GGLO has opened an office in Los Angeles
Story published by Lynn Porter, Journal Staff Reporter at the Seattle DJC
Seattle architecture firm GGLO has opened an office in Los Angeles — a car-centric city that loves single-family houses — with the aim of proselytizing for density.
LA has a huge population in a sprawling area and needs more market-rate housing, so GGLO hopes to convince more Angelenos that building up is a good thing.
“We recognized the depth of the market in LA and recognized they have some unique challenges down there, especially the focus on the car,” said GGLO Senior Design Principal James Bradley. “We wanted to bring our expertise in urban living.”
That experience is varied, from the popular Via6 twin apartment towers in Seattle to Burien Town Square. In Burien, GGLO master planned a more pedestrian-focused vision for the downtown core and designed a large mixed-use condo building there.
Bradley will head the LA office, but he’ll be based in Seattle.
He said the Los Angeles office intends to focus on mixed-use, multifamily projects that are integrated with the unique qualities of their neighborhoods, such as cultural elements.
To do so, the staff will learn how people live in each area, and what goods and services they need, he said.
GGLO would love to do a development in the Los Angeles market on the scale of Via6 that reaches out to its neighborhood with storefronts and also has an internal neighborhood, with shops, restaurants and places to hang out.
However, he said, GGLO needs to prove itself first by doing some entry-level projects of 100 to 300 units.
Voters in the LA area recently approved two ballot measures that will provide lots of money to expand transit, and create housing for the homeless, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times.
The newspaper reports that Los Angeles is in the midst of a major development boom, with new high-rise and mixed-use buildings from downtown to the Westside. It notes that the two ballot measures “will add to that rapid remaking of the city.”
Bradley said the LA area still needs denser, mixed-use development focused on transit. GGLO is studying the routes of existing and proposed transit lines, and researching the zoning around transit stations and the available land nearby. It plans to approach communities and developers with the idea that those properties will support TOD, Bradley said.
“They have this housing boom, but we need to focus that housing boom on denser development near transit stations,” he said.
This is GGLO’s first office outside Seattle. The 102-person firm was founded in 1986, and has worked with a number of developers including AvalonBay Communities, Equity Residential, Hilton Hotel Group and Kisco Senior Living.
The firm is designing a new resort hotel at Chambers Bay and an interior renovation of Hilton Seattle Airport & Conference Center. Mixed-use projects include Block 67 in Salt Lake City and Seattle Civic Square.
Master planning work ranges from Seattle’s Yesler Terrace to Ann Morrison Park in Boise.
GGLO is getting more market-rate housing projects, with work under way for Ledcor Group in Hercules, California; AMLI Residential in Seattle and the Cascades Tower in Surabaya, Indonesia.
However, the firm doesn’t have any Los Angeles projects.
“That’s why we’re going to LA because we don’t have LA projects and we want to have LA projects so we’re making the commitment and investment to go there,” said Bradley.
The GGLO LA office will provide architecture, landscape architecture, interiors and planning. Bradley said the firm eventually wants to take on hospitality, senior living, affordable housing, commercial, campus and civic projects in LA.
GGLO recently hired Gerhard W. Mayer to work in the Los Angeles office. He is the former chair of the Urban Design Committee for the Los Angeles Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, and has over 20 years of experience in Southern California doing housing, mixed-use, movie studio, airport, educational and retail projects. Amy Hartwell, a GGLO senior associate, will also work in the office. Hartwell has 20 years of experience on multifamily, mixed-use and rehabilitation projects.
Bradley declined to provide revenue figures for GGLO. He said the firm is exploring ways to get more geographic diversity, but has no immediate plans to open other offices.
The design practice plans to hire more people in LA as it gets more work, he said.
“We keep coming back to just the size of the market that’s in that area. The population is immense, the area that they’re dealing with down there is immense,” he said. And there’s too little housing stock to support that population.
So the goal is “extolling the virtues of density,” he said.
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PR Newswire press release on GGLO’s LA Expansion can be seen here