First Draft: Q&A With Newman Garrison + Partners’ Kevin Newman

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The continued desire for more multifamily production in Southern California has allowed architecture firms to thrive in the mixed-use development sector.

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In designing several major mixed-use projects, Newman Garrison + Partners (NG+P) has had a hand in reshaping different pockets of Southern California. The firm specializes in mid- and high-rise multifamily towers, mixed-use urban communities, transit-oriented development, hospitality, luxury resorts, affordable housing, and more.

The team was behind projects like The Dylan and The Huxley in West Hollywood, as well as Cusumano Group’s Premier on First in Burbank, which calls for a 328-key upscale hotel and 108 luxury residential units. In Woodland Hills, NG+P designed a series of large mixed-use projects with about 1,200 units in the Warner Center area, which has a specific plan aimed at creating the downtown of the San Fernando Valley by 2035. NG+P also has major projects in places like Pasadena, Playa Vista and Hollywood. 

Founder Kevin Newman explained to Commercial Observer how the firm is adapting its strategy to reflect the changing needs and behaviors of renters over time, and the growing challenges in the region.

Commercial Observer: What are the most notable ways that you’ve seen renters’ needs and habits change over time, and how has your firm adjusted to meet those changes? 

Kevin Newman: We’ve noticed a willingness to live in smaller units in exchange for robust amenities and the opportunity to be immersed in neighborhood culture. NG+P’s programmatic and design efforts are driven both by forward-thinking developers and market influence. By staying informed in market shifts and evolvement, we can help develop the best program for our mixed-use development clients. 

What challenges stick out from a design standpoint that didn’t exist before when it comes to drawing up a modern mixed-use project today?

Development standards requiring exceptional increases in mixed-use (commercial) square footage — sometimes appropriate and other times seemingly not — have created design challenges in recent years. 

What separates your designs from the rest of the field? Can you talk about the unique amenities you provide, and about how hospitality has shaped modern mixed-use development?  

Vision, innovation and market awareness all contribute to our design solutions that stand above the pack. Taking lead from the environment and urban setting, the amenities included in a development are carefully selected to create harmony with the neighborhood and complete a full range of modern “necessities,” including lifestyle hospitality essentials like a robust spa, fitness and wellness programs, third-party and specialty food and beverage venues, outdoor rooftop terraces or property exercise and jogging trails, and more exclusive provisions like screening rooms, beauty salons, and learning and display kitchens. 

Is it difficult to stand out and make up for the amount of space dedicated to modern common spaces and amenities, and still provide the total living space that a developer wants for the larger projects that you work on? From a design standpoint, where do construction costs and zoning rules rank in terms of the things restricting your projects? 

Challenges often become opportunities for the extraordinary. Innovation in special design and material selections can mitigate the challenges in rising construction costs to an extent, so having a fallback position on finishes is always kept in mind. When zoning requirements become challenging obstacles, NG+P has always found or invented solutions to meet or exceed client expectations and financial goals.

With a handful of mixed-use projects in the Warner Center, your firm has been part of the live-work-play transformation set to continue over the next 15 years. How is that area evolving? And do you believe that type of large planned development will be a model for future growth?

Adjustments to original plan goals and requirements will need to address the evolving affordable housing demands. For future development in the San Fernando Valley to continue to be successful, transparent communication, collaboration and consensus will be key amongst all the stakeholders. We believe in smart growth and big picture goals to reduce commuting distances while providing big-city live-work-play satisfaction. There are plenty of forward-thinking players involved and we plan to be instrumental in continuing the evolution of positive growth in this area.  

What’s next for Newman Garrison + Partners? What will define your firm in 2020?

We are aggressively applying our mixed-use experience to the hospitality industry, bringing our deep understanding and lifestyle knowledge to satisfy the growing interest in unique urban travel experiences. The hospitality industry is constantly trying to meet the demand for mixed-use and lifestyle experiences, creating synergy with the neighborhoods they serve. Included in the contribution of mixed-use are branded residences, something NG+P can bring 30-plus years of award-winning experience to the table.