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Ken Lowney speaks at the 2018 AIA Conference in New York

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Ken Lowney recently delivered a presentation on "Mixed-use that really works" at the 2018 AIA conference held at the Jacob Javits center New York. 

 

 

 

 

 

Bisnow: Why this Architecture firm has staked his claim in Oakland

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For Ken Lowney, architecture is not about the glory of creating an iconic building, but about improving communities and making cities better. Lowney, founder and principal of Lowney Architecture, is doing just that in Oakland, where he and his staff are designing a number of high-profile projects.

Lowney Architecture has designed some of Oakland’s smallest housing units and its tallest buildings. The firm's latest project, a 440-foot tower on Harrison Street, is among the current projects that excite Lowney the most. The mixed-use high-rise will create 185 residential units, 120K SF of office and a community market on the ground floor and will become the city’s tallest building. Lowney’s desire to improve communities through architecture was sparked by his travels in Europe, where he and his dad, an engineer, spent time looking at different types of buildings. His travels made him more aware of the impact buildings have on society. “Collections of buildings make cities,” he said. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in philosophy at Occidental College, Lowney considered going into law, but his real interest was in what makes society. He found architecture was a way to combine his interests. Lowney’s first job was at a big firm with 80 people where he would copy blueprints. At night, Lowney took drafting classes, and after six or nine months, he took a chance and asked his bosses if he could work on drafting and they told him he could. After a couple of years of drafting, he went back to school to get his master's degree in architecture at Southern California Institute of Architecture, which is known for testing the limits of design. 

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After designing single-family homes in the Hollywood Hills, Lowney moved to New York City to work for Gensler, where he worked on office tenant improvements. He eventually transferred to the San Francisco Gensler office, where he was able to design office buildings and hotels and campuses. After the first tech bust occurred, he was laid off. Lowney decided to go out on his own instead of joining another firm. He had always thought of having his own office since his dad owned an engineering firm, Lowney Associates. “I thought there would be more freedom [starting my own firm], but it is a lot of work and responsibility,” Lowney said. “Sometimes that is good and sometimes that is bad.” Lowney Architecture has been in Oakland for 15 years, growing significantly in the last seven years. It has been expanding its portfolio to include all parts of the Bay Area and Hawaii. Lowney said he plans to increase the firm's San Jose portfolio in 2018. 

Why Lowney Architecture Loves Oakland

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Lowney’s decision to work in Oakland was originally a matter of convenience. While at Gensler, Lowney lived in Oakland and commuted into San Francisco. When he started his own firm, he liked the idea of working where he lived. Today, Lowney Architecture’s Oakland portfolio is within blocks of its office in Downtown Oakland. “So much of our work is just right here,” Lowney said. “We can walk to it and ride our bikes to it and pass by our sites.” Lowney Architecture Project Manager Eric Price was Lowney’s first employee and worked on the firm’s first project, which was to redevelop the Cox Cadillac dealership into a Whole Foods. The project increased density North of Grand Avenue and brought in a much-needed large grocery store. “It was exciting to be part of something that represented change at a rather high level,” Price said. “Grocery is a very interesting project type because it is cool and serves a lot of people.” Price said Lowney is driven to make Oakland better and there are plenty of opportunities to improve Oakland. “He’s great to work with,” Price said. “He is a positive figure and he is optimistic.” What is most attractive about working at Lowney Architecture is the collaboration and comaraderie, Price said. Unlike other firms where work is done top down with a couple of people in charge of projects and other doing the design grunt work, everyone is involved in the design process at Lowney Architecture, according to Price. The staff will combine their design ideas and sketches and come up with the best solutions, Price said.

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Oakland itself has provided a great landscape for growth and change, and Lowney Associates has been a big part of the city’s recent evolution. The firm started out doing the bulk of its work in retail, but now does more work in housing and other projects with a handful of retail, according to Lowney. The projects Lowney Architecture is working on include a Moxy Hotel at West Grand and Telegraph and a 1,000-unit housing complex in West Oakland with Panoramic Interests.   “Oakland is undergoing a very positive transformation, adding more people and more housing,” Lowney said. “It’s getting more interesting and exciting to be living here.” The most interesting and challenging project Lowney worked on in Oakland was the redevelopment of the Safeway shopping center on College Avenue. The project went through five years of entitlements, and community interaction and engagement. Lowney said he learned about what works and what makes people angry. Community engagement got everyone involved and there was a better outcome and better building that works for the community, he said.

Oakland’s Economic Boom Is Creating New Problems, Opportunities

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Despite the economic and development activity, there has been an influx of homeless people in Oakland, Lowney said. “Homelessness is a terrible shadow side to all this great growth we’re experiencing,” Lowney said.   Oakland declared a shelter crisis in 2015, which freed up the planning process to make it possible to build cheaper, faster homes for the homeless. But not much as been done since then. The most tangible effort made is Panoramic Interests’ development of micro-pad modular units that could be used to house the homeless, according to Lowney.  Lowney said he is particularly passionate about the work his firm has done on modular housing because it can help solve the housing crisis and provide housing options for homeless people. Modular housing can create housing at 20% of the cost and decrease construction time up to 40%, he said. His firm has done five modular projects so far throughout the Bay Area. While fixing homelessness is a complex problem, Lowney said it is cheaper to put people in houses than leaving them on the street, where cities have to use police and medical resources to respond to a crisis. “We have to at a certain point stop pushing people around and recognize their humanity and fix the problem,” Lowney said. Find out more about Lowney Architecture and the latest on Oakland at Bisnow’s upcoming Oakland State of the Market event Feb. 2.

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Marriott-branded boutique hotel planned for Uptown Oakland

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The boutique hotel boom is headed to Oakland via a Minneapolis developer's proposal to replace an Uptown gas station with a 173-room Marriott-branded hotel.

Graves Hospitality is proposing to demolish the existing station at 2225 Telegraph Ave. and replace it with a seven-story Moxy Hotel, including a full-service restaurant on the ground floor.

The Minneapolis developer expects to close on the land once it secures all the entitlements.

Neither Graves nor its applicant for the project, Oakland-based Lowney Architecture, responded to requests for comment.

Read full article here

Bisnow: Why this Cycle is Different for Oakland Multifamily

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Developing in Oakland is a point of pride for St. Regis Properties Director of Development Sam Remcho. While the Oakland native started his career as a broker, he always wanted to develop and loved the idea of working with land and construction. He teamed up with St. Regis Properties Chairman John Allen and President Nick Allen in 2012. The family-owned Bay Area-based business has since made strides to build more housing in Oakland and throughout the country.

“We like Oakland because of the people, the open space, the ease of transportation, the great weather, the employment opportunities and the overall quality of life,” Remcho said. St. Regis Properties is part of a growing group of developers building housing in Oakland. With housing projects becoming too difficult to pencil and more red tape in San Francisco, developers are preferring to build housing in the East Bay, where the housing need and demand is just as high. Large employers also are moving into Oakland and the East Bay, where many of their employees live. Oakland has shed its label of being a secondary market to San Francisco, and developers are recognizing it as a market unto itself. “Oakland has its own culture and own attraction,” Remcho said. “You can do everything you want here. There is fine dining and entertainment.” Housing is in high demand in Oakland as well and new projects are leasing up quickly. St. Regis Properties has three projects in the works and one completed project. Its first Oakland project, Idora, a JV with Signature Development in the Temescal neighborhood, is nearly leased up since it was completed in April. The 33-unit apartment complex includes 2,400 SF of retail, which could be filled in part by a restaurant, according to Remcho.

Read full article here 

Albany Sprouts Grand Opening

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We are pleased to announce our project with Oppidan Investment Company, Sprouts Albany had its official opening on April 26th 2017. This grocery-store-anchored shopping center is 28,000 SF, alongside two secondary retail buildings currently under construction, comprising a total of 45,000 SF. The land features a pedestrian and bicycle path and trail, as well as a public art piece currently underway.

The land is leased from the University of California and frames a gateway into graduate student housing at UC Village beyond, serving the local community in Albany, CA as well as the students.

 

Hale Mahana Groundbreaking and Blessing

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Today, the project site of Hale Mahana Collegiate Apartments had its groundbreaking ceremony and a traditional blessing from a Hawaiian Kahuna. Lowney Architecture's Ken Lowney and Brian Nee visited the site along with the Honolulu City Manager, University of Hawaii president, city council members, Laconia, and EDR.

The project, located at 2615 South King Street in Honolulu, Hawaii, will be home to nearly 600 students attending the University of Hawaii. At 14 stories high and with student amenities on the top floor, the project will have unparalleled views of the rest of the island. Additionally, the public will have access to retail shops on the first floor, as well as the 6,000 square feet of on-site public landscaping.

Foundation work is slated to begin in the next week or so. For more information and updated time-lapse pictures of the site, you can visit https://app.oxblue.com/open/EDR/skingstreet.

Mahalo!

Exclusive: Huge Oakland Tower Plan Combines Housing, Office, and Retail

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Publication: San Francisco Business Times
By Roland Li
Renderings: Jesse Duclos

The proposal is one of the largest among over a dozen highrise plans recently approved and proposed in Oakland. It would be the only one to combine residential and office space. No towers have yet started construction, but Lennar Multifamily's 1640 Broadway and Gerding Edlen's 1700 Webster St. have filed for building permits.

“We envision a vibrant mixed-use project along a major transit corridor that hits the trifecta of what Oakland needs right now,” said Ronnie Turner, a spokesman for Pinnacle Development Group and project consultant, in a statement. “Housing, office, and retail.”

In June, a pre-application was filed for a smaller 15-story tower at 1261 Harrison St., but the new, larger proposal will combine the adjacent parcel and span the northern half of an entire block. 

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Another Successful Tour

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Lowney Architect Tony Valadez led a hard hat tour of Lowney's Chow Oakland on Saturday, September 24th. Participants learned about this unique project which includes a hybridized program: part food market, part restaurant, part café, and part commercial bakery, and which intentionally blurs the line between interior and exterior. The project is an adaptive re-use of and addition to an existing building with (almost) every type of construction represented: masonry, cast in place concrete, original wood and sheathing, new dimensional and engineered lumber, and existing and new steel. Construction is slated to be done in January 2017.

Kwik Way Plans Receive Broad Community Support

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Publication: San Francisco Chronicle
By Rachel Swan
Photo: Michael Short

After years of scrapped plans and benign neglect, Oakland’s moldering Kwik Way Drive-In is on the brink of demolition.

The midcentury diner, which over the last decade has intermittently shuttered and reopened on Lake Park Avenue, may soon be replaced by a five-story housing and retail development that will stand as tall as the nearby Grand Lake Theater. Though the project is still in its early stages, it appears to have near-unanimous support from a neighborhood where residents have quibbled for 12 years over what to do with the site.

“This site has been pretty controversial in the past,” said Councilman Abel Guillen, who represents the Lake Merritt district. “But you fast-forward to now, and we’re in this housing crunch, and this (property) is way underutilized.”

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