4th + Linden in Form Magazine

February 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

This month’s Form Magazine features an article about Studio One Eleven’s 4th + Linden project. Read an excerpt below, or view the entire article here.

BE YOUR OWN BOSS
Rather than wait for clients to put a project on the table, leadership at Studio One Eleven in Long Beach, California, took matters into their own hands. Seeking a new space for their offices, the architecture and urban design firm located an ideal opportunity in the midst of Long Beach’s East Village Arts District. They bought three derelict, conjoined buildings sheathed in weathered wood siding, brick tile and stucco and became their own developer.

Having staked its reputation on urban infill, the firm was eager to show how they could transform the worn-down structures into vibrant, sought-after spaces. The designers broke down the 20,000-square-foot interior into eight office suites ranging from 1,500 square feet to 4,000 square feet. Office entries and clerestories were cut into existing masonry walls and braced by steel frames, while a portion of the roof was removed in the creation of a central open-air paseo. By acting as its own developer, the firm was able to take a creative approach that might have been blocked in a more traditional scenario.

“Many times a traditional developer has pre-conceived ideas” about how return on a space can be maximized, says principal Michael Bohn, AIA. “In this project, we actually took away square footage because we thought it would bring greater value to the remaining square footage. A traditional developer would have said that was just ridiculous.” (Not so ridiculous: Nineteen months after buying the property, Studio One Eleven had sold five of the eight newly created office spaces.)

But development costs money. While the City of Long Beach kicked in $400,000 in façade improvement money, that still left $1 million in construction costs. Creative financing made it possible: The firm put its own money on the line as a down payment, and the seller acted as the lender, agreeing to a loan structure that allowed for payback of the purchase price as the units were sold. The principals worked closely with bankers to ensure tenants could get loans, and they learned to forge relationships with brokers. “We had never really dealt with brokers before, but ultimately they are the ones who sell the project for you,” says senior principal Alan Pullman, AIA.

The end result has had unexpected benefits beyond just putting a profitable project on the table. “This was a really bright spot,” says Pullman. “Not only because it kept us busy, but because it was so exciting. The energy kept us going during what was really a dismal time in the architecture business. Being developers has also made us very responsible for how we spend money and how we design things. It made us better architects.”

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