Hard Hat Tour! Catching Up With Billy Ruvelson & The ICON Plaza at USC









On May 3, The Urban Observer caught up with Billy Ruvelson, a friend of the blog and one of the developers behind The ICON Plaza at USC, for a hard hat tour of his 56-Unit student housing development at the corner of Exposition and Figueroa across from the USC Campus. The building has come a long way from where it was just one year ago, when we interviewed Mr. Ruvelson a few months after the project’s groundbreaking.









Scheduled to open to new residents in August of this year, the building is beginning to take on the looks of the initial renderings. The shots above show the the ground floor lobby and retail space from the inside. The large circular feature you see in the picture to the right will house retail facing out to the corner of Exposition and Figueroa. The building will feature retail frontage along both streets. The lobby will have high ceilings, carded security access, and a mezzanine level with a lounge area.









Continuing the tour, the pictures above show some of the innovative interior space that Ruvelson believes sets the ICON apart, in the eyes of prospective student tenants, from other private student housing developments in area. To the left is the impressive “Presidential Suite.” The top floor, corner unit features the same circular living room window as the corner units below it, but with an additional 3 feet of ceiling height, with an added layer of window space. It may be hard to tell from the picture, but the unit offers sweeping views of the USC Campus and Exposition Park with sight lines to Baldwin Hills. The building’s additional units feature private bedrooms for all but 66 of its  273 beds, an important selling point for prospective tenants. The interior common space features an open atrium (seen above), pool, sundeck, 24-hour fitness center, study lounges, and a host of other amenities that were definitely not offered in the dorm I lived in freshman year.









The ICON Plaza is scheduled to open in August of this year, just in time for the 2012-2013 school year. At the time of this article, the building was 96% pre-leased, with all units filled and only a few open beds remaining. Ruvelson contributes much of  the successful pre-lease to the project’s ideal location. The project is across the street from USC’s campus and just steps to the coliseum, the Galen Center,  Exposition Park, and 2 different stops on the recently opened Exposition Metro Rail Line (not to mention the attractive mix of retail coming to the ground floor – Ruvelson said that tenants will be revealed soon).   He also cited the private rooms, security features,  and the laundry list of amenities including in-unit laundry, stainless steel appliances, and quartz countertops as big draws for students and parents alike.

Ruvelson said he aims to make the ICON Plaza “The best address at USC. ” In doing so, he has paid incredible attention to detail in nearly every aspect of the project. The project succeeds in focusing intently on the resident experience. he explained that everything from the campus sight-lines looking out of  the exterior windows to the “zen-like atmosphere” of the leasing office is meant to make students (and the parents ultimately footing the bill) feel at ease.


The Icon Company

The ICON Plaza at USC


La Cienega Strip Club Gets 125-Unit, 50 Million Dollar Neighbor

ImageGlobeSt reports that construction has started on the NMS @ La Cienega at La Cienega Boulevard and Westmount Drive (MAP). According to the website for the project, the NMS will bring 125 units of ” One and Two Bedroom dwellings for rent over ground level retail and two levels of subterranean parking.” Jim Andersen, president of developer NMS Properties, told GlobeSt, “The project also will provide residents with onsite retail, dining and entertainment options along with modern exterior design.”

Killefer Flammang Architects has been tagged to design the project, slated for completion in July 2013. The project will be nearly 200,000 square feet and will cost an estimated $50 Million.

 Interestingly enough, neither the article nor the flashy website mention that the project’s neighbor to the south is strip club Star Strip. In addition, it sits directly across for La Cienega staple Trashy Lingerie. At least residents will have all their “adult” needs covered within a one block radius.

Article: GlobeSt – Construction Starts on $50M Multifamily Project

Project Website: http://www.nmslacienega.com/ 

Champion Real Estate Buys Second Hollywood Parcel for Mixed-Use Development…

Globe St. reports that Champion Real Estate Cohas purchased the 1.14-acre commercial parking lot at 1717 Cherokee and 1718 Las Palmas pictured above for an estimated $10 Million in an all-cash transaction. UPDATE: Champion Paid $9.2M for the site, which is actually 1.1 Acres, meaning a price tag of approximately $192 per sq ft – according to a close source) This acquisition comes almost a year to the day after the firm’s March 2011 $20 Million purchase of a 2.76-acre, 5-building, adjacent redevelopment site spanning the Selma Ave facing side of the block between Las Palmas Ave and Highland Ave. A rendering of the proposed mixed-use development for that site is pictured below. (See Champion’s description of the project here, click on “Projects” and then on the star icon just to the left of the word “Glendale” on the map)

As for the new purchase, Globe St. reports that the company will continue to operate the parcel as a commercial parking lot while entitling the land for another mixed-use project. With the lot currently kicking of a 5% ROI, Champion can afford to be patient with its plans for the new development. However, Globe St. quotes Champion as saying, “Long term, as the transformation of Hollywood continues, we believe the property will be perfectly suited for a mixed-use development that will include public parking, residential, retail and possibly a hospitality component.”  The Globe St. article goes on to explain, “Champion could not elaborate on the mixed-use project until the City Council approves the community plan update, which will dictate what the developer can build, but he does tell GlobeSt.com that the price in mind for the mixed-use project at this point is around $50 million.”

Champion Acquires Parking Lot With $50M Plans (GlobeSt.)

Image Via Champion Real Estate Companies

NEW Renderings of Farmers Field

There were some new space-agey renderings of Farmer’s Field released today on their Twitter Feed and Facebook Page. Check out their face book page http://www.facebook.com/farmersfield for more renderings and continued updates.

Image Via Farmer’s Field Twitter Feed

James Hotel Seeks 2-Year Extension From WeHo Planning Commission

On the agenda at tonight’s West Hollywood Planning Commission Meeting is a a request for extension from Gary Zimberg, VP of Development for the James Hotel Project at 8950 Sunset Boulevard. Plans for the hotel trace back to pre-recession times and have a decidedly pre-recession feel. From the TenArquitectos website:

Located on the south side of Sunset boulevard, the James hotel offers a microcosm of the Los Angeles lifestyle. A solid white block on the exterior, the building, like a geode, opens to a colorful, crystalline interior. The simple massing of the hotel represents the zoning envelope for this long-empty site; its continuous facade evokes a monolithic volume rather than an assemblage of parts. The program comprises underground multipurpose halls, a convention center, a dance hall with separated lobby and reception, apart from the lounge bar, the pool, terraces, restaurant and club.

As of today, though, the 8950 Sunset site remains an empty lot.  The James Group website makes no mention of a Los Angeles location or any plans for one in the future. According to the planning commission agenda, the commission will recommend  granting an extension to the project until October 18, 2011.

Images Via TenArchitectos

Developers Submit Plans for Downtown Culver City’s “Parcel B”

The image above is of what is known as Parcel B, in downtown Culver City. The site, located at 9300 Culver Boulevard, has entitlements for a three-story, 100,000+ square foot development (40,000 square feet can be used for retail and restaurants and 74,000 square feet for office space) with room for 84 subterranean parking spaces. City officials in Culver city have been pushing to find a new developer for the property since 2009, when financing fell through for a planned development.

The Los Angeles Wave reports that over the past week,  developers vying for the project made presentations to the city council and members of the public.  The four groups who made presentations include the Tolkin Group, Runyon Partners, a joint venture between Combined Properties, Inc & Hudson Pacific Properties, and Cardiff Realty Holdings with the McDevitt Company, who exclusively represents Urban Outfitters.

The public has five more weeks to submit comments and suggestions regarding all four proposals. In November, staff will return to the council and redevelopment agency board with a recommendation for the project.

Highlights of each developers proposal:

Tolkin Group – (Proposal HERE) (Powerpoint Presentation HERE)

  • Multi-use retail, restaurant, entertainment, health fitness and creative office project.
  • Uses, alley system behind the existing buildings to form two new pedestrian walkways that would allow access to the development
  • “Washington Promenade,” on the street on the south side of the project adjacent to Culver Studios;  an interior   courtyard that would be named after Lillian Roberts, the love interest of city founder Harry Culver; and a plaza     large enough to accommodate city events such as live music and festivals
  • A sustainable “green screen” to cool offices and businesses. Incorporation of some solar design and a power             generating system on the roof

Runyon Partners – (Proposal HERE) (Powerpoint Presentation HERE)

  • Project name “Paseo” looks to the future of downtown, while also remembering the city’s history
  • Outdoor retail paseo with offices above and up to two levels of parking below; 95,000 square feet (30,000 square feet  retail, 10,000 square feet for a yoga studio and 55,000 square feet for office use)
  • Architecture references Spanish and missionary style buildings found throughout Culver City, and blends with other city buildings. Buildings would vary in height and size, clustered around around two interior pedestrian     streets, which would connect to wide courtyard areas with fountains

Combined Properties/Hudson Pacific – (Proposal HERE) (Powerpoint Presentation HERE)

  • Showcase Culver Studios and Culver Hotel; offer retail that enhances other downtown businesses; create an anchor to attract new customers to the area
  • The firm looked to The High Line in New York City and the Spanish steps in Rome for inspiration
  • 15,000 square feet of new open space including a grand stair that could be utilized as amphitheater seating for outdoor events, and an elevated plaza that is “lushly landscaped”
  • Mix of local and national retailers including Urban Outfitters, YogaWorks, Apple, Patagonia, Santa Monica Seafood, Mac Cosmetics, Cowgirl Creamery and others
  • All retail would be placed around the perimeter to engage people from Culver and Washington Boulevards
  • Creation of three retail districts along Culver and Washington Boulevard and along the side where Culver Studios sits. Each will have a tenant base that works with anchors on the corner.

Cardiff Realty Holdings – (Proposal HERE) (Powerpoint Presentation HERE)

  • Urban Outfitters, Free People, and Lucky Strike Lanes among proposed tenants
  • Open-air shopping, a rooftop deck providing city views and a community garden that would be available to Linwood Howe Elementary Schools
  • Three separate buildings — each with a green roof — would be centered around a common area courtyard, which is exposed to the outside via three large entry portals
  • Building along Culver Boulevard would have a 13,000-square foot public park on the roof; The north building – over 15,000 square feet of ground floor retail, opening up onto Culver Boulevard and back into an interior courtyard. The second floor would be occupied by Lucky Strike.  The building along Washington would have 12,000 square feet of tenancy on the ground two floors for Urban Outfitters.

Read Full Articles:

  1. Culver City City Council Hears Plans For Downtown Parcel – LA Wave
  2. More Developers Detail their Bids for Culver City Parcel – LA Wave

Image VIA Los Angeles Wave Online

{UPDATE} Metro to LAX Takes Another Step Toward Becoming a Reality


UPDATE – The Los Angeles Daily News reports:

The White House announced today that it would speed through the environmental review needed to extend the Metro Green Line to Los Angeles International Airport.

The project was one of 14 chosen nationwide.

In August, the president signed a memorandum instructing federal agencies to identify and prioritize big, job-creating infrastructure projects.

Feds Expedite Metro Green Line Plan to LAX – LADN

Metro to LAX Takes Another Step Toward Becoming a Reality – The Urban Observer