Developers Reveal Plans For Parcel B
October 6, 2011
Council Chambers Packed Both Nights
The City Council chamber was packed on Monday and Tuesday evenings as Council/Redevelopment Agency members, civic leaders, and the public got to see and hear previews of the four developments proposed for 9300 Culver Boulevard, “known familiarly, if not poetically, as Parcel B,” in the words of Redevelopment Chair Scott Malsin.
The redevelopment of the site, currently being used for parking, has been a topic for almost 20 years, with past proposals failing to capture support or funding.
Last February, the Council and Agency Board approved a two-step process to select a developer for Parcel B. This involved issuing a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to identify firms that were best suited to developing the site, followed by a Request for Proposals (RFP) issued to the selected firms.
The four firms, Tolkin Group, Runyon Partners, Combined Properties Inc./Hudson Pacific Properties, and Cardiff Realty Holdings/N3 Real Estate, each gave a 15-minute presentation, followed by public comment, questions from Council/Agency members, and discussion.
Tolkin Group’s representatives, Peter Tolkin, Jonathan Tolkin, and Francine Tolkin-Cooper, described their company as a family business. In 31 years, Tolkin has created 32 downtown projects and claims to specialize in downtown developments.
Tolkin Group’s proposal is called “Culver X” because its location on Parcel B is the focal point of a “crossroads” where Culver and Washington Boulevards run together and then separate, where the downtown area is centered.
As described by Peter Tolkin, and as depicted in renderings on boards and in a model, “Culver X” will be a more or less triangular set of buildings, with a central courtyard and “paseos” in between the buildings, leading to the courtyard, which will function as a central “plaza.”
The paseos will be known as Culver Walk and Ince Walk, while the court will be called Lillian Roberts Court, after the wife of Harry Culver.
The buildings will feature retail businesses at ground level (the Tolkins declined to state the identity of these businesses at this point) and will have restaurants and entertainment facilities at the second level, with “creative business” space on the third level. Maximum height is 54 feet at the highest point; the south-facing side of the project will be only two stories. The design will incorporate Culver City history, with the “glamour of the movie industry” a major theme.
Joseph Miller of Runyon Partners presented his firm’s concept, known as “Paseo.” Also a roughly triangular set of linked low-rise buildings around a central court, “Paseo’s” design was inspired by Spanish and Missionary style buildings, the ranchos of early California and a “simpler” style of living. It is also meant to invoke the atmosphere of small European villages. The buildings are an assemblage of different heights, one, two, three, and four stories, but nothing exceeds the 54 foot limit. “Paseo” includes two interior pedestrian streets, outdoor dining at the entry to the court, retail and creative office space, and levels of parking.
Erlich/Combined Properties/Hudson Pacific Properties’ Scott Ginsberg and Steven Erlich described their concept, simply called “Mixed-Use Development,” a multi-level structure highlighted by a “grand staircase” inspired by Rome’s Spanish Steps.
The staircase is to lead down to the Town Plaza and is also meant to function as an amphitheatre, with the steps as seats. Ginsberg and Erlich could not say exactly how many people the stairway might accommodate but they thought it would be perfect for the Thursday night summer concerts and other entertainment events.
The Combined/Hudson project will feature 15,000 square feet of open space, 41,000 square feet of retail space, and will also accommodate an office component. It will be 56 feet high at its highest point but the plan is described as “flexible,” allowing lesser heights so that the Culver Studio will still be in view.
Lastly, Cardiff Realty unveiled its concept, ”Parc and Main.” Another triangular-shaped complex of three fairly low-rise buildings, the project’s name refers both to Culver City’s Main Street (across the street from Parcel B) and to the concept of “parks” in the form of roof gardens and green space on the roofs of all three structures. There will be 13,000 square feet of public parks as well as greenery on the sides of buildings, including “green art walls.”
Bart Higgins, architect, spoke of “Parc and Main” “curating” its tenants, its design, and its culture. While the focus is on retail and offices, with Urban Outfitters set to be an anchor business, the project will include a great deal of art and references to Culver City’s entertainment heritage.
Speakers in public comment had questions about all the projects, especially in regard to height and parking. Some also were annoyed with the presentation format. It was decided prior to the presentations to take community member’s questions as they came up but later on this became complicated, with the result that all questions raised during each presentation’s public comment section were written down by Community Development Director Sol Blumenfeld and were then read back to the developers so that they could answer them one by one.
It became apparent to the Council/Agency that the public’s questions, as well as their own, were numerous enough that the two presentation nights would not be sufficient. It was therefore decided that an additional meeting would be scheduled that would accommodate as many questions and answers as possible.
At any rate, the final decision on what project to go with will not be made until some time in November. Boards with renderings and information about the projects will be on display in City Hall’s lobby and information will also be available on the City web site.