Jack Skelley and JSPR thank colleagues, clients and cohorts for another inspiring year. May 2015 be even more awesome! This super-speed video grabs just some of the highlights of the year.
Blog: Updates on Urbanology
UCLA’s Alarming Rent Report: When it comes to rent, Los Angeles is the most unaffordable market in the country – worse than even San Francisco and New York. This dire situation has been growing for decades, as affordable housing dwindled and wages stagnated. UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and UCLA Ziman Center for Real Estate published a paper summarizing the data on this crisis. The news has been covered in Los Angeles Business Journal, Curbed LA, KPCC, and major financial media.
Creative Cooperation: There is a natural synergy between good PR and good branding. However, many marketing firms are missing in-house PR. JSPR is filling the gap. Since launching just over a year ago, JSPR has collaborated with SoCal’s best marketing teams in the realm of placemaking. These alliances are propelling high-profile developments in the region: With HEXA (L.A.’s top Asian media agency), JSPR helped make The Ritz-Carlton Residences at L.A. LIVE the best-selling highrise in Southern California. InterCommunicationsInc and JSPR are highlighting the innovative Elevon office masterplan in El Segundo. With Greenhaus and Sandra Kulli, JSPR is establishing a strong identity for the revitalization of downtown Anaheim. And with Gunn Jerkens we are building a whole new level of buzz for Playa Vista. Other collaborators are Urbana and Looking.
Elevon: Be honest. Are you excited about going to work? Maybe more people would be if their offices were – you know – exciting. That’s the concept underlying Elevon at Campus El Segundo: SoCal’s only new work environment allowing businesses to own their space. (A huge financial advantage, at today’s interest rates.). The innovative design is by Steven Ehrlich, the renowned residential architect. It translates how people love to live to how they want to work. The for-sale spaces of Elevon are moving quickly.
Transit-Oriented L.A.: JSPR continues its affiliation with Urban Land Institute Los Angeles and its ToLA events – Transit-Oriented Los Angeles. Last year ToLA made news when Mayor Eric Garcetti announced his Great Streets initiative: transforming city boulevards through creativity and economic power. Here is a video from the event. ToLA will host world-famous names in transportation design, November 12, at Japanese American National Museum in Downtown L.A. The event is themed: The Art of Go: Active Transportation for Healthy Cities. Here is a quick preview.
Huffington Post: In New York, biking is a contact sport. That’s the takeaway from a recent NYC visit comparing bike infrastructure in Manhattan and L.A. Both cities are lacking and that’s dangerous for all of us. You can read my monthly HuffPo column here.
One Santa Fe: JSPR is now repping the iconic One Santa Fe. Designed by starchitect Michael Maltzan, this new Arts District landmark is L.A.'s longest building (nearly 1/3 of a mile!), with 438 view residences. Its cool retail (The Yards) is from Runyon Group – the city's most adventurous retail team. One Santa Fe is an architectural mind-blower. Pure horizontality and odd angles render dozens of unique floorplates and views. OSF brings the long-blossoming Arts District to full flower. Just around the corner, former MOCA curator Paul Schimmel and international gallery powerhouse Hauser & Wirth will open a seven-building arts compound. One Santa Fe’s first phase opens in September.
Anaheim: If you think Anaheim is just Disney, the Ducks, The Angels and Convention Center (that’s not enough?), then visit The Packing District. It's where LAB Holding and the City of Anaheim created The Packing House. The beautifully restored, historic Packing House is packed with indie eateries. It’s a scene! SoCal’s answer to SF’s Ferry Building. The surrounding Packing District includes Farmer’s Park (with entertainment and farmers market) and urban dwelling at The Domain. Created by Brookfield Residential – and joining 1,500 new homes in downtown Anaheim – this is the residential centerpiece of The Packing District, and a true foodie mecca. Here is ABC7’s coverage.
Huffington Post: Look for my monthly reports on design in the public realm. A recent visit to New York City inspired an upcoming post comparing bike infrastructure in Manhattan and L.A. Both cities are dangerously lacking! Most recent column is about how major cities are suffering the worst from – and doing the most about – devastating climate change.
The Farm Campus: It was a blast working with writer Jessica Blotter andCuningham Group Architecture on this Fast Company article. The healthcare software campus is as green and innovative as any Google or Apple HQ, but it’s in the heart of rural Wisconsin and astonishingly disguised as a huge dairy farm!
Originally published on Huffington Post, 3.5.14
City watchers embraced the recent news that Frank Gehry has been rehired as designer of the Grand Avenue project. This is the $650 million stack of towers and plazas long-planned next to Disney Hall, also designed by Gehry.
Grand Avenue has been on the drawing board for nearly a decade. Like downtown itself, its fortunes have risen and fallen with the economy, and with planning decisions good and bad.
No one wants this key part of Downtown to remain barren parking lots. And Gehry’s exuberant designs are sure to boost L.A.’s reputation as the capital of creativity. So let’s applaud the progress.
But let’s also remember the problem that Grand Avenue was supposed to solve. Presently, the Music Center and Disney Hall preside over dead streets. For a cultural complex, it sadly lacks the street activity such a landmark should enjoy. Instead, concert-goers drive into underground garages, escalator up to the theaters, and scoot back to their cars to return home.
It’s a one-stop destination that walls off patrons from surrounding neighborhoods. (The same selfishness, symptomatic of L.A. planning, afflicts The Getty Center and Dodger Stadium.) The root of the problem is the Bunker Hill area where it sits. In a fit of misguided 1960s urban renewal, the hill’s Victorian homes were sheared off to make way for the Music Center. If even just a few of those homes were saved, the place might have retained an authentic vibe.
Like the rest of Downtown has.
For while Grand Avenue plans gathered dust, other neighborhoods thrived. The old banks and theaters now teem with lofts and cafes. The residential market can’t keep pace with demand. Hipster havens like Ace Hotel are reviving faded landmarks. Every week there’s another cool, new restaurant. In 2013 alone, 64 retail establishments opened – most by independent proprietors – according to the Downtown Center Improvement District.
These neighborhoods grow organically from a porous street grid, with narrow alleys, wide sidewalks, multiple storefronts, and pleasingly mis-matched facades. They do it without a starchitect.
As Downtown’s tide has turned, Grand Avenue is not the only mega project to resurface. After 27 years in a coma, Metropolis – the $1 billion plan near L.A. LIVE – has been revived by China’s Greenland Group and a Gensler design. Also near L.A. LIVE, developer Mack Urban will build a $750 million set of highrises. The Wilshire Grand’s 73 floors will make it the tallest building on the West Coast. And more big deals are lining up.
They will all include residences. They will all have brand-new buildings. They will all be ginormous!
The question is whether Gehry and the other mega projects can, starting from scratch, capture the magic Downtown is already generating. Will they selfishly corral pedestrians? Will they be bunkers and monoliths? Will L.A. commit the same old errors?
Rick Cole, Deputy Mayor for Budget & Innovation in Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office, is one of those who hopes for results that draw on traditional design principles like the ones sparking revival of Downtown's old core. Without prejudging Gehry's new conceptual design, Cole is skeptical of designers known for splashy architecture and not for attending to mundane details like the real-life experience of the pedestrian.
“Getting streets right isn't rocket science and it doesn't require ‘creativity,’ ” says Cole, the former Mayor of Pasadena who helped revive street life in Old Pasadena. “In fact, most 'creative' solutions have fallen abysmally flat because they ignore time-tested principles of how people behave. With Photoshop, you can show a space full of people in an illustration. But in the real world, you can't fix dead wall space at the ground floor with decorative pavement and landscaping. 'Door/window/door' is the science of engaging the pedestrian. We know how to do it in malls. We've forgotten how to do it on city streets. More grand plazas and gardens aren't the answer. Success comes from wide sidewalks and human-scale street activity.”
Let’s continue to succeed.
For example, JSPR is excited to announce superb new clients:
The Vermont: Wow, here's L.A.’s largest, new luxury highrise, with 464 for-lease residences. The Vermont has astonishing views, sleek design by Jerde Partnership, in one of the city's most vibrant settings (above the Wilshire/Vermont subway, with a superior “walk score”). Opening in April.
Playa Vista: Home base to L.A.'s Silicon Beach, Playa Vista opens six Modern-styled neighborhoods on February 22. They signal the final phase of the advanced community that also houses YouTube, Facebook, 72andSunny and The Clippers. JSPR has developed stories with The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
We continue working with other exciting places and people. Stay tuned…
On February 19 I host an Urban Land Institute panel discussion: “Can L.A. Streets Be Great? Urban Activism, Mobility and Socially Engaging Places.” The event includes representatives of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office and Downtown L.A. City Councilman Jose Huizar. There will updates on new plans for Broadway, and on the “controversial” My Figueroa street plan. (I put controversial in quotes because this enlightened proposal really should be embraced by all!) It happens in the cool Gensler “jewel box” space on – where else? – Figueroa.
If you want to know how I really feel about the My Figueroa plan – and the need for public spaces designed for the 100% of us who walk – see my latest column in the Huffington Post.
As they sing in the new Lego movie: Everything Is Awesome!