October 11, 2016
By Dennis Kaiser
Southern California is experiencing a strong swell of development across the major property types. That activity extends across the region, encompassing a staggering number of residential towers underway in DTLA, as well as an interesting mix of housing projects in other product categories. In the first of a series of 3 CRE Q&A’s, Connect Media asked Scott Johnson, FAIA, Johnson Fain design partner, to share how the architecture practice approaches the design of high-density, mixed-use projects. His insights reveal what’s driving the urban housing resurgence, what projects are in demand and what makes projects work.
Q: What are the latest trends you are seeing emerge in urban housing?
A: Many young people, and others, are now moving into urban areas from suburban locations. While many of them used to drive to do their shopping, find services, pick up laundry or exercise, they are now wanting to do these activities nearby and without needing a car. That can mean different things to different new residential projects. In a pre-existing mixed-use neighborhood, it’s all about location and the range of amenities in the area. For a project area without amenities, it means internalizing social, commercial, and cultural services within the project itself, which is the case for Runway, the 10-acre mixed-use center we designed at Playa Vista. This project has been an immediate success, as it provides much-needed services and a public place for the nearly 11,000 residents of Playa Vista, who can walk, bicycle or jog to their new urban center.
Q: What’s attracting people to urban areas today, and how have the realities of living in urban environments changed over time?
A: There are many attractions to living in an urban area today, among them, a critical mass of amenities, social opportunities, entertainment and security. Frequently in the denser downtowns, living close to work is both an attraction and a cost savings if walking, public transit or ride-sharing is involved. Transit-oriented developments are now arriving at the urban core of Los Angeles, such as Blossom Plaza in Chinatown, where we designed an expansive public plaza that connects the mixed-use project to a Metro Gold Line station and a central shopping street. LA Plaza Village, which recently broke ground in downtown, will feature a pedestrian paseo that connects Union Station to nearby historic destinations, the Civic Center and the Performing Arts District.
Q: What amenities are most desirable? How have residential unit characteristics and features changed?
A: We’re seeing more people looking after their physical well-being, which means bigger, better equipped fitness centers, locations for purchasing organic foods and sometimes urban food gardens. Co-working environments are having their impact on the inclusion of social lounges within residential projects, where one can work alone, with others, or break out for conversation/entertainment. The residential units themselves are increasingly modern now, frequently neutral loft-like spaces which allow residents to personalize their choice of furnishings and artwork.
*Johnson Fain designed Runway at Playa Vista for Lincoln Property Company, Phoenix Property Company and Paragon Commercial Group; Blossom Plaza for Forest City Realty Trust; and LA Plaza Village for High Street Residential, the Cesar Chavez Foundation and the LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes Museum.
For comments, questions or concerns, please contact Dennis Kaiser