Daily Archives: October 27, 2006

Architect Profile: Chap Oppenheim Architecture + Design

Award winning architect, Chad Oppenheim’s designs, although not limited to Miami, are mainly concentrated in and around Miami. His influence is being felt most in the Design District and Uptown. Visually, the Cornell graduate’s projects are sharp and stunning. There are patterns to the designs, however. Notice the Ten Museum Park tower and compare it to the Ice and Element designs (Element was formerly known as Ice 2). Both have high ceilings in each floor, are draped in glass and steel, and are vertically elongated with a basic glass cube shape. The cube seems to be the distinguishing characteristic of Chad Oppenheim designs. The Lynx development in the CBD, which is his most ambitious to date, maintains the cube-like design pattern except on different levels. In observing a few of his designs, you will be able to distinguish them as Oppenheim designs easily. Sky Residences also resembles the Ice and 10 Museum projects. Clearly, Oppenheim is not known for curvy, colorful designs. His are bleak, contemporary, and clean. The COR project in the Design District is a continuation of his rectangular cube designs but has a white concrete shell with what appear to be large port holes exposing a glass inner base. The crown of the tower has multiple symbols that resemble airplane propellers, thus giving the building a feeling of movement. The design is forward thinking and interesting but doesn’t indicate a departure from his former designs. His mid-rise Cube project is fittingly named after what seems to be his defining shape. Here he takes a multi dimensional approach to his cube designs and has cubes protruding from the buildings base. It makes for an abstract, futuristic look, but again does not break any new ground for the firm. The Cube development is heavy on steel, which also gives it an almost industrial/warehouse undertone. Oppenheim designs are easy to spot. Is this good or bad? Well, it depends. If you want versatility and dynamism in design, then it is bad. If you want steady characteristic designs, then it is not. There may be a change in store for his future projects. Maybe his designs will embrace curves. Maybe he will break the cube mold that seems to confine him his creativity, but as of right now, nothing has changed. We are left with the same. Through a developer standpoint, I don’t see why I would want my building looking like three or four others nearby. However, it may just be that his clients want what he offers. They know what to expect. His designs are simple and unobtrusive. As of right now, Lynx, the Ice development, and most of his Design District projects remain frozen. There is little activity on those lots. Certainly, it would be nice to see them go up, but progress is slow. It is not clear why. The architect designs, the developer executes. What are the implications of these issues? Is this pattern related to the architect? Some implications: his projects might not be an easy sell. Maybe they are too expensive to build and therefore difficult to finance. Maybe they are not appealing to buyers–this is doubtful. Or, maybe, he has not done business with the most adept developers. Regardless, the firm’s role in Miami’s growth is important and influential and not likely to diminish. Hopefully we’ll see some more dynamic designs come from his drawing boards and some more of his big projects get topped off.


Filed under Architects, BoB Articles

A Closer Look: Uptown (PAC District)

I will begin my analysis of Uptown with the Performing Arts Center District. First let me geographically define the PAC District as being north of the I-395, west of Biscayne Bay, East of North Miami Avenue, and south of 17th street. It is actually the smallest of the four (4) neighborhood segments that I seperate Uptown into (Edgewater, Wynwood Arts District, and Mid-Uptown being the other three). However, it arguably has the most activity going on. Clearly the neighborhood revolves around the Cesar Pelli designed Performing Arts Center. The development of the PAC (thanks to Knight Ridder) has sparked most of the development in Uptown. Several of the projects are named after it; Opera Tower and Cardinal Symphony are perfect examples. Importantly the PAC adds a high end good life connotation to the neighborhood. The fact that Cesar Pelli has stamped his genius on the area is invaluable. Importantly, the neighborhood is located right off the I-395 which gives it immediate access to all areas of Miami-Dade County in all directions. It is situated just north of the bourgeoning Media and Entertainment District with its growing nightclub population, which means that the area will probably have a vibrant nightlife as well (Pawn Shop is a good example). The area is, however, probably going to be more filled with restaurants. A restaurateur knows that his restaurant will only be successful if located in the right place. What better place than near the PAC? Visitors to the PAC are going to be dressed up, out for the night, and ready to eat dinner nearby. So, the PAC District is going to be ritzy, cultured, and exciting. But, how will the neighborhood look? Well, let’s go one project at a time.

First, Pedro Martin has tremendous plans for his 10 acre plot of land directly east of the PAC. He plans a two phase 64 story mixed-use mostly residential tower complex at 649 feet (One Herald Plaza I and II) as well as City Square Tower which will be 62 floors at 640 feet. Additionally, as part of the City Square development, he plans a 641,104 square foot retail center, which will add an estimated 3,200 permanent jobs to the local economy plus 4,052 badly needed parking spaces to the area. Nearby, just south of the existing Venetian Condominium tower there are plans for a 64 story hotel/condo tower. Even the site of the Miami Herald is not safe from demolition as there are plans currently on the drawing board to build a tower on that property as well. The latter two projects are likely to get quite a bit of resistance, but are still demonstrative of the rapid juggernaut growth of the area. The multi-phase Terra project is quite astounding. Regardless of the Terra Group’s recent success, even this project must seem mind boggling to the company’s principals. It is the second most important and ambitious project in all of Uptown (2nd to Midtown Miami). It will be, however, the most iconic development (highly noticeable) in the entire Uptown area. Its location next to the I-395, proximity to the bay, massive height proportions, abstract design, and ideal spot next to the PAC will ensure that. Adjacent to the property are plans for the Anderson Opera Center, which will add another venue for the performing arts. Adjacent to the AOC property are plans for the Anderson Opera Center Tower at 57 floors and 649 feet. Moving slightly north along Biscayne Blvd. in between the PAC one discovers that the development activity continues with vigor. 1490 Biscayne Boulevard is the site of what might be a 744 foot tower with 73 floors. It is proposed and may not be built, but the plans are there, so might the capital to back it up. The Chelsea on the 1550 block of the Boulevard is planned to stand 649 feet with 52 floors (this means high ceilings). Standing 600 feet in height the 60 story Cardinal Symphony tower will add to the mix. One block north there are plans for Urbana, a 549ft tower with 48 floors. Urbana is planned on 17th terrace just west of Tibor Hollo’s 56 story (under construction) Opera Tower. Keep in mind; these towers all but stand side by side near Biscayne Blvd. Furthermore, place them in any U.S. city and they will be among the tallest and most impressive. The PAC district is for real.

But, I’m not done. The massive Omni Mall, currently owned by New York based Argent Ventures is planned for demolition. The entire building is 16.5 gross acres; stretching from the 1500 to 1700 blocks of Biscayne Blvd. The plans are sketchy at this point, but rumor has it that they plan 7 towers for the site. Argent Ventures is seeking to receive financing from New York-based iStar Financial. If indeed it is the case that multiple towers, potentially 7, are built on the Omni site, then the Miami urban landscape will take a dramatic shift north of the current CBD. As of now, Brickell is out pacing other Miami areas in development, but Brickell is already saturated with buildings, new land is scarce, prices are high, and the area lacks white elephants (expensive high-profile government/private funded civic projects) such as the PAC or Museum Park to propel it further. Unlike Brickell and even the CBD to the south, Uptown and specifically the PAC District has quite a bit of vacant land. Just west of the PAC, the area along North Miami Avenue between 14th and 17th streets is a veritable developer’s shopping mall of vacant and under utilized land. If high density development were agriculture, we’re talking the Fertile Crescent here. Surely, even with the current market slowdown, the long term future of the PAC District could not be brighter; considering the area’s new found identity, rapid growth, ambitious plans, and large swaths of ripe-for-the-picking vacant and under utilized land. But most important of all, the neighborhood will be abuzz with activity, events, tourists, and traffic. If this is the kind of life style you don’t mind dealing with on a daily basis, this neighborhood’s for you. As far as the city is concerned, it’s for everyone, and surely everyone will be awed by it.

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Filed under BoB Articles, Uptown: Media & Entertainment (PAC) District