This past weekend, Studio One Eleven started work on a comprehensive plan for Virgil Village: a new neighborhood project sponsored by Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiatives (LANI). The focus of our study is Virgil Avenue, a mixed-use (but mostly retail-oriented) street between Melrose Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard in Los Angeles. Like a lot of our work, this project involves the design of streets and sidewalks as well as commercial façades along an economically-challenged part of town.
We’ve always recognized the significance of being involved in these types of projects. In fact, our studio was born as a result of working with the 4th Street merchant association to implement a commercial façade program on Long Beach’s Retro Row (www.4thstreetlongbeach.com). The success of that project affirmed our commitment to what we call “Community Retail Districts” – local/independent stores that serve the community and occupy older and historic buildings along public streets. Community Retail Districts are the public face of a neighborhood, and operate on the triple bottom line of economic, cultural, and social return. This contrasts with “Corporate Retail Districts” (a.k.a. “shopping centers”), which are privately owned and often provide economic return only to investors who are not connected to the community. (Visit www.cooltownstudios.com for more on natural cultural districts and their return to communities).
The latest edition of MetalMag features the Conservation Corps of Long Beach’s Environmental Education Center, which was designed by Studio One Eleven. Read the article below, or view it here.
Conservation Corps of Long Beach Environmental Education Center
By Jim Schneider
Founded in 1987, the Conservation Corps of Long Beach in Long Beach, Calif., is a nonprofit whose mission is to educate and develop basic work skills and ethics, as well as promote environmental conservation, self esteem and teamwork for at-risk youth in the Long Beach area. As CCLB’s programs grew, so did its need for space and improved facilities. The group has contracts with local property owners and nearby cities to collect recyclables and do recycling. These activities had been done out of the Corps’ headquarters, which wasn’t designed for that use, so it was decided to expand into a new space to house the organization’s recycling efforts.
Sandwiched between the I-91 Freeway off-ramp and Artesia Boulevard in North Long Beach, the proposed design will reposition an under-utilized automobile services store through a façade improvement in order to attract additional businesses. By reducing the footprint of the existing store, the buildings fronting major thoroughfares will be repurposed as neighborhood-serving retail. Existing service bays will be filled with storefronts and the existing concrete masonry block sandblasted to a natural finish. Other buildings will be skinned with multi-colored fiber cement panels, metal siding and smooth plaster.
The property will maintain the “All-Star” brand with nostalgic signage to provide continued visibility for the auto-service business, which will now be located at the rear of the site. Along with the as re-skinned buildings, there will be new outdoor amenities such as a covered dining patio, environmental graphics, and extensive landscape to soften the street edge. The goal is to balance identities for the new tenants with the overall character of the project while at the same time respecting a modest construction budget.
In many respects, San Jose, CA is just a normal American city. It features a lively downtown, stately office buildings, a convention center, suburbs, and even a hockey team, but it is neither beautiful nor in disrepair.
The normalcy of San Jose is contradicted, however, when you consider its light-rail system. Along First Street is something particularly unique: a light-rail train that glides quietly down a tree-lined corridor, moving seamlessly between pedestrians, cyclists, and sidewalk diners. This train is something to behold – it actually shares the sidewalk with pedestrians! Though slightly disconcerting to an outsider, the locals don’t even seem to notice it. It appears to have been harmoniously integrated into the character of the street.
Parking garage screening is meant to offer security. However, with a little creativity and some thoughtful detailing, it can also provide aesthetic impact with a cost-effective value!