Wunderkind hotelier/real estate investor Barry Sternlicht talks about Starwood Capital’s current commercial real estate investment strategy in this news clip with Fox Business News.

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Two of the multitude of projects that crossed our doorstep at S&P were hotel/private residence deals for Starwood Capital’s eco-luxury brand, 1 Hotels & Residences.  After reviewing the design for one of the projects which included extensive water features (for a project located in the desert), “eternal” flames in the landscape, no trace of geothermal or solar technologies, and no commitment to LEED certification or similar standard, it became evident that considerable distance had to be traveled to turn a positioning statement into a reality that wouldn’t be perceived as marketing greenwash.

Excavation Hole Dug in 2007 for Starwood’s Stalled $200 million 1 Hotel in Seattle to be Filled, Made into Temporary Parking Lot

October 12, 2009 – The owner of a gaping, half-block hole in downtown Seattle says it will start refilling the crater this week.

The pit, on Second Avenue between Pine and Stewart streets, was excavated in mid-2007 for the 1 Hotel & Residences, a proposed 23-story luxury tower. But work on the $200-million hotel and condo project stopped that fall, and the developer later acknowledged it couldn’t get construction financing. A spokesman for the site’s owner, Connecticut-based Starwood Capital Group, said Monday that the hole should take eight to 10 weeks to fill. A Starwood affiliate applied last week for a city permit to develop a temporary parking lot on the property.

The company said in a prepared statement that it remains committed to the project, and is waiting for the capital markets to stabilize. It said it was working with Seattle officials “to ensure the property remains clean and presentable over the short-term… “ The city did not require Starwood to refill the crater, said Bryan Stevens, a spokesman for the Department of Planning and Development.

Both Stevens and Seatte land-use economist Matthew Gardner said they could not recall any other case in which an empty crater dug for a stalled project has been filled up again. But Gardner said that if Starwood expects the tower won’t be built for awhile, it probably makes sense to restore the site so it can start generating some revenue from parking again. The property was a parking lot before the pit was excavated.

Starwood acquired 100 percent interest in the site last year, buying out its former partner, Portland developer Paul Brenneke.

Eric Pryne: 206-464-2231 or epryne@seattletimes.com

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One of the projects we evaluated for Orient-Express last year was the redevelopment of the legendary ’21′ Club. MOMA is immediately north of the site, across West 53rd Street, and Hines Interests had purchased the site next door to develop a mixed-use “seven star” hotel and residential condo tower in addition to expanding the MOMA exhibition spaces. Representing perhaps the pinnacle of the ‘star-chitect’ fever gripping New York at the time, architect Jean Nouvel proposed one of the most vertiginous, jaw-dropping designs I’ve come across:

The exterior bracing may invite comparison to the John Hancock Center in Chicago, but that’s where the similarity ends.  While the John Hancock Center is a 100 story tower of 1.2 Million plus square feet of imposing bulk, 53 West 53rd is to be a slender 75 story tower with a tiny foot print (think size zero) that will make it exceedingly difficult and costly to build.  A complete set of renderings can be viewed at http://www.dezeen.com/2007/11/16/53-west-53rd-street-by-jean-nouvel/ and the project website it located at http://www.53w53.com/ if you want to sign up for the developer’s updates.  The design is currently making the rounds of the New York City Planning Commission.

Making the rounds of the design-sphere today is an “alternate” design for this tower proposed by John Beckmann’s architecture firm Axis Mundi.  The “Vertical Neighborhood” is Beckmann’s call for “a more diverse, complex, heterogeneous, and environmentally-minded city [that] need no longer be represented by one-note architecture that makes a singular visual image and little else.”

While certainly diverse and heterogeneous, it elevates the favela to new heights.

I look forward to the day when green design stops being synonymous with “ugly”.

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