Spring Street Towers, two high-rise mixed-use developments in downtown Los Angeles, comprise nearly 300 units each, mostly studios and one-bedroom apartments, with an abundance of luxury amenities. | Images courtesy a representative of MVE + Partners

Company Growth and Emerging Trends in Design – October 2018

Carrie Rossenfeld Features

From SoCal Real Estate’s October 2018 issue:

Expanding architecture and design firms like MVE + Partners are leading the charge in CRE design trends.

By Carrie Rossenfeld

The strong economy has been a boon for architecture and design firms in both the residential and commercial real estate realms. For one, Southern California architectural, design, and planning firm MVE + Partners recently promoted Luis Arambula to VP of architecture in the Irvine and Los Angeles offices, Mark Kim to director of architecture in the L.A. office, and Sherwin Pineda to director of design in the L.A. office.

The promotions mark a period of growth for the firm, which is adding an office in San Jose and has also promoted three senior associate partners: senior designer Pieter Berger, senior project manager Luis Estrada, and director of San Jose Studio Terrence Seah. Additionally, MVE elevated seven rising stars to the titles of associate partner and associate.

SoCal Real Estate spoke with Arambula, Kim, and Pineda to discuss their new roles as well as the design trends they’re noticing in their practice and the current growth trend within architecture and design firms today.

From left: Luis Arambula, Mark Kim, and Sherwin Pineda

SoCal Real Estate: What are you each looking forward to accomplishing in your new roles?

Kim: My role at MVE is to be available, to provide mentorship, and to provide guidance to our staff. Watching the growth and development of our team is something I look forward to, and it will be my measure of success in my new role. MVE is at the forefront of adopting new technology in our practice of architecture, and I look forward to implementing new technology to meet the challenges of project management and design. My goal is to make project management part of our daily practice.

Arambula: MVE + Partners opened an office in downtown L.A. in the summer of 2016. As the new leader of this office, I’m excited about the opportunities that our presence downtown has created for the firm in terms of the new clients that we’ve been able to serve and the higher-density urban projects that we are developing for them. I’m looking forward to overseeing the continued growth of the L.A. office and contributing to the overall growth of the firm as we expand our influence in Northern California, as well as in the broader western region.

Pineda: I particularly look forward to providing mentorship to young designers, identifying “hidden” talent within the company, helping them achieve their full potential, and elevating their career paths within the firm. I also look forward to expanding MVE’s residential mixed-use project portfolio to include not just retail use but potentially more office and hotel use as well.

Landmark Towers in Milpitas, California, is considering automated parking that could be turned into automated storage in the long term as a solution to meet future reduced parking requirements.

Each of you focuses on a variety of property types. What design trends are you noticing within each of them?

Kim: Since 2010, we’ve seen tremendous activity in the housing sector, and it has been a major growth engine for our economy. With increased activity and the scarcity of land resources, there has been a lot of pressure to increase housing density, especially along the transportation corridors.

Another important trend is the growth in the development of affordable housing. Many jurisdictions are encouraging affordable housing by providing increased density and eliminating restrictions.
“Future proofing” is another important trend and is one of many factors to consider in meeting the demands of constantly evolving technology. These demands include automated parking, automated cars, and ride-sharing applications. Future proofing is a critical component of almost all projects we are currently designing.

Pacific Pine, a 271-unit mixed-use residential complex, will be the densest building in downtown Long Beach, California while providing quality housing in a transit-oriented-design area.

Arambula: Current trends in multifamily housing developments have been geared toward serving the millennial generation, which according to a recent article by The Pew Research Center and population projections from the U.S. Census Bureau, is poised to surpass the baby boomers as the nation’s largest living adult generation. The attitudinal and behavioral differences of the millennials have manifested themselves not only in the types of multifamily projects that are being developed but also in the character and location of these projects. The 1980s trend toward suburbanization and urban sprawl has reversed as a new generation of working adults is preferring to live in ever-densifying urban centers. Their propensity to delay marriage and family formation, as well as the increasingly cost-prohibitive nature of single-family housing, has led to a greater demand for rental units that are neighborhood-oriented and amenitized to suit their lifestyles. Our recent projects in and around downtown are seeing smaller units with a mix favoring studios and one-bedroom apartments, occupied roof decks to provide on-site open space, and lower parking ratios as ride-sharing and proximity to mass transit become increasingly popular.

Pineda: For multifamily projects located in high-density areas, we are observing a shift to fewer studio units and an increase in two- and even three-bedroom unit mixes. This is explained by the fact that more people are willing to live with roommates due to rising rents. And this idea of co-living has become popular, especially with millennials who wish to live in high-priced urban areas.

At the other end of the spectrum, with the recent transit-oriented-communities guidelines enacted in Los Angeles, some developers are evolving their strategic approach to provide increased density and less parking by shifting to more micro-units. Years ago, having enough parking was crucial to the success of a project. But with the advent of ride-sharing companies, a project that is in very close proximity to a Metro Rail could be feasible with a very low parking ratio.

There seems to be a lot of growth within architecture and planning firms today. To what do you attribute this growth?

Kim: The growth within architecture and planning firms today is attributable to the three “E’s”: economy, economy, and economy. The recession stunted growth in Southern California for a decade, and now we are seeing a strong rebound. Southern California has historically struggled with housing shortages, and now, with a booming economy attracting new residents, the housing shortage is more critical than ever. Investment opportunities arising from the recession have been a principal driver of growth within architecture and planning firms today.

Arambula: The current economic climate is clearly the most significant factor. Years of record-low interest rates fueling real estate capital markets and strong expectations for continued economic growth are great for the architecture and construction industries.

Pineda: Economic growth. The United States remains a great choice for foreign investments in commercial real estate, and that extends to multifamily. The high demand for housing is also driving growth.

What else should our readers know about MVE + Partners?

Kim: MVE + Partners is a continually evolving firm with a track record of success spanning 45 years. You can see MVE’s footprint throughout California with projects demonstrating our talent and success. Our portfolio ranges from low-density to high-density housing and boasts master planning of some of the most successful developments in California’s history. Our institutional portfolio encompasses the largest zero-net-energy apartment community in the nation and student housing for colleges and universities throughout California. The work that we’ve accomplished over the past 45 years defines our commitment to success. Our current projects are more diverse and complex than at any other time in our history, and we look forward to meeting those challenges with an accomplished new leadership team in place. MVE’s long history and track record of success has truly made us exceptional by design.

Arambula: MVE + Partners is a different firm today than it was when I joined the firm over 20 years ago. We’ve always been fortunate to have an incredibly talented and dedicated staff who strive to do great work and support each other in the process to push the limits of what we can accomplish for our clients. In recent years, we’ve taken the same passion for design excellence and applied it to a variety of project types for a broader base of clients, both private and public. We’ve embraced new technologies to improve the quality and efficiency of our delivery to respond to the ever-growing demands of our clients to fast track schedules and provide exceptional value for our services. While we are still regarded as a leader in multifamily design, we are multidimensional in our experience, our abilities, and our approach.

Pineda: We are regarded as a leader in very large multifamily projects. If you look at MVE + Partners’ housing portfolio, you will find an abundance of large podium projects that are located within suburban areas or outside the city centers. But we also have a strong passion for urban-infill projects. For example, we are proud to share that the Spring Street Towers in downtown Los Angeles are reaching completion. The project is composed of two towers: The Griffin on Spring, a 24-story high-rise featuring 320 apartments above 8,900 square feet of ground-floor retail space, and The Grace on Spring, a 24-story building with 300 apartments above 7,500 square feet of street-fronting commercial space.

Today, in addition to our portfolio of large projects, we are taking on smaller but challenging urban-infill sites in high-density areas. Whether it is a small site for a 50-unit low-rise or a 300-unit high-rise complex, the passion for finding solutions for our clients remains the same.