Future City L.A.- Part II: The Impresario

Changing attitudes and what changes with them--the physical environment of the City of Los Angeles

This blog entry is the second of a series that investigates changing attitudes and with them, the changing physical environment of Los Angeles.

Los Angeles has always been a place focused on individual expression. With a new generation of creative young people making their impact on the city, Los Angeles is turning into a clearing house for new ideas, unified around common values incubated by the environmental movement, social media and tech, and, of course, personal expression. I have recently met a few visionary individuals—young and passionately committed to changing the city in some fundamental way. Where can we see these changes taking place most visibly?

Here is one of their stories.

THE IMPRESARIO

She is petite, but her energy and confidence fills up a room. Erin Mavian is the Chief Operating Officer of Runyon Properties, and I had the good fortune of touring her new property PLATFORM in Culver City. She brought her dog with her, who blinked sleepily into the sun.

“He’s heard this rap a thousand times,” she says.

The development is immediately adjacent the Culver City Train Station that serves the Expo Line.

Erin says, “We called the project PLATFORM, because, yes, it’s next to the train station, but more importantly because we see the project as a platform for new ideas, nurturing the entrepreneurs and creative people of our city. Everything we do here is hand selected. Our office tenants, the events we program, the restaurants and retail and the way we use the spaces are all focused on cultivating new creative ideas.”

PLATFORM is visually interesting. Three-story office spaces appear stacked like containers on top of spare retail spaces. Artwork is integrated into the project in many locations along the ground plane and most interestingly as large murals on the parking structure.

“We were inspired by projects like BOXPARK in London. We wanted to bring a progressive attitude to every detail,” says Erin.

Landscape is spare and indigenous. Signage is intelligently done by RCHStudios. http://www.platformla.com/

Below are some highlights from our tour.

UNIQUE RETAIL: Erin focuses on unique brands and specialty merchants for her development, including Aesop, a popular face and body company.

“Aesop is everywhere, but at PLATFORM, we convinced them to do treatments, too. It’s the only store in their chain that does,” she explains. “We keep three retail spaces just for short term—1-6 month—leases. These are for unique concepts, pop ups and the like.”

CHEF DRIVEN restaurants: “We wanted some truly unique food options, so we brought in Loqui, a taco restaurant run by a pastry chef from San Francisco, and Sao Acai, a high-end café and apparel store,” Erin narrates.

Other offerings include Sweet Green, a sustainably sourced health food restaurant, and Cannibal, a butcher shop and restaurant specializing in meat.

CREATIVE COMPANIES: “The office component of the project is key; we are home to some of the most innovative companies in west LA, including Technicolor, a worldwide leader in digital media. This also includes Criteo, which started at a café in Paris just a few years ago. Now they are a leader in digital advertising. Reformation, a sustainable clothes design company, and the west coast headquarters for SoulCycle are also here.”

UNIQUE EVENTS: “We use of the underside of the train right-of-way as an event space. PLATFORM puts on amazing parties regularly with DJ sets and unique food and beverage concepts,” Erin explains.

Social media drives much of their PR and advertising. They are content providers.

“Noon Pacific is an onsite digital music provider that creates a ‘mix tape’ for subscribers every week, and we sponsor a speaker series called ‘Radical Optimism,’ a monthly panel discussion which investigates the uniquely creative energy of LA around key topics such as eating, moving, buying, living and making.”

PROGRESSIVE TRANSPORTATION OPTIONS. “Obviously being close to the train is huge, but most of our people still drive. However, we want to do our part to promote progressive mobility. Platform gives precedence to electric vehicles in the parking structures via electric charging stations. We have a bike share program with the nearby Culver City WeWork. If you want to bike down to PLATFORM for lunch or a meeting, we make it easy for you with lockable storage.”

What It All Means

In The Life and Death of the Great American City, Jane Jacobs described the street life outside her apartment in the West Village as “sidewalk ballet.” In the creation of behaviors that support healthy and creative urban life in Los Angeles, Erin Mavian and the folks at Runyon Properties are impresarios as much as developers.

“I’m a business person. PLATFORM provides what the market demands. Actually, compared to other global cities L.A. is kind of behind the times in terms of the built environment reflecting the changing values of our time. We wanted to conceive a totally new way of working in west LA that embraces a progressive vision and creative attitude.”

Erin provides an important lesson for developers and designers alike: defining your reasoning for a development is essential to creating social allegiance to a place. In a competitive marketplace, successful developments are orchestrations combining land uses with supportive behaviors. How we move, what we eat and how we buy is as much an expression of who we are as what we do. Have a point of view about all of it or others will define you instead.


Nate Cherry

Global Leader, Masterplanning and Sustainable Urban Development Ask me a question