related guaranteed that everyone who worked in the Armory mall when it was done got a guaranteed minimum salary — $10 an hour with health insurance or $11.50 without. They argued that Related was receiving about $50 million in city and state tax breaks and paying a miniscule purchase price of $5 million (just replacing the roof years earlier cost the city $30 million). RWDSU and local, unionized supermarkets were worried about competition from new shops in the proposed mall that would pay lower wages. Diaz, Jr., who had just become Bronx borough president, took the political lead on pushing these efforts. “I want to do business in the Bronx,” Diaz said at a big Coalition/KARA gathering in 2009 when Related was pushing its plan. “[But] it is not radical to simply say, a) we should protect surrounding businesses and b) we should have jobs and livings wages.” He added, “You want to do business, we can do business. But business has to be good for everybody.” In his consistent mantra on this issue, he added: “If you want to create a mall on your own dime, [then go ahead and pay what you want]. If you want a subsidy, then the community deserves a subsidy as well.” front Councilman G. Oliver Koppell (D-Riverdale, Kingsbridge, Norwood, Woodlawn, Wakefield)—whose district borders the armory—was flexible on the specifics, but unwilling to let a mall go through with significant public funding but no benefit to workers. “If Related had living wage jobs, we would have gone through with it,” he said. Related, a large corporation — with mall projects throughout the city and country — wasn't new to including the living wage (they do just that in Los Angeles where it's required) but Bloomberg clearly didn't want to set a Big Apple precedent. “From early in the planning process, we made clear we would never add mandatory wage requirements which would make the project unviable, and that was a line we were never going to cross,” he said in a 2009 statement. “It's not the role of the public sector.” In a rare defeat of a project reaching the end of the public process (it had achieved Community Board 7 approval) the Council voted the ULURP down 45 to 1 in December 2009. Ice comes to the Bronx After the Council defeat, the Bloomberg administration did little on the Armory. Diaz commissioned a large study of options for the building; it was criticized for reflecting hope more than realism. But the mayor and city's Economic Development Corporation (EDC) did finally put the armory back on the policy play list in early 2012, launching another request for proposals. Early on, the city announced it was considering two finalists, the Kingsbridge National Ice Center, which proposed the world's largest ice facility, and a flexible market, planned by Youngwoo and Associates, with entertainment, recreation and business incubator space. EDC took its time – 14 months after the proposal was launched in early 2012 —to announce they were going with the Ice Center, which, if approved by the City Council, will be the world's largest with nine rinks. KARA didn't get to decide what the Kingsbridge Armory would become. They weren't invited to promote a vision at the beginning of the process but they met with both Youngwoo and the Ice Center before EDC made a decision. “Ultimately [KNIC] offered a CBA so we started working with them [more closely] to make sure that was going to happen,” says Elisabeth Ortega, an active KARA negotiator, who got involved with the Coalition eight years ago as a youth leader. Kevin Parker, KNIC's CEO, discussed the impact of KARA's efforts at a June press conference in front of the armory. “If the community wouldn't want us here, then we wouldn't come,” he said. CBAs raise questions Several New York City projects—Yankee Stadium, Columbia's West Harlem project, Atlantic Yards, and others—have included CBAs but advocates have often detected a key flaw: the lack of a robust enforcement mechanism if the developer goes back on his or her promises. In early 2006, many Bronx elected officials hailed the CBA attached to another deal with the Related Companies—turning the Bronx Terminal Market into a mall—as unprecedented. Related signed off on investing $3 million in job training and other programs and reserve space for local and minority-owned businesses. “This agreement should serve as the benchmark for doing business in our borough and throughout the city,” said then-borough president Carrion in his state of the borough address. But most of the 18 groups that participated in the process said they were not invited to play any role in the final decision. And groups criticized the fact that Related would only have to pay a fine of $60,000 if they didn't do what they promised and that their employment promises only affected their own hires, not those that would occupy the Bronx Terminal Market over the long term. The supporters of, and experts on, strong CBAs say agreements led by politicians are simply not CBAs, since elected officials get to vote up and down on the agreement and their decisions may be determined by issues other than the development project at hand. The KNIC CBA promises to be different. Brokered by community groups, its admirers say it includes a remarkably broad array of benefits—and a tough enforcement clause. A broad set of benefits If approved by the City Council, the Armory will have nine ice rinks including one that can seat 5,000 people “and be used to host national and international ice hockey tournaments, figure and speed skating competitions and ice shows,” according to EDC. KNIC also promises that its investment of $275 million will create 890 construction jobs and 267 permanent positions. In addition to living-wage salaries, KNIC has agreed to a variety of detailed community support: a focus on local hiring and contracting; construction of 52,000 square feet of community space; developing a small-business incubator; $1 million of community in-kind services including giving northwest Bronx residents a discounted rate and priority access to the ice-skating facility; free or discounted tickets for seniors, students and low-income families. There's also an agreement for a remarkable 27 “greening” efforts for the project including providing healthy working conditions for employees and contractors; discouraging the sale of sugary drinks, high-fat and highly processed food; collaboration to promote asthma awareness; and ensuring that 20 percent of the project's space stays undeveloped and is accessible to the public. NWBCCC and KARA have provided only a summary of the formal CBA (a more substantial, but unofficial “Execution Draft,” is here') until a press conference later this summer—making it impossible for Bronx Bureau to confirm that the deal includes a strict enforcement mechanism. But those directly involved with the negotiations cite their success with certainty. “We think it's a landmark agreement and it's an amazing victory for people in the northwest Bronx,” says Harvey Epstein, a project director of the Community Development Project at the Urban Justice Center, who cited the CBA as “a legally enforceable contract.” If necessary, you “go to court to enforce it. It's like any contract. You don't pay me back, I go to court.” Julian Gross, a San Francisco-based attorney who works closely with Partnership for Working Families on community benefit issues, agrees. “What makes it a strongly enforceable CBA is that it is legally enforceable by a broad range of independent community organizations and they had a good legal counsel while they were drafting it,” he says. “And it resulted from an inclusive community driven process. [These are the] three things that make it a strong CBA.” ‘Organizing works' Ronn Jordan, 48, got involved in the Coalition's armory efforts from the very beginning. He joined up with the grassroots group when, thanks to severe overcrowding, his kindergartner got bused from PS 56, the small public school a couple of blocks from his apartment in Norwood, to the most southern part of District 10. In June, Jordan proudly came up to the KNIC announcement from Daughters of Jacob, a Mt. Eden nursing home where he now lives. He wouldn't have come if he wasn't proud of where things are finally headed, but he's still keeping his eyes on what put him to work in the first place. One CBA section addresses this concern directly. KNIC has vowed to seek approval to de-map the area behind the Armory on East 195th Street, still occupied by the National Guard, to provide school space. They've also promised to spend up to $100,000 to achieve that. “We pulled a lot more stakeholders into this and the final result,” Jordan says. “Whether the ice center makes it or not, the end result is: organizing works. If you never take no for an answer, sooner or later the answer becomes yes.” In 1993, when the Guard vacated, Koppell highlighted a potential model for the Armory: Lake Placid's ice skating facility with four rinks. He doesn't claim that something he stressed a couple of decades ago, without much support, is relevant to what's happening now. But he believes vigorous opposition to city policies teaches mayors, and all city officials, a key lesson — that the community's efforts should be relevant in all such significant projects. “The key thing is to work actively with the community and try and meet the legitimate demands of the community when you're putting together a project,” Koppell says, adding, “You can't always accommodate every community need but you should try, and not try and push something through just because it's feasible.” Gross, the attorney from Los Angeles, says that as strong as the Armory CBA is, it's critical that community groups stay engaged. “I'm optimistic that groups in this CBA can monitor access but I would also like to see broader community involvement in CBA implementation,” he says. “It should be a shared task.” Lessons learned To get things to this point, it took 15 years of the Coalition’s devoted activism and nine years for all the groups under KARA. That raises the question of whether the vast time and effort on behalf of so many community residents and paid organizers, was worth it. “If the impact of this project was just limited to one community, then I would have a serious question about the utility of a fight that was that long,” says Mary Dailey, who was the Coalition's executive director from 1994 to 2005. But, thanks to the persistence of the organizers, they were able to achieve an unprecedented fusion economic justice and environmental sustainability into the final CBA deal. “That can have a positive impact on projects beyond the scope of this individual project [and] around the country,” Dailey says. For all the excitement over KARA's achievement, CBA experts wish residents could play even more of a key role—as the Coalition pushed for early on—in determining what was going inside the massive landmark. “There should have been more representation before the [city's] RFP [Request for Proposal] goes out,” says Good Jobs New York project director Bettina Damiani, who has shared her expertise with the Coalition. “We're still at a place in New York City where major development decisions are made without the communities at the table. The community is still left to react to a proposal that is designed by officials. What KARA managed to do was really insert itself as strongly as I've seen in that process.” Joan Byron, the director of Policy for the Pratt Center for Community Development who worked with the Coalition for many years after their push began, hopes Giuliani's failure, and Bloomberg's still-pending, but likely, success has an impact on how the next mayor handles similar planning. “'We're still going to have stuff to build,'” she envisions him or her announcing, “'but we're going to ensure that it has benefits for the community.'”
%PM, %07 %575 %2013 %12:%Aug

In Place of an Eyesore

Julie Satow reports for The New York Times. Countless New Yorkers have driven by the construction rubble that lines the Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive from East 35th Street to East 41st. The eyesore has lingered there for more than a dozen years, the target of virulent community opposition, fraught City Council hearings and a lengthy approval process. Now the first shovels have hit the ground, and the block-front on First Avenue between 35th and 36th Streets will soon be transformed into two curving, copper-clad residential towers, creating some 800 new high-end rental units. “These buildings will really be a game-changer for the neighborhood, which is one of the most underdeveloped in Manhattan,” said Pamela Liebman, the president and chief executive of the Corcoran Group. A division of the company, Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group, is working with Citi Habitats to market the project. The neighborhood, a slice of Midtown East sandwiched between Kips Bay to the south and Turtle Bay to the north, is ripe for development. The Second Avenue subway will eventually make it more accessible by mass transit, and the massive Midtown East rezoning — when and if finally approved — will probably result in new office buildings. Some builders have already taken notice, with the Zeckendorf brothers, for example, recently topping off an 88-unit condominium nearby at 50 United Nations Plaza. In many ways this strip along First Avenue, which has long been considered a medical corridor with anchors like Bellevue Hospital Center and N.Y.U. Langone Medical Center, is comparable to the Far West Side. That neighborhood, which also hugs the water, has undergone fairly extensive development since the Hudson Yards rezoning and the extension of the No. 7 subway line. As for the copper towers, at 616 First Avenue, their protracted saga began in 2000. That was when Sheldon H. Solow, the developer best known for his many lawsuits and prickly personality, partnered with the Fisher real estate family to buy 9.2 acres in three parcels from Consolidated Edison for around $600 million. Over the years the partnership dissolved, and Mr. Solow proceeded alone, cajoling politicians and negotiating with various city agencies to rezone the land for residential and commercial use from manufacturing, and spending millions of dollars for design work and environmental clean-ups. In 2008, Mr. Solow won approvals for a $4 billion development comprising seven towers, with designs by Richard Meier and Skidmore Owings & Merrill. But work never proceeded, and earlier this year Mr. Solow sold one of the parcels — just slightly more than one acre — for $172.5 million to JDS Development — which is now in talks to acquire the two remaining parcels, according to sources with knowledge of the deal. After having fought to get city approval for rezoning, Mr. Solow has a property worth far more than when he acquired it. (Calls to him seeking comment were not returned.) His decision to sell part of it to JDS raises intriguing questions. Mr. Solow, who shuns the spotlight, is well into his 80s, with a storied career in New York real estate as the builder of the tower at 9 West 57th Street and other iconic structures. In many ways he is a foil to Michael Stern, JDS’s managing partner. A Long Island native who did not graduate from college, Mr. Stern, 34, is often quoted in the press. He is a relative newcomer, having embarked on his New York City real estate career in 2004 after a stint with a developer in Florida. It wasn’t until 2011, with the start of marketing of Walker Tower, a high-end condominium in Chelsea, that he broke into the mainstream. But he has become one of the city’s most prolific developers, racking up high-profile projects including the 1,000-foot-tall condominium he is building with Property Markets Group at the former Steinway Musical Instruments building on West 57th Street. “I had known about the assemblages on the East Side,” Mr. Stern recalled, “and when the opportunity came up, I saw it as a unique chance to make a large impact on the skyline.” He added that he “pursued it aggressively.” The First Avenue development, which has not yet been named, broke ground in July and has an expected completion date in early 2016. At 49 and 40 stories, respectively, the towers can be built “as of right,” being the same size as in the plan proposed by Mr. Solow, although their designs differ significantly. “This area hasn’t seen any great architecture since the development of the United Nations” in 1947, said Vishaan Chakrabarti, a partner at SHoP Architects, which is responsible for both exteriors and interiors in the project. “This could be a harbinger of things to come in terms of getting more innovative design along the East River.” 04deal-2-popup The two buildings bend and connect via a sky bridge, billed as the showstopper, which will feature an indoor lap pool and a lounge area. The development will also have a rooftop deck with an infinity-edge pool, a fitness center, a boxing gym and a squash court. Other amenities include a children’s playroom, a screening room, and a demo kitchen and dining area. “The buildings are modern and fresh,” Mr. Chakrabarti said. “They dance with each other, not like Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, but like Shawn and Beyoncé,” Shawn Carter being better known as Jay Z. The copper curtain wall that is to cover the northern and southern facades is a nod to the artist Richard Serra, whose torqued metal sculptures provided design inspiration. “It is not just the metal itself,” Mr. Chakrabarti said, “but the feeling of the electrons that move between the metal, the tension between the two forms.” The other sides will be glass. The site flooded during Hurricane Sandy, so the developer plans to put all building mechanicals on the second floor; he also envisions eight-foot floodgates, backup generators and a special outlet in each unit that will work in the event of a blackout. The development includes plans for a privately owned park, still contingent on the approval of the city’s Department of City Planning, and for a public elementary school that will open this fall. Twenty percent of the apartments will be listed below market rate, and in exchange the developer will be eligible for a 20-year real estate tax abatement. “We really wanted an iconic design,” Mr. Stern said. “This is a large-scale site, one of the largest residential developments to hit Midtown East in a very long time, so it is important not to miss the mark and to push the envelope.” Luxury Rentals Take the Stage Increasing numbers of developers are pursuing luxury rental buildings like JDS Development’s new towers under way at 616 First Avenue. The concept is especially popular in up-and-coming neighborhoods, where it is often easier to attract rental tenants than condo buyers. Developers have been encouraged to pursue the trend by the success of buildings like the Related Company’s MiMA on the Far West Side and Forest City Ratner’s 8 Spruce Street in the financial district. Now joining the party is the institutional investor Invesco, which is rolling out a luxury rental brand in New York. Known as Instrata, it will be applied to several of the company’s rental products here, including Mercedes House on the Far West Side. That building, on West 54th Street, was originally built as a rental with condominiums on the upper floors. Invesco bought the condominium portion earlier this year, and will rebrand those top 11 floors, or 162 units, as rental units and name them Strata at Mercedes House. “Instrata is going to be our strictly luxury assets in New York,” said Michael Kirby, a managing director at Invesco Real Estate. To be included in the brand, buildings must have condominium-level finishes and offer plenty of amenities. The landlord will offer free concierge service to all tenants of Instrata buildings, he added. Other properties being similarly repurposed include the former Madison Belvedere on East 29th Street, to be known as Instrata NoMad; the Elektra on Third Avenue, now called Instrata Gramercy; and 75 Clinton Street, to be renamed Instrata Brooklyn Heights. Some of the buildings were conceived as condos; those built as rentals will be retrofitted with higher-end finishes or additional amenities. “Over the past several years,” said Rob Neiffer, a director at Invesco Real Estate, “there has been an influx in the number of high-end rentals. Before that, anyone who wanted to rent in a luxury building had to go to a condominium, so we identified this void in the market and are hoping to fill it.” This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: Correction: August 2, 2013 An earlier version of this article, using information provided by Invesco, misstated the street where Instrata Belvedere will be located. It is East 29th Street, not East 44th. A version of this article appeared in print on August 4, 2013, on page RE1 of the New York edition with the headline: In Place of an Eyesore.
%PM, %16 %633 %2013 %14:%Jul

The Washington Monument Illuminated

Kriston Capps reports for The Washinton Post washmonument0081373334305 The Washington Monument is broken — and it hasn’t looked so good in years. Put in place after the structure was damaged by an earthquake in 2011, the scaffolding creeping up the 555-foot stone obelisk like kudzu has overtaken the memorial. Let’s keep it that way. On Monday evening, the National Park Service held a special ceremony to illuminate the monument using more than 400 lights. Lit up like a spectral tower, it has a new civic purpose. “It is a way of saying, ‘We are here, and we will always be here,’ ” National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis said at the ceremony. The scaffolding does more than that. It gives us an opportunity to reconsider our least enlightening memorial. Although we fawn over other patriotic marble, we don’t get mushy about this monument. In the summer action flick “White House Down,” for example, Jamie Foxx, playing the president, asks the pilot of Marine One to execute an illegal maneuver just so he can get a glimpse of the Lincoln Memorial’s seated statue — the memorial where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963 and President Richard Nixon debated student war protesters in 1970. Meanwhile, on film, the Washington Monument has been destroyed by an earthquake in “2012” and by aliens at least three times — in “Earth vs. the Flying Saucers” in 1956, in “Mars Attacks” in 1996 and in the only season of the NBC sci-fi series “.” But under scaffolding, the monument is — quite inadvertently — newly relevant. Because Americans broadly agree that governance in this nation is broken, there is a casual elegance to the symbolism of a monument to national unity under construction. We are a work in progress, the cracked memorial reminds. Our union is not perfected. The same can be said for the Mall. Its defining feature is its indefinability. It represents the vision of no single planner, politician or architect. Rather, as Thomas Luebke, secretary of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, writes in “Civic Art,” the monuments “are the conscious creations first of political will, translated through the work of design visionaries who sought to communicate the political ideals of the nation.” The Washington Monument, at the center of an ever-changing landscape, is always in progress. It belongs under wraps. Today, the obelisk looks like Germany’s Reichstag in 1995 when, after three decades of debate, the German Parliament allowed artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude to wrap the building in fabric for two weeks. Just five years after the nation’s reunification, this was an artistic accomplishment, but a civic one, too. The Washington Monument looks like it has been encased in an animated version of itself, lines drawn in blue fabric to evoke its brick pattern if that pattern were drawn by, say, the pop artist Roy Lichtenstein. The monument wore this same armor once before: The National Park Service and Target commissioned architect Michael Graves to design the scaffolding and fabric for a restoration between 1998 and 2000. He managed to encapsulate the world’s tallest stone obelisk in scaffolding that does not actually touch it. It looked cool then, and it looks cool now. It makes aesthetic sense — and fiscal sense, too. Recession and austerity have led architects to reconsider, reuse and rethink buildings. Consider the “Bubble”: a proposal to build a temporary inflatable pavilion on the plaza of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden right up through the doughnut-shaped building. An unprecedented piece of inflatable architecture, the plan nevertheless ran out of air. Still, for all its novelty, the Bubble was typical of a new instinct to reinvent even things that seem immutable. It’s too bad that project failed. Washingtonians and tourists might have greeted the seasonal inflating of the Bubble the same way they have received the Washington Monument under scaffolding: with utter delight. At Monday’s ceremony, as officials turned on floodlights level by level, starting from the base, iPhone-wielding videographers turned out in force. Flickr and Instagram are chock-a-block with pictures of the enmeshed memorial. That’s nothing new for the monument, maybe — but it is rare for anything obscured by scaffolding to get so much love. Washington yields too few opportunities for this kind of “Mission: Impossible” design. We should envy New York for its High Line, a new kind of park built on a former elevated rail by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, the same architects who proposed the Bubble. Our neglected civic infrastructure feels no less abandoned than that elevated line once did. For every controversy like the one over a proposed Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial designed by Frank Gehry that some criticize as underwhelming, there are a dozen monuments that go unnoticed. Doughfaced President James Buchanan has a memorial, but how many people know it’s in Malcolm X Park? We don’t want to pave over our history, but we’re allowed to reimagine it. Surely some will balk at the notion of mucking with the Washington Monument. But history shows that the meaning of even this singular structure has been negotiated over time. Construction, begun in 1848, was completed in 1884, interrupted by a civil war that broke the notion of national unity. The monument’s stones feature inscriptions from the bible, but when Pope Pius IX contributed a block of marble to its construction in the 1850s, members of the anti-Catholic Know-Nothing Party reportedly threw the stone into the Potomac River. And when the monument was completed, it was hardly thought of as an anchor to an immutableMall. In 1897, philanthropist Charles Carroll Glover, of Glover Park fame, succeeded in having the entire Mall designated a park. President Grover Cleveland had suggested that the strip be dedicated to residents’ vegetable gardens. The Mall is nearly full. Even looking past our political impasse, the space to build isn’t there. Fortunately, an emerging crop of American designers is used to working under difficult circumstances. Adaptive, sustainable design belongs on the Mall because the Mall serves as a record of the times — from the faux Norman-style revivalist Smithsonian Castle to the poured-concrete brutalist-designed Hirshhorn. And as a nation built on a living Constitution, we should not hold a memorial, even one that honors George Washington, too sacred for future generations to monkey with. The illuminated monument will continue to dazzle spectators after sundown for six months or so. But even after its cracks are repaired, we should leave it as is: enmeshed by brackets and cross-braces, wrapped up like a sword in its sheath. Let’s make it last. What if we agree to take down the scaffolding when Congress can pass a bipartisan bill declaring it finished? Then we’d know that some national healing had taken place.
%PM, %18 %614 %2013 %13:%Jul

Inside Dumbo's First Houses

Jeremiah Budin reports for Curbed NY Dumbo's first townhouses, at 55-57 Pearl Street (aka 169 Water Street), were referred to by one Landmarks Commissioner as "a little landmark in the making" and just hit the market (pre-construction) for $4.1 million each. The five identical houses, brought to you by Alloy, Dumbo's residential developer of the moment, will share a common facade made primarily of a super-concrete called ductal, allowing them to fit into the neighborhood's industrial landscape. And even though they're not the classic brownstones that everyone in the borough is clamoring for, Alloy's recent Dumbo success, combined with the current demand for Brooklyn townhouses, indicates that the question is not if these places will sell, but how quickly. A little more about what you'll find on the inside >> Each 18-foot-wide, five-story house features four beds and three baths, as well as private parking, a private roof deck, and 20-foot ceilings on the parlor level, made possible by a third story mezzanine which is like a little second living room on top of the first living room. PLAN 1_1414851-55-pearl-street-brooklyn PLAN2_1414852-55-pearl-street-brooklyn
Hana R. Alberts reports for Curbed NY big rendering Zaha Hadid may have lost out on the competition to design the High Line, but now the Iraqi-British starchitect is back in the 'hood with a design for her very first New York City building. In fact, this time around, she beat out big names including Norman Foster—to whom she lost a competition to build an office tower at 425 Park Avenue—to get the gig. Hadid is known for dreaming up swooping, curving, space-age structures, and the 11-story condo building headed for 520 West 28th Street is no exception. Developed by Hudson Yards masterminds Related Companies, the site was actually quite limiting, according to New York Magazine's preview, which kept Hadid's grand swooshes in check. "You can't really go wild," she told NY Mag. Yet writer Carl Swanson observes that it still "comes off like the delightful Earth home for the weary intergalactic superrich," with two wings of uneven heights, a chevron pattern on the exterior, rounded corners, and jutting-out terraces that make the facade excitingly far from uniform. More about the 37 apartments within, and the amenities >> Within the 11 stories, Related says in a release issued this morning, will be "37 residences of up to 5,500 square feet, focusing on expansive, gracious layouts with 11-foot ceilings, thoughtful technological integration and state-of-the-art finishes and features. Designed with multiple elevator cores, a majority of the residences will have a private vestibule and entrance that adds to the intimacy of the building." There will also be a double-height entrance lobby, communal spaces, and outdoor garden. Other amenities include a substantial roof terrace, indoor pool and spa, entertainment space, and playrooms. And now, just because we can, more about Hadid's imaginative visions (which she thinks most New York City neighborhoods are too staid to handle): Hadid is a fan of Mad Men, and the developer jokingly called the split-level unit the "Don Draper apartment." Her firm is designing the ­interiors as well, including lobby walls for which they are experimenting with ­"water-jetted" marble, giving them a ­frozen-in-stone ­liquid patterning. Welcome to the ring, Zaha.
%PM, %11 %587 %2013 %13:%Jul

Laurie Olin wins National Medal of Arts

Inga Saffron, Inquirer Architecture Critic, reports for philly.com laurie olin   Laurie Olin's most famous work was the 1988 transformation of Bryant Park in N.Y. from drug-dealing haven to serene refuge. Laurie Olin says he really meant to retire two years ago. He even had notices sent out to announce he was handing the reins of his Philadelphia-based landscape architecture firm to his partners. But projects kept coming up that he couldn't resist. The grounds of the Barnes Foundation. The Apple campus in Cupertino, Calif. Dilworth Plaza in front of City Hall. So, at 75, Olin is as peripatetic as ever, jetting off to Europe and the West Coast to see clients. On Wednesday, though, he'll take a break from long-haul travels to meet President Obama and receive the National Medal of Arts, in recognition of his lifelong crusade to create tranquil oases that make cities more livable. For Olin, who favors bow ties and tends toward the self-effacing, the award is a chance "for me to swim quietly among the celebrities," who include the likes of director George Lucas, playwright Tony Kushner and soprano Renee Fleming. What he fails to stress is that he is only the fourth landscape architect (the second from Philadelphia) to receive the honor since its establishment in 1984. That puts him in the company of three of the field's most influential practitioners from the last half-century: Dan Kiley, Lawrence Halprin, and Ian McHarg, who, like Olin, spent his career teaching at Penn. Tall and lean, Olin is the product of the vast open spaces of the Pacific Northwest. Yet he "fell in love with cities" at the precise moment when places like Philadelphia and New York were hemorrhaging middle-class residents, and has always seen parks as a means of seducing people back. Olin is probably most famous for his 1988 transformation of Manhattan's Bryant Park, which had become a notorious drug-dealers' haven in the 1960s. He had personally witnessed a shooting there in 1968. But rather than fortify the space against such behavior - the popular approach at the time - Olin and his late partner, Robert Hanna, tore down walls to make it easy to saunter in from any side. The biggest surprise in Olin's elegant, Parisian-inflected renovation was the decision to furnish the park with movable cafe chairs and tables. Critics were sure they would end up in pawnshops. Instead, midtown office workers flocked to the serene refuge, the dealers fled, and Bryant Park became a template for reviving battered cities. "It was a huge turning point," says Bryan Hanes, a Philadelphia landscape architect who worked for Olin and applied the same ideas to redesigning West Philadelphia's Clark Park. Olin's commitment to openness and access also informed the new landscape he created at the Washington Monument after 9/11. Although he was obliged to secure the tourist destination, his design is so subtle that the protective elements blend seamlessly into the landscape. It's hard to tell that a gorgeously sculpted granite bench is actually a truck barrier. Olin, who is well-known for drawing by hand, often produces designs that feel almost preordained. He says he prefers to be influenced by the "genius of the place," rather than design fashions. In fact, he is actively antifashion: "It's like saying God's work is out of date." He doesn't put his personal stamp on his work, although certain touches - the meticulous craft, the rows of trees - often reappear. "He strongly believes that civic space is not necessarily a medium for individual artistic revelations," explains Richard Weller, chairman of PennDesign's landscape architecture department. Olin's light hand can also be seen in larger projects, like the Penn campus, Battery Park City and Independence Mall. He has collaborated with the best-known architects of his generation, notably with Peter Eisenman on the Berlin Holocaust Memorial. But mostly he strives to create comfortable urban refuges out of the belief that "the hardest thing to produce in our society is calm and tranquillity."
%PM, %09 %636 %2013 %14:%Jul

Reconstructing Lady Liberty

As the Statue of Liberty reopens to the public Urban Omnibus interviews Lehrer McGovern about the 1984-6 renovation of the statue in preparation for its centennial celebration. Tomorrow, on Independence Day, one of our country’s most beloved monuments will re-open to the public for the first time since Superstorm Sandy destroyed the docks, promenade, and much of the infrastructure on Liberty Island last October. While the extreme winds and flooding wreaked havoc on mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and sewage systems, the Statue of Liberty itself was not damaged. The fact that the statue withstood the storm is a testament not only to the its original design — the elasticity of the structural support system Gustave Eiffel designed makes it highly weather-resistant, literally swaying in the wind — but also to the various attempts over the years to maintain and upgrade the historic structure. Indeed, Eiffel devised ingenious engineering solutions to realize the vision of political thinker Edouard de Laboulaye, sculptor Auguste Bartholdi, and architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc, the original designer of the internal structure who died unexpectedly in 1879 before the plans were complete. Eiffel’s solution to the structural challenges inherent to Bartholdi’s design prefigured the curtain-wall construction of the 20th century skyscraper: the statue’s skin is not load-bearing but is instead supported by a skeletal substructure of a 92-foot central pylon girded with lightweight and malleable trusswork that assumes the irregular shape of Lady Liberty’s body. Nonetheless, defects from the original construction have beleaguered the statue’s custodians since its opening in 1886. The head and arm were both misaligned with her body by more than a foot, forcing their attachment to different parts of the supporting structure than originally intended. And the chemical reaction between the copper of the skin and the iron of the armature was always bound to cause major problems. As Edward Cohen put it to The New York Times in 1985, “If you put iron and copper together with a little moisture, you get a battery.” A century of quick fixes to these and other challenges – including the use of asbestos, leather, tar, and lots of green paint – only exacerbated the issues that long plagued the monument. Cohen, an engineer who spent 50 years with the firm Ammann and Whitney, was part of a team, including architecture firms Swanke Hayden Connell and Thierry Despont, that worked tirelessly for two years to completely renovate the statue in advance of its centennial in 1986, a celebration presided over by Presidents Ronald Reagan and Francois Mitterand. Another principal collaborator on this group effort was the construction management firm of Lehrer McGovern, which was a modest four-year old start-up in 1983 when it beat out many larger and more experienced companies to win the sought-after renovation contract for the Statue of Liberty. The difficulty and high profile of this project accelerated the firm’s ascent to become one of the most respected construction management companies in the country. Thirty years later, on the eve of the Statue’s re-opening after eight months of repairs, Rosalie Genevro, Executive Director of the Architectural League, sat down with Peter Lehrer, one of the founders of Lehrer McGovern, to ask him to describe this pivotal project in his career. The story he tells touches on only some of the many fascinating details of this complex feat of historic preservation – from coordinating on-site logistics, to identifying suitable building materials and processes, to sourcing French artisans skilled in traditional metalworking techniques. As Lehrer’s description makes clear, the Statue of Liberty’s status as an enduring icon of freedom and the promise of America continues to overshadow the marvel of its engineering, construction, and ongoing efforts to maintain it. — C.S. I’ve had a life-long fascination with the construction business. My father immigrated to this country as a carpenter, and I remember following him around as I was growing up in Hell’s Kitchen. The thought never entered my mind that I would do anything other than build buildings. So I went to a university to become a civil engineer, and I have been in the construction business ever since. When I graduated, I started working for a major builder. One of my first jobs was as an assistant superintendent at the Pan Am (now MetLife) building. Sixteen years later, I was president of the eastern region, the largest portion of the company. In 1979, Gene McGovern and I formed Lehrer McGovern. It started around our kitchen table in Scarsdale, with my wife answering the phone. But within a few years, it had become a major construction company in New York. Lehrer McGovern was one of the early firms doing construction management – that was 100% of our business – which essentially means that the entire focus of the company was serving the clients’ best interests. I think the firm was respected because of its tenacity, its innovation, the caliber of its employees, and its ability to complete projects on time. In 1983, we got the job of a lifetime, restoring the Statue of Liberty. Our client was the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, and we had a very fixed completion date. There was no room for even one day’s delay because on July 4th, 1986, President Ronald Reagan was going to turn the lights on in the torch. 1986 was the 100th anniversary of the Statue’s initial construction. The project needed to be finished flawlessly and on time. When France donated the 100-foot statue in 1886, it was agreed that the Americans would build the pedestal. The U.S. was unsuccessful in raising the money in time, so when the 214 crates arrived on Liberty Island, the pedestal was not yet ready. It was only through the efforts of Joseph Pulitzer, who used his newspaper The World to campaign for small donations – in many cases pennies being sent in from schoolchildren – that the money was raised to complete the pedestal. One hundred years later, when the Parks Service, which is responsible for the statue, recognized that there were many problems that needed to be fixed, President Reagan once again appealed to private citizens for donations, appointing Lee Iacocca to create a foundation to fundraise and manage the process of reconstruction. Although much of the monies was raised by corporations, once again one million dollars was raised from pennies donated by school children. I think part of the fascination with the reconstruction was that literally everything that we had to do had never been done before. We were looking at groundbreaking, seemingly impossible problems, and coming up with some very unconventional solutions. We worked closely with the design team and with the National Parks Service, but it was Lehrer McGovern’s responsibility to find the solutions, to present and test them. Originally, the statue was already designed and well into construction before Gustave Eiffel was engaged to design the internal structure, which consisted of vertical steel members and a series of intermediate members. But what holds the copper skin to the Statue are approximately 600 armature bars made of a ferrous metal that follow the contours of the skin. To prevent the electrolytic reaction between the copper and the ferrous metal, they used an asbestos separator. But over time, the asbestos separator deteriorated and water started to penetrate through what we called the saddles, which clamped over the armature wall, riveted to the skin of the statue. What we found was that the expansion and corrosion of these armature bars had caused the fastening for many of these saddles to become disengaged. The government’s response to this water infiltration was to coat the entire inside of the statue with a tar material. But that actually accelerated the deterioration because the water then became trapped between the tar and the skin. And then it looked so bad that they continuously painted the inside of the statue with green paint. By the time we started working on it, the statue would have failed and potentially collapsed if the corrective work was not done. The job required working in a very confined environment, and conventional materials would be toxic and dangerous to either the workers or to the statue. We ended up removing the paint with liquid nitrogen, which was donated by Union Carbide. We literally froze the paint off! As workers and material had to come by boat every day, we had to build our own pier. And we had barges docked with those gigantic tanks of liquid nitrogen that we would spray on the statue to make the paint fall right off. The next challenge was figuring out how to get the tar off. We tried all sorts of different solvents, and amazingly we found that a solution of sodium bicarbonate, or baking soda, would remove the tar. Arm & Hammer donated the sodium bicarbonate. In a sense, this was probably the world’s largest Alka-Seltzer, and we were able to remove all of the tar. Afterwards, we were left with what the inside of the statue looked like when it was originally erected, which enabled us to go in and repair all of the armature bars. At the same time, because there was so much deterioration in the torch and the flame, we were faced with a very elaborate process of disengaging the existing torch and flame and lowering them to the ground. At the same time we rebuilt the flame in keeping with its original design: solid sheets of copper. It’s now lit externally, so there is no possibility of water infiltration. Now, when you look at it at night, it’s glowing, it has gold leaf paint on it surrounded by very powerful lighting. There were countless other aspects to this complex project: creating an emergency elevator within the pedestal, improving the ventilation system, repairing the circular stair. Providing access for the work to be completed required the scaffolding itself to be a creative and functional work of art. The scaffolding was constructed by a firm called Universal Builder Supply (UBS), and it still holds the world record for the highest freestanding scaffold ever erected. One of the very first challenges we had to solve was finding artisans who were able to work in repoussé, the metalworking technique used in the original construction of the statue. The technique involves creating negative molds out of wood and plaster and hammering flat sheets of copper into those molds. It’s a skill that doesn’t really exist here, so we went to Reims, France, and brought back ten French craftsmen – only one of whom was able to speak English – to do all the copper restoration. We set up a shop on the island with their tools and, of course, we had to solve a union problem since they obviously didn’t belong to a construction union. Since then, I’ve been fortunate to work on a wide variety of projects, from Euro Disney to London’s Canary Wharf, to the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, to the Central Park Zoo renovation. But rebuilding the Statue of Liberty was an incredible, special experience. It was an honor to work on this monument, and the more you learn about how innovative the design actually was, the more you appreciate this symbol of liberty in our country. My interest has always been to figure out how to do things that others think can’t be done. Looking forward, I’d love to be someone who helps protect the city against future floods. I’ve done a fair amount of work on flood mitigation, so I’m aware just how awesome the task at hand is. I just hope the needs are realized before it’s too late.
%PM, %27 %700 %2013 %15:%Jun

Henry Hope Reed 1915-2013

Paul Gunther remembers the contrarian classicist in The Architect's Newspaper. henry_hope_reed_03 Historian, author, and self-styled man of letters from an era when such amateurs had a loud voice in civic dialog and resulting public policy, Henry Hope Reed spent nearly a century working and living in Manhattan, which became his frame of architectural reference and the crucible of his ideas. He is the last surviving founder of the preservation movement with its alternative vision to the wholesale post war displacement essential to global modernist hegemony and its reliance on the car and attendant vertical hierarchies and linear sprawl. His path attracted the label of nostalgia, if not outright reaction with its perceived rejection of all innovative design solutions, technologies, and divisions of labor in meeting contemporary needs. Over time, Reed went a step further, calling for a classical design vocabulary to be applied in all new construction in line with his vision of a past “Golden City” needlessly abandoned by the rupture of modernism. It is this singular perspective that finally earned his reputation as obstructionist curmudgeon. Brendan Gill once said his fellow critic and gadfly would not be happy until every subway car featured Corinthian pilasters at well-proportioned intervals. His co-creation of Classical America in 1968 as a nonprofit organization devoted to advocacy, publications, and awards led eventually to its merger with the younger Institute of Classical Architecture, functioning nationwide today via 16 chapters dedicated to stemming the erosion of cultural memory by providing the achievements of the past as a resource for contemporary design. Reed’s opposition gave way to the more ecumenical pursuit of sustaining a body of knowledge for those seeking to understand and variously apply it. Marketplace realities were and remain a big reason why. What was lost in the acerbic fray of his final career chapter, when many stopped listening, was his pioneering role in recognizing and in turn safeguarding Central Park as a work of landscape architecture. The pioneering founder of the Central Park Conservancy, Betsy Barlow Rogers, knows best. “Reed’s 1967 book Central Park: A History and Guide written when holding the title ‘Curator of Central Park,’ which he invented with the blessing of Mayor Lindsay, was my primer when, as a new New Yorker, I was discovering my adopted city’s green heart,” she said. Reed’s lead paragraph summons exemplary wit: “Many other well-informed persons believe that one day in the last century the city fenced off 840 rocky acres of Manhattan Island and declared them park.” He salvaged Olmsted and Vaux from the creative scrap heap, as Moses was busiest working to dismantle their now seminal contribution to the conjunction of nature and design. A year earlier in 1966—a half decade before Earth Day—he implored Lindsay to ban car traffic from the park at all times. Reaction as radical progress; the Futurist, proto-modern vision of speeding vehicle versus man was called into doubt. While it took force on weekends, fifty years later his goal for a permanent ban still awaits the courage of self-described progressive officials, elected and appointed. henry_hope_reed_02 Reed also introduced America to the architectural walking tour in 1955, when New York’s Municipal Art Society agreed to his novel proposal inspired by the visites conference street lectures he had discovered in Paris. Like devotion to Central Park, it is strange to conceive of New York without them. He also rescued several collections of Beaux-Arts practitioners at a time when their career contributions were deemed at best embarrassing in the face of curtain wall function. Columbia’s Avery Library and the New-York Historical Society were prime beneficiaries in the latter instance, featuring the full nationwide output of Cass Gilbert, including his centennial-celebrating Woolworth Building. The widow Gilbert had no other place to turn in mid-century. In 2005, the School of Architecture at Notre Dame, with the support of Chicago investor Richard Driehaus, created the annual $50,000 Henry Hope Reed Award for “an individual working outside the practice of architecture who has supported the cultivation of the traditional city, its design, and art through writing, planning, or promotion.” It is bestowed every year along with the Driehaus Prize for Traditional Architecture, which for more than a decade has held forth as an alternative Pritzker Prize, despite its relative obscurity. On Capitol Hill, July 5, 1955, the House Appropriations Committee of the 84th Congress considered the 1956 appropriation to the Department of Defense as Reed sat side by side with Frank Lloyd Wright. Unexpectedly allied in testimony critical of the initial Skidmore Owings & Merrill proposal for an Air Force Academy in the Rocky Mountain foothills of Colorado Springs, their complementary view was the absence of and necessity for some sort of anchoring gathering place of shared value. The renowned chapel thus began to take shape. Henry testified, “In the creation of an Air Force Academy the Government I believe is not taking advantage of a great opportunity to assert the tradition of building magnificently with the aid of all the arts. By doing so all Americans gain the opportunity to reaffirm the bonds of citizenship in visual form—an opportunity that this Government has not offered them up until now.” The same debate continues today, made worse by tight budget battles, but finally the hopeful if often brittle theme of Reed’s lifelong research and clamor was the possibility of a stable and ennobling common wheal expressed through architecture in pursuit of a livable city. His personal classical solution was narrowly rule-bound but his driving civic hope was unlimited.
Jonathan O'Connell reports for The Washington Post  Old Post Office by Carol M. Highsmith_larger The General Services Administration has selected a proposal from Trump Hotel Collection, the lodging brand that bears the name of the New York real estate magnate, to turn the historic Old Post Office pavilion on Pennsylvania Avenue into a luxury hotel with at least 250 rooms, conference facilities, a spa and restaurants. Robert Peck, GSA’s Commissioner of the Public Buildings Service, issued a statement saying Trump was selected to save taxpayers money and take better advantage of the historic property. “Deciding to move forward with redeveloping this iconic property will save millions in taxpayer dollars each year. The tremendous response from the private sector allowed us to select a proposal that will provide a consistent revenue stream for the Federal Government and better utilize a historic property on our nation’s Main Street,” Peck said in a statement. “The Trump Organization plan will preserve the historic nature of the building and improve the vitality of Pennsylvania Avenue,” Peck added. “This redevelopment represents good business sense on behalf of the American taxpayer, the Federal Government and the District of Columbia.” Ivanka M. Trump, Donald Trump’s daughter and executive vice president of development and acquisitions for the Trump Organization, told the Post in July that the company held the building’s historic nature in high regard. “Preserving the architectural integrity of this great asset should be fundamental to all plans presented to the GSA,” she said then. Though listed on the National Register of Historic Places and located on Pennsylvania Avenue between the White House and the Capitol, the Old Post Office has been deemed under-utilized by the government. The General Services Administration began soliciting proposals.to redevelop the property in March. Trump bested number of other high-profile suitors for the property, including one from Hilton Worldwide to turn the property into a Waldorf Astoria. The Trump Organization, along with California private equity firm Colony Capital, plans to invest $200 million into acquiring the property and redeveloping it. In a Tuesday interview shortly after GSA’s announcement, Ivanka Trump said the existing hotel that best compares with what she plans for Washington is the Plaza Hotel in New York City. The new hotel will be called Trump International Hotel, Old Post Office, Washington, D.C. “The Trump Organization is committed to making this the finest luxury hotel in the world and we think the building’s location and historic nature will allow us to do that,” she said. The Trump Hotel Collection already operates luxury hotels in Chicago; New York; Las Vegas; Waikiki, Hawaii; and Panama, where the Trump Ocean Club became the tallest building in Latin America in July. Its newest hotel opened in Toronto earlier this year. How prominent will the famous and controversial Trump name be on Pennsylvania Avenue? Ivanka Trump said the company would take great care to preserve the building’s exterior while incorporating its brand into the redevelopment. “I think the historic facade of the building will be the greatest signage of all,” Trump said. Built in the 1890s, the Old Post Office is a national historic landmark and one of the tallest buildings in the city. The property underwent a makeover in the 1980s that failed to revive its fortunes. Now home to a smattering of federal offices and tourist-oriented retail and restaurants, the building loses more than $6 million annually and the annex is empty and in disrepair, with broken tiles, exposed beams and unfinished storefronts prevalent despite its enjoying one of Washington’s most prestigious locations, on Pennsylvania Avenue between the White House and the Capitol. The government and Trump still must come to terms on a final financial agreement, one that also governs usage of the building and preservation of its historic aspects. The GSA needs to relocate government agencies that are still operating inside the building, including the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. If negotiations proceed as expected, the GSA said that redevelopment could begin in 2014 and the hotel could be ready for occupancy in 2016. Among other respondents to the GSA’s solicitation for development partners were organizers of a National Museum of the Jewish People, which submitted a detailed proposal for a museum of Jewish heritage on the lower levels and a Park Hyatt Hotel above. Local firms the JBG Cos. of Chevy Chase and Monument of the District also made submissions. Members of Congress, particularly House Republicans, have sharply criticized the GSA in recent years for not doing more to use vacant or under-utilized real estate, taking particular aim at the Old Post Office. The House subcommittee that oversees the GSA plans to hold a hearing Thursday at the Old Post Office and earlier Tuesday, the House passed a bill that would create a new process for selling under-used federal buildings.

SEARCH

CONTACT US
1000 characters left