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Category ArchiveFrank Gehry

Editor’s Note: California, Here We Come!

Reading through our California correspondent Alison Stateman’s birds-eye view of the Los Angeles real estate market, I had one of those apple-falling-on-the-head epiphanies.

“Last year alone saw streaming giant Netflix fully lease 415,226 square feet of office space between the ICON and CUE buildings on the Sunset Bronson Lot at 5800 Sunset Boulevard at an estimated rent of $4.75 to $5 a square foot per month.”

Wait a second…the rent on Sunset Boulevard is $4.75 to $5 per square foot?

Taking a look at Cushman & Wakefield’s fourth-quarter 2017 Greater Los Angeles office report the figure was even more shocking: $3.29 was the average asking rent, up from $3.01 the previous year.

What the heck—I wondered—is Commercial Observer doing taking office space in Downtown Manhattan, where the rent averages $60.23 per square foot, as per C&W’s fourth-quarter Manhattan office report?

As worldly as we pretend to be, New Yorkers are still extremely provincial when it comes to knowing the way things function outside of our five-borough plot of heaven. And, if anything, being caught off guard by the fact that rents were so low in the second most-populous metropolis in the nation reinforced precisely why CO is launching a Los Angeles newsletter and including regular L.A. coverage on the website.

First off, New York real estate professionals should know this kind of stuff. We’ve long said that real estate is a national story as much as a local one—and the serious real estate professionals should be versed in the growing, thriving markets no matter where they’re based.

But second, and more important, it’s critical that a market like L.A., which saw 12 million square feet of leases signed last year, has an outlet dedicated to real estate news. For months we talked to brokers, publicists, architects and retailers—all of whom told us the same thing: L.A. needs a publication like CO.

Our model is simple: We are doing the same sorts of features that CO has covered so well in Gotham for more than a decade. This includes sitting down with some of the giants of the industry like Frank Gehry, probably the greatest architect of his generation; news of transactions like Intercontinental’s $123.5 million buy in Burbank; how these transactions are financed, like Runyon Group’s $38 million construction loan for a mixed-use development in Culiver City; the state and local news that affects development; data analysis like the fact that L.A. is the second-largest coworking market in the country; Q&As with California’s finance professionals like Invesco’s Charlie Rose (not the same as the talk show guy). And more.

As we delve further into L.A. coverage, our mantra from New York will be, “Hooray for Hollywood!”

Source: commercial

Let’s Get Frank: Gehry on New York, LA and the Future of Design

“You wouldn’t want me to retire,” Frank Gehry warned. “I’d turn into a monster.”

This kind of candor is typical of Gehry, age 88, who has plenty more iconic projects on the horizon and no plans to slow down anytime soon—a splint on his hand attesting to a broken finger, notwithstanding.

Dressed neatly in chestnut-colored corduroys, black shirt and white Nike slip-on sneakers, Gehry sat close in one of his self-designed bentwood Cross Check chairs for a frank, freewheeling conversation at his headquarters in Playa Vista on the west side of Los Angeles in early January.

Gehry spoke about the humanity that great architecture can convey and the mistaken belief that such work is fiscally out of reach for commercial projects. Even with the soaring nature of his work, including the upcoming Grand Avenue Project in downtown Los Angeles across from his iconic Disney Concert Hall, which is being done in partnership with Related Companies, he pointed to the practical. He broke down the return on investment of his groundbreaking work on the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, which has generated an estimated 650 million euros for the Basque treasury and 5,000 local jobs since its creation in 1997.

But flip a switch, and he’s on to some of the artists who have played the hall. “I’m interested in classical music and the literature surrounding it,” Gehry said. “And a lot of my life is spent with those people. Gustavo Dudamel, Pierre Boulez, Yo-Yo Ma. I love those people, and when I can, I hang out with them, I go to their concerts. Pierre died, but we made a building in Berlin and named it after him—the Pierre Boulez Saal concert hall.”

One of his long-time colleagues Meaghan Lloyd, a partner in his firm, listened in on the talk. “My wife works here, my son works here, my daughter-in-law works here, so it’s kind of a family operation. Meaghan has become family; that’s why she’s overprotective,” Gehry said. (He might also be alluding to, perhaps, the fact that before an interview could be scheduled, a nondisclosure agreement had to be hashed out, which is apparently standard operating procedure with Gehry.)

Overprotective audience or not, the Pritzker Prize-winning architect, who has lived in Los Angeles since relocating from Toronto in 1947, spoke with Commercial Observer about that and much more.

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The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Spain. Photo: Getty Images

Commercial Observer: Are there any projects looking back that you would have done differently?

Frank Gehry: Yes, every one of them [laughs]. I’m always self-critical. It’s a self-critical process that you go through as you design and that continues. I see things I should have, would have wanted to do differently or better. I would like to make the windows [differently] or some shit like that.

But I am disciplined, so I stop. I know if you open that can of worms, you’ll never get anywhere.

I read an interview in which you said that every time you start a project it’s like starting over in your life.

Yeah, especially for a commercial project. Projects like a museum are a little more ephemeral. They don’t have that same kind of [objective]. They have to be some place you’d be proud to hang your art in.

What do you think of the all-glass skyscraper designs?

They were inevitable, but the way they are being built makes you wonder. They’re kind of banal; why do they have to be that? Most people would say, “Well, it costs money to make architecture.” Well, it doesn’t. Architects can build a building that qualifies as architecture with the same budget as a commercial project.

So, things don’t have to be so cookie-cutter.

They don’t. If you look at our building in Australia for the business school [The Dr Chau Chak Wing facility for UTS Business School in Sydney], which is a brick facade, it’s wiggly brick. You would not think it would be possible in a school building, but we did it for a reasonable, rational budget.

What other buildings have inspired or continue to inspire you, either now or in the past?

The Parthenon [laughs]. No, contemporary, certainly the Notre Dame du Haut in Ronchamp by Le Corbusier. The tower is a bit more difficult. The Einstein Tower in Berlin is one of my favorites. It’s sculptural. It has a humanity to it, a clarity. It’s sited beautifully. The architect who sited it knew how to capture the relationship with the other buildings. I tried to do that with the Beekman Tower [at] 8 Spruce [Street in Lower Manhattan] having the exterior skin talk to the Woolworth Building and the Brooklyn Bridge, so it becomes an ensemble. It creates a visual neighborhood that’s very successful there. You see it, and you feel it when you’re there.

What was your thinking behind the design of 8 Spruce?

Well, the Woolworth Building has a terra-cotta exterior skin and windows that are designed in a vertical. It has stair steps so the tower goes up a certain way, and then it steps back, and then it goes up. On top is a little triangle cap, so we made the Spruce building have stair steps. I didn’t put a top on it out of respect for the Woolworth Building. If we had put a top, we would have been like “look at me, too,” whereas if you don’t, you accrue the value of the Woolworth Building to your space. It becomes part of you.

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8 Spruce Street in the Financial District. Photo: Getty Images

You were working on Pacific Park [formerly Atlantic Yards] in Brooklyn originally, but that didn’t go forward. They switched gears.

That didn’t go [forward] because it hit the recession. That’s a complication that has nothing to do with architecture. I don’t know what the economics of having a basketball team, basketball stadium are and the difficulty of building over the tracks, but the difficulties of that became exacerbated by the economic drop. They had to punt, as it were, and look for a different way. They were very polite to me. They were fair and gentlemanly about it. They brought in some local guys.

What do you think about the project as it stands?

I haven’t seen it. I can’t do it because I loved that project so much. I’m sorry [laughs]. I’m happy that they did it, but…

In terms of projects, you recently taught a course at Yale University on prison architecture.

Well, there is a group, the Open Society [Foundation], and it’s run by George Soros. They asked us to look at what would we do when designing prisons and jails as they stand with the idea that we’re going to try to lower the incarceration rate and keep an eye on recidivism. What would you do, how would you deal with it? What I decided to do was give it as a project to the university and work with the kids, so instead of one example, we’d have 10. We did it at SCI-Arc [The Southern California Institute of Architecture]. We gave them the jail downtown to do. It’s a beautiful site. They visited jails in L.A. and did research on it. And they came up with 10 or so solutions. They were more like campuses. Some of them were beautiful ideas so they’re going into some sort of book they are using. I teach at Yale every other year. The term just ended two weeks ago, and they were given the Cheshire [Correctional Institution] prison in [Cheshire] Connecticut and some of the same problems.

Was that emotional for you working on a project like this?

Yeah. It was sad to be involved in it. I had a hard time myself. The facilities are terrible. A lot of my time is now spent on philanthropy. We’re very involved with the [Los Angeles River].

Can you tell me about that project, where it stands, what’s needed? [Gehry was brought on board by L.A. River, the nonprofit group that was founded in 2009 by the city of Los Angeles to coordinate policy on the river.]

Living in L.A. all these years, I was not interested in the L.A. River. I knew it flooded. I knew people died. I knew people were trying to make it a recreation space, a habitat space. I met some of those people who were very committed to that. I felt that was a nice thing they were doing. It just wasn’t my thing, so I didn’t get into it. I was called by some of [Mayor Eric Garcetti’s] friends and supporters from the movie industry who came to my office.

When was that?

Four years ago. And they said you know New York just built a High Line and it’s really successful. We have 51 miles of river. Could you take a look at it and see if you could turn it into something like the High Line? And I looked at them and said I thought the High Line was a relic, rusting railroad bridge. It was left over from a former era that was not being used and nobody wanted to tear it down so there it was.

What do you think of the High Line?

I thought it was interesting, but…it’s not a lasting thing. The thing that’s different about the L.A. River than the High Line is that the L.A. River is a flood-control project. That meant that water is coming from the hills and gathering. Then somebody had the brilliance to build a concrete channel to take care of it, so it didn’t flood. Then they sold all the land right up to the edge of it. So now what do you do? The [U.S. Army] Corps of Engineers were studying habitat and recreational studies and planning biking and swimming and hiking and kayaking.

We studied the river for three years and created an index for it, which is online and very thorough. It analyzes the health problems, the economics, the dangers, the pluses and minuses of it. We could not see in our study a way to use it for recreation, but since the Corps of Engineers were working on a plan for recreation, who were we to dismiss it?

They were saying it only flooded 2 percent of the time, so therefore it’s not a big deal. The reality is that the channel is designed for that flood. Even though 98 percent of the time it is empty, 2 percent of the time I call it Godzilla, [and it] comes and reams your butt. It’s dangerous, and when that happens, it takes out people all along the river. You have to stay with the original idea from the Corps of Engineers.

What are your thoughts about the wave of commercial development that’s been happening in downtown L.A.?

It looks like practically every other city in the world.

What’s missing?

It’s crappy. I don’t recognize it as L.A. anymore.

What happened? What made it more “L.A.” before?

City Hall had more power. The buildings seemed to speak more to the city. A few of the towers were O.K., but that barrage of new stuff that’s being done now, it’s mostly with foreign investors that have no real L.A. commitment. They’re just coming in. They don’t want to talk to people like me. When you are a big foreign developer or even the L.A. ones [they think] there is something mystical that I’m going to do that’s going to cost more. It doesn’t, but they’d rather work with people who sort of work with everybody so they all look the same. You can’t really pick out much that is unique in downtown L.A. Harry Cobb’s building, the Library Tower [renamed the U.S. Bank Tower in 2003], that was kind of special, and Cesar Pelli did a building [777 Tower] that’s kind of white, around Eighth or Ninth Street, that’s still there. It’s very simple, very to the point, very beautiful. It has a nice humanity about it.

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The IAC Building at 555 West 18th Street in Chelsea. Photo: Getty Images

I wanted to ask you about the IAC building at 555 West 18th Street, your first freestanding structure in New York City. Didn’t Barry Diller want glass versus the metal you originally planned to use?

Barry Diller was not deeply involved with me on the design in the beginning. Marshall Rose was the partner in charge. Marshall worked with us to develop the design. We met with Barry intermittently, and because Barry is Barry, he had things to say which we accommodated. He was very outspoken about what he didn’t like and what he did like. And, by accident, the first models were made with a white plastic, and he loved that, and he said, “I want a white building.”

Do you find it different working in New York, L.A. and internationally?

I had a good time working in Spain, in Bilbao. The Basques are incredibly precise people. They live up to their promises, and even without a contract, you can count on them. It was great. I consider it almost a second home, a second family, and I go there all the time for the people more than the building.

The Disney Concert Hall is so different than the image many may have of traditional Disney. What was the reaction initially?

Well, Lillian [Disney] was one of the benefactors. I spent time with her, and she was crazy nice, a wonderful lady, fun to be with. She told me stories about Walt [Disney] all the time. Her taste level was not…she liked little cottages of brick and stuff. She even sent me a picture once of a little brick cottage.

Oh, is that the direction she wanted you to go in?

She said, “Could you go more in this direction?” And we had a little bit of a misfire for a while. She loved the interior. The exterior she had trouble with.

What brought her around? Obviously, what you created was very different from a little brick cottage.

I was not shoving it down her throat. I wasn’t giving her a hard time, but I said, “I’m not going to go with a little thatched roof cottage. That’s just not going to happen.” Her daughters, Diane and [Sharon] called me and said, “Mom said we should take over on the building because we love what you’re doing and she trusts us.”

Diane saved it. Diane Disney Miller saved the building on all counts and supported me through thick and thin. I barely knew her. I did not spend time trying to convince her. I asked her why. She said she remembered her father coming home from the studio being beaten up aesthetically over his designs, and she said this felt so much like that and she wanted to cut through that to give me a wide berth. Everybody now on the Philharmonic board credits her with having had the strength of character to see this through and make sure it was architecturally in every way consistent.

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The Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. Photo: Kurt Krieger/Corbis via Getty Images

Are there any architects working today that you admire?

Yeah. There are a lot of them. It’s hard to pick one out, and then the other ones will be pissed off [laughs]. I like Rem Koolhaas and Zaha Hadid, who passed away. There’s a guy Greg Lynn, who I love dearly. He’s not doing the kind of architecture that we’re talking about. He’s doing industrial design.

I know you developed technology for your designs that weren’t possible before.

O.K., now you’re opening the box. Thirty years ago, sitting in that seat right here was the CEO of Dassault Systemes. We had used his software in CATIA [a software suite for computer-aided design] to build the Fish in Barcelona and then to build the Guggenheim in Bilbao. It enabled us to build it on budget and save money. It was precise. We then used that software to do a building for another architect in Hong Kong. Our tech team that we used in-house, we sent them there to work on this building and saved 18 percent of the building cost. And then at Beekman Tower at 8 Spruce, we did the exterior skin with no change orders on the skin, which is a wiggly surface, which is complicated.

So, I had the guy sitting here, and I said your software is too expensive for our industry. It’s a great big industry, can you get involved? That was 25 years ago, and he’s slowly getting involved, but he did not embrace it like he needed to. Dassault developed this thing called Revit, and they sold it because it was an inferior system. Now, that’s the system that’s being sold by Autodesk as the reigning system for tech for the construction industry, and it’s very flawed. It sucks in fact, and you can quote me. But it’s the only one that’s out there that’s usable. We created something called Digital Project, which is an add-on to CATIA, but still the software from the French is expensive.

So, there needs to be a solution.

There are solutions. I don’t know why nobody is going there. I had a separate tech company [Gehry Technologies] doing only that, and I just couldn’t run it and my practice. So, we sold it to Trimble [in 2014], and they’re continuing to develop it. It’s going to take a couple of years the way they’re going. We’re trying to help them.

You know they build airplanes paperless. That software exists, and a building is a lot simpler than a freakin’ airplane. We should be able to build buildings paperless which means, if you do it right, you should be able to go through the building department in a few days instead of six months.

What do you think of this tendency to make architects into stars?

Oh, starchitect. I hate that word. The press, you should write this, the press invented the word “starchitect,” and then they call us that, and they demean us for being one in their minds. It’s nasty stuff.

Let’s go into tributes. The Simpsons 2013 episode you were featured on, how did that come about? [The screensaver on Gehry’s smartphone is of his Simpsons doppelganger]

I was at a TED conference, and I met Matt Groening [creator of The Simpsons]. He’s a nice guy, and he asked me to be on The Simpsons, so I did. He now happens to be my neighbor. He lives two doors from me in Santa Monica.

That was an interesting one because they show me crumbling these papers and saying, “Frank Gehry, you’re a genius.” Everybody thinks that I crumble paper to make buildings. People will come up to me since that episode, kids would come to me with a crumbled piece of paper and ask me to sign it. So then since it’s so much in the air, I made a crumbled paper bear. Do you see it there? We have one full-sized at my house.

Do you ever think of retiring?

No. Don’t say that! I’m only 88 for god’s sake.

Source: commercial

Mancini Duffy’s Christian Giordano on Architecture’s Tech Revolution

Five years ago, Christian Giordano was a young architect who had worked his way up to the role of director of architectural design at HLW International when a friend and former colleague rang him up about a career opportunity.

“He called me and said, ‘Hey, I have a good friend, he’s looking for a young guy to come and kind of revitalize his firm—could you come and meet him?’ ” Giordano recalled. “I asked who, and he said, ‘I’m not going to tell you; we want to keep this kind of quiet. Why don’t we just meet for breakfast?’ So I went and I met Ralph Mancini.”

Giordano and the Mancini Duffy founder, who passed away in 2015, “hit it off” at that breakfast, their conversations leading to Giordano’s joining the architecture and interior design firm as a principal and director of architecture in 2013. A year later, he was elevated to the role of president and is now Mancini Duffy’s majority owner—the person most responsible for guiding the 80-person firm into the future.

And that’s exactly what Giordano has set about doing. Taking a cue from the young, innovative tech- and creative-class companies that form a good chunk of Mancini Duffy’s client roster, Giordano has gone about recalibrating the firm’s approach—emphasizing technology’s potential to transform the way architects and designers work and setting ambitious long-term goals.

Mancini Duffy recently launched its Design Lab, a self-described “in-house incubator” dedicated to researching technologies like 3-D printing; among the firm’s loftier goals is developing the technology enabling the 3-D printing of houses “on a mass production scale” within 30 years, Giordano said. Simultaneously, he is also pushing the traditionally interior design-focused firm to pursue more structural, base building projects, with Mancini Duffy now helming the redevelopment of the historic Palace Theatre, at 1568 Broadway in Times Square, into the TSX Broadway hotel, retail and entertainment complex.

The 44-year-old New Jersey native, who lives in Middletown Township, N.J., with his wife and their two daughters, recently sat down with Commercial Observer at Mancini Duffy’s offices at 275 Seventh Avenue in Chelsea to discuss his career to date, how technology is at the forefront of the firm’s plans for the future and his unique, design-oriented culinary hobby.

Commercial Observer: What drove you to pursue architecture as a career?

Christian Giordano: I credit my mom because she was very into design. She was always renovating our house, constantly. I took a liking to watching the contractors work, and for whatever reason, I’ve wanted to be an architect ever since I was a little kid.

So I applied to the University of Miami—one of my cousins went there, and they had a great architecture school. It was a very traditional program; you did a lot of hand-drawing and hand-drafting. Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk was the dean at the time, and new urbanism was a new concept, so there was a lot of master planning that we did with really large-scale, big-picture thought processes behind it.

The internet was new at the time I went to college. We didn’t have email, and CAD [computer-aided design] was new, and toward the end of that education I was really into the computer and what the computer could do for the world of architecture. And that’s what led me to go to UCLA [for a master’s degree] because they were really at the forefront of computer-aided design. They had a tremendous program where we were even doing early 3-D printing 20 years ago—I still have some of those early prints. It was a departure from the Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, more-traditional architecture school; Frank Gehry was there, Thom Mayne was there, and I really admired those guys and wanted to work with them.

When I was in Miami, I did an internship for Swanke Hayden Connell Architects, and [Principal] Richard Carlson always said to me, “Hey, if you ever move back to New York, let me know and I can get you a job there.” I don’t know if he was serious or not, but I called him out of the blue, and that’s where I started my career. Within the first six months there, I met my wife. She’s an interior designer by trade but eventually moved over to furniture sales—the design industry was not for her.

I spent probably five years [at Swanke Hayden Connell] and worked on a bunch of projects. And then, the design director went to HLW, and I followed him over there. I worked my way up there, ultimately running a studio; a lot of those studio people at HLW are here [at Mancini Duffy] now. We worked on projects with Google and did a lot of work in China.

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Christian Giordano. Photo: Sasha Maslov/for Commercial Observer

After joining Mancini Duffy, you were quickly elevated to the role of president and eventually became majority owner. How did that come about?

It was always the deal that I would be president within a year. Coming from HLW, I thought, “Oh, that’s cool, I’ll be the president.” I had no idea what that really meant, and when I got here, it wasn’t quite what I expected. There were probably about 35 people, and I was under the impression that Mancini was this enormous organization—I had just known the name and the history. And it really was a rebuilding process.

I quickly realized that there weren’t a lot of people at Mancini out there doing business development. So I started getting out there; I used to do it a lot at HLW but not to the level that I do it now. I really thought that being president of the firm was more about mentoring people and doing design critiques and keeping the design direction, and what I realized was that it was really about the responsibility of bringing work in and keeping everybody busy.

It was a little bit of a struggle in the beginning because I’m from a design background—it’s hard to let go when you’re used to being the one who controls every aspect of your design—but the more and more work I started to bring in, the more and more I absolutely loved it. Look, I’m an architect; I don’t pretend that I’m a businessman, whatever that means. And I think that actually is an advantage in the architecture world. A lot of architects like to pretend they know everything, and I fully admit that I don’t.

Tell me about your broader vision for Mancini Duffy—particularly when it comes to the potential that various technologies hold for the future of design.

Mancini’s always been traditionally known for very sophisticated, tried-and-true corporate interiors for financial institutions and law firms. New York has changed a lot, and while clearly much of that still exists, there is a technology boom here. Those are the kinds of clients that I think get a lot of people here jazzed up, especially the younger generation [of designers] that we have here.

With that, the culture of those firms has really permeated here. We’ve been quite inspired by some of the companies we’ve worked with to focus on the technologies that are going to move the architecture world forward and how we can change our business model.

We’re a service provider, and what that means is the more people we have producing and billing hours, the more revenue the firm generates. That’s a terrible business model; you’re selling hours. We want to be able to improve our clients’ experience by getting them better design, more economical design, designing within whatever their constraints are and doing it more efficiently on our side. So we’re trying to use technology to better ourselves in that way—how can technology move us forward and get us away from selling hours? Can the computer actually do some of the design work for us?

We’re really trying to experiment with this idea of generative design: that we can enter parameters of how the client wants certain things designed and let the computer do some of the work or generate some of the ideas—sort of the artificial intelligence of design. There’s always going to be a human input to it because design is emotional and there’s an emotional attachment to it, but how can we push that forward?

So 3-D printing—but not 3-D printing to print cute little models of what we’ve done. We’ve been engaged by Chaminade High School [in Mineola, N.Y.], where we’re actually physically printing a 3-D wall. We’re going to have 12 printers set up in the building as it’s under construction, and for a month straight we’re going to be physically printing a donor wall—all the names of the people who have given money for this new building—that will ultimately be assembled and put up on site.

It’s that kind of, How do we take the technology and actually use it to not only design, not only represent but actually move the profession forward and move the construction process forward? One of our 30-year goals is to actually 3-D print houses on a mass production scale. That’s what we call our B.H.A.G.: our big, hairy, audacious goal.

Of the firm’s current projects, which are you most excited about?

We’re known, obviously, as a corporate interiors firm. I think what’s not as known is that we also do new buildings. 1568 Broadway is our largest project to date; it’s about a 300,000-square-foot building in Times Square with L&L Holding. Awesome project—there are about 15 people here working on it. It’s the old Palace Theatre; the theater is being elevated about 30 feet to create valuable retail space at the bottom. There’s a superstructure being built around it; the old [DoubleTree] hotel is being essentially demolished, but 40 percent of the structure is remaining so that they can keep a certain amount of zoning FAR [floor area ratio] there, and we’re rebuilding that hotel.

We’re the executive architect for the entire thing, and it’s a good example of working little by little with the client and showing them that we actually had the chops to do this. We hired a technical director from Norman Foster’s office who has that kind of experience to lead the team. It’s really going to put us on the map as far as New York City buildings and base building work—we’ve got a Times Square, New York City tower.

We’re also on our third executive airport lounge for American Airlines; we’re starting an airport division here. We’re not going to do airports like an HOK—we’re not going to actually build the terminals or anything like that—but we’re not more aggressively looking to do the interiors of them since we’ve got a few under our belt now.

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Giordano with one of his custom-designed cakes. Photo: Christian Giordano

I hear you have a pretty sophisticated culinary hobby: You design and bake really ornate, decorated cakes. How did you find that as a passion?

Again, I’m from a design background—I’m a design guy. When my first daughter was born, now 10 years ago, those [baking] shows were really popular—Ace of Cakes, Cake Boss. So I was watching them like, “This is just clay architecture model-making; I could totally do this, this is a joke.” My mother-in-law is super into baking, so she would bake, and I’d be like, “This is easy, I’ll make the kid’s first birthday cake.” And it was horrible—way harder than I ever realized.

I watched baking shows a lot. Those two shows were more about the drama, but other competition shows you could actually learn a lot from. So I’d sit at night watching this stuff, determined to get better.

The whole idea was that I’d eventually be able to do it with the kids, and that’s really how it’s turned out. The younger one, she just wants to mess around and loses interest, but the older one actually is now helping, which is pretty cool—we create two simultaneous cakes as we go.

And man, it just took off—all of a sudden I was doing groomsman’s cakes for people in the industry, I was doing kids’ birthday parties. I will not do a wedding cake—that’s way too much pressure. And I’ve probably done, at this point, 50-plus cakes where they’ve just gotten bigger and better. I’ve bought remote control cars and taken them apart so I could get the motors to turn cakes. I’ve had voice recordings in some of them. It’s very time consuming; of course, I have to do it at night. A lot of times I’ll end up having to take a Friday off and focus solely on the cake because the birthday party is on Saturday morning.

So do you expect to continue doing this as just a hobby, or is a side career in baking perhaps in the works?

No, I would never take money for it. People will give me gift cards or something, but it’s just for friends and family. I actually got to meet the Cake Boss, and embarrassingly I told him I could do what he does.

Source: commercial

Gilmartin Leaves Forest City to Start Development Firm With L&L Execs

After 24 years with Forest City, MaryAnne Gilmartin is striking out on her own.

The Forest City New York chief executive officer is leaving her post at the top of Bruce Ratner’s firm to team up with L&L Holding Company executives David Levinson and Robert Lapidus on a new venture called L&L MAG. Gilmartin, who will be the chief executive officer of L&L MAG, confirmed the move to Commercial Observer yesterday after Brooklyn business website The Bridge leaked the news.

She’s also taking four of Forest City’s top executives, Jeffrey Rosen, Susi Yu, Adam Greene and Ashley Cotton, with her. Rosen will be the managing director of development and capital markets, and Yu will be a managing director and head of development. Greene will become a managing director of construction and development, and Cotton will serve as the managing director of communications and marketing.

The time is ripe for Gilmartin to leave Forest City. The company stands at a crossroads after transitioning from privately held developer to publicly held real estate investment trust two years ago. Forest City Realty Trust, along with its local arm, Forest City New York, are shifting away from ground-up development and focusing more on investing in and operating office and multifamily properties, she explained. Yesterday, The New York Post reported that Forest City is selling all but 5 percent of Pacific Park,  the 22-acre megaproject rising atop the Long Island Railroad yards formerly known as Atlantic Yards, to its partner on the project, Greenland USA.

Gilmartin and her crew have a services agreement with Forest City to finish the remaining work on Pacific Park. The developer has only completed four out of 15 planned buildings and 800 affordable apartments, with an approaching deadline in 2025 to complete 2,250 affordable units. The developer hasn’t started construction on any new buildings since 2016, but it has continued work on buildings that were already underway.

But Gilmartin, who is arguably one of the most powerful women in New York real estate, wants to stay in the development game. She also sees the L&L venture as a unique opportunity to start her own company, rather than run someone else’s.

“I’m first and foremost a developer,” she told CO. “It’s what I love. Dave Levinson and Rob Lapidus know how to raise capital, they love the urban landscape and they enjoy challenging projects. I’m taking the people I love at Forest City and doing more of the stuff I think is super challenging and rewarding.”

The 53-year-old executive added that she’ll miss Forest City, but that, “I think there’s a recognition that there isn’t a job big enough at the company to keep me challenged and keep me happy for the next decade.”

In her time at Forest City, Gilmartin has overseen the development of the $5 billion Pacific Park project, the New York Times Building at 620 Eighth Avenue, the Tata Innovation Center at the Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island and the Frank Gehry-designed 8 Spruce Street.

L&L MAG will bring together Lapidus and Levinson’s talents for developing office buildings with Gilmartin’s ability to build residential, office, hotel and cultural properties, she said. They hope to work on a variety of projects, both in the city and elsewhere. The team will split its time between a redeveloped office space at 594 Dean Street in Prospect Heights and L&L’s 142 West 57th Street in Midtown.

“We are constantly on the lookout for the next big project, even in the midst of the most active phase in our history. This partnership with MaryAnne Gilmartin, who has been the driving force behind some of New York’s most transformative developments in a generation, is the ideal vehicle to further those ambitions,” Levinson said in prepared remarks. “New York City is long overdue for a woman to serve as co-founder and CEO of a major development company, and MaryAnne has more than demonstrated her unique combination of vision, perseverance and leadership throughout her remarkable tenure at Forest City.”

L&L’s current portfolio of commercial properties and development projects will continue to be owned and operated via its existing ownership structures and management teams, according to a press release.

Forest City’s spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Gilmartin’s departure.

Source: commercial