Saturday, February 20, 2010

PARROT COVE HOME AND GARDEN TOUR - Sunday, March 7 from 2:00pm to 6:00pm

Click for larger image.

From today (Saturday) at the Lake Worth Street Painting Festival - 2010

Click title for full screen version.

Tales from the Census...

So far, no contact from the Census Bureau folks after taking the enumerator test in January.  It turns out that a friend of mine is working as a supervisor in the West Palm Beach office.  He told me that there is another test to qualify for a supervisory position and put me on the path to take that test as well.  According to him, all of the placements are dependent on how you did on the two tests.  It turns out I got a "90" on the first test.  If you have taken it and want to find out how you have done, you can call the local office and find out.

I ended up taking the second test yesterday morning at the Greenacres Community Center.  The guy that ran the exam from the Census was quirky, with a dry wit.  Apparently, if you are not on the list to take a test by tomorrow - the Census offices are not open Sunday, so if you are interested, you need to call today - you will not be able to take it.  They will only be offering the test to those that want to re-take it for a possible higher score - or people already scheduled.  He said that the month of March will be when most of the hiring occurs.  Placement in a supervisory position happens either through what he referred to as "battlefield promotion" - someone leaves for whatever reason and someone points at an enumerator that has already been working and has taken the test and says, "Hey you, over there, you're now a supervisor."  Most of the times the offer comes as a call for a specific position to people that have taken the exam.  The other way is through monitoring the Census website for a specific position - he said that doesn't happen too often.  Once you are hired, he said the job is 40 hours a week, with more hours possible.  This contradicts what my friend says, who already is in a position.  He said that you have to work at least 30 hours a week, with extra hours possible depending on your other commitments.

As for the test, it was more difficult than the first one and some of the questions were vague as to what was the "best" answer.  The gentleman who administered our test said that the day before he gave the same test to 16 people and 9 failed!  You have to get half of the 29 questions correct to pass, which for some reason is equal to a score of "70."  He said their scoring system is not related to percentage correct, for some reason.  For example, if someone only gets one question right, that is a score of "55."  That's when we all chuckled and wondered out loud about the wisdom of the U.S. Government.  They give you an hour to take the test, which I finished in about 50 minutes.  I ended up with a passing score of  "80" - whatever that means.  I may take it again to see if I can get a better score - they let you keep the higher one, not just the latest.

I'll  keep you informed what happens - if and when I hear from them.

Powerful Public Service Ad from England on seat belt use...

There were over 43,000 traffic fatalities in 2008 - one of the unintended consequences of a society dominated by the automobile as a primary means of transport.  This video has gone "viral" worldwide.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Lake Worth mayor holds first state-of-city address, focuses on positive future

Click title for link to PB Post article.  Congratulations Mayor Varela on delivering a hopeful message about our city's future.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

From the Street Painting Festival - 2009

Click here for live link to City Commission meeting (2/16)

Urban Blight is Nothing New - Check out "The City - Parts I and II" from 1939

Narrator:  "A century or two ago, we built our church and marked the Common out.  We raised Town Hall next so we could have our say about the taxes or whether we need another teacher for the school.  When Town meeting comes around, we know our rights and duties.  And no harm if we disagree - in all matters we neighbors stick together."

From a review of the film: A fascinating film made at the end of the Depression that illustrates the populist, utopian principles of its writer, Lewis Mumford. Mumford, an influential social critic at the time, saw cities as ultimately de-humanizing but he had faith (as the film shows) in the redemptive powers of technology. In hindsight, we can see the limitations of his ideas. The new cities that Mumford writes about are what we would today call suburbs Judging by the film, Mumfords ideas, populist as they are, don't seem to include racial diversity. The new cities also seem to have the same rigid gender roles as the old city; in fact, they reinforce them. As a woman at a primitive washing machine stirs laundry with a stick, the narrator says, Machines needn't break a woman's back; indeed, they can take it and the wife needn't feel cooped up and lonely on washing day. A little gossip or a friendly hand is good for the complexion! Looking at the desolate city scenes in the beginning of the film, its easy to see why people like Mumford would think that abandoning the city center would lead to better lives for working people. Ironically, Mumfords principles were taken to heart after World War II by real estate developers who saw such communities as a way to profit from the veterans who could buy houses with loan guarantees on the GI Bill. Mumford's utopian ideas met with a very capitalist end.

General Motors Propaganda from 1955

This is a promotional film showing the building and celebration of the 50 millionth General Motors vehicle - from November of 1954.  The event took place in Flint, Michigan - which at the time was at the peak of its prosperity as a community.  I grew up just about 50 miles to the west in Lansing - also a GM town, but with a little more diverse economy.  Flint's December 2009 unemployment rate topped 16 and a half percent, but is probably closer to 20% - no longer the example of U.S. prosperity - more an example of the hollowing out of our nation's industrial base.  From a high of 200,000 population to the current 120,000, it is a shell of its former self.  Anyway, enjoy this glimpse into the past of U.S. manufacturing might.

Slattery renderings responding to Casino RFQ

Harrop: Restoring Florida's coolness Knock by Schwarzenegger actually points to trends, assets within state

From the Argus Leader, a good article about urban trends in Florida and nice mention of Lake Worth.  Click title for link.

Monday, February 15, 2010

This is a handy, informative diagram...

This was included in the presentation made by David Godwin.  I've talked a lot about the differences between renovation, rehabilitation, restoration, etc. and this chart lays it out pretty well.  It also includes the variables of cost and number of options and their relationship to the type of revitalization employed in a project.

Which do we have more of...Red Herrings or White Elephants?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Reactions to architect presentations on the Casino building...

Click here for link to City website for .pdfs of the PowerPoint presentations made yesterday.  Not all of the links are working as of 3:30 p.m. Sunday afternoon.  Maybe staff is still working on them, so you can try back later for the ones you can't access now.  They also videoed, in digital format, all of the presentations and questions asked by Commissioners.  Those are also supposed to be available on line sometime.  Thank you staff for making the special effort to video these - let's just hope everything worked the way it should.

First of all, these are just my opinions.  They really mean nothing more than that - my opinions and $2.10 gets me an extra large black coffee at my local Dunkin' Donuts.  I offer these opinions as I care about the future of our beach and would actually like to see the city be successful in making the beach an attractive destination once again.  The beach is the most valuable property in the city - in financial terms and our social history.  It offers recreational opportunities for everyone regardless of class, race, place of residence.  In the city's almost one hundred years of existence, it has reached the status of a local legend.  The complications in doing anything there have really carried on the legend and give it a life of its own.  Whatever the city ends up doing there - with the property and the building - will affect the "brand" or "image" of the city of Lake Worth.

Interestingly, the Hollywood sign in Hollywood, California is going through a challenging period.  While not as famous perhaps internationally as the Hollywood sign, the Lake Worth beach shares a similar importance to its community.  The beach is a large part of our identity.  Right now, there is a proposal potentially to develop the land around the Hollywood sign - which would alter its appearance at a minimum and perhaps call for its ultimate removal.  There is an effort underway to preserve the land through acquisition by a land trust - thus insuring its continued iconic status. Whatever ends up happening on our beach, has to be of an iconic quality.  If it isn't, it is almost worth not doing anything at all.

So that is why the selection of the firm that will be responsible for the design of our updated Casino building complex is so important.  My opinions here reflect my experience in dealing with architects in my professional life and some of the complex projects with which I have been involved.  I'm not going to go into great deal in describing the strengths and weakness of each response to the RFQ.  What I plan to do here is just separate the respondents into two groups - a top tier and a bottom tier and then list a few reasons why and why not they are part of the group.  The top tier would be those that if I were in decision making position, I would like to pursue further and ask for a more definitive proposal.

By the way, the large white elephant in the city's living room, that no one really talked about yesterday, is just how the city is going to pay to get this project done.

Top Tier - in order of presentation.

REG - I worked with Rick Gonzalez and his firm while in the employ of Mr. Trump at Mar-a-Lago and Trump International Golf Course.  He did a good job for us, under some complicated situations and with the close scrutiny of historic preservationists.  He and his firm have proven themselves with other historical sensitive projects (The Harriet and CityPlace, 1916 Palm Beach County Courthouse.)  He has also worked on many local government projects and is used to that environment.  The only weakness in his proposal related to the Casino building is that the initial renderings show more of a historic wrap-around.  I don't favor this approach in terms of a pure historic preservation perspective.  For that reason, REG does not represent my clear cut top choice.

Beilinson/Gomez - This firm is based out of Miami and has done a lot of work in the South Beach area.  They are very familiar with working in a historically sensitive environment.  They have had some local work as well and experience in Lake Worth with the Gulfstream Hotel.  Their proposal, which includes the restoration of the two story "International Style" existing portion of the building and a re-creation of the 1922 architecture in the location that it originally inhabited, is the "purest" in terms of adhering to the Secretary of Interior Standards for Historic Preservation.  The two buildings would be linked by a modern (2010) glass cube which would add our contemporary stamp to the project and signal that work was done purposefully later in time to show the progression of buildings in this location.  The glass enclosure could also be a display area for a historic timeline showing ancient history of the land through to the present day.  This ties as my overall favorite approach.  It would make an iconic statement that the city of Lake Worth takes historic preservation seriously and we are willing to demonstrate on our most important property.  It would also be able to avail itself of some sort of grant funding.

Living Designs Group - Headed by Lake Worth resident John Szerdi, runs his Lake Worth based firm and is known for his accomplishment of the EcoCentre in downtown Lake Worth - among other super green projects.  His approach takes the existing building as a form and would create what he referred to as an exoskeleton.  Many green techniques would be employed to conserve water, generate energy and capture heat.  I wish the link was working for his presentation on the city's website since it contained full elevations of the building after the eco-treatment.  The two story portion would contain a lot of glass area and would change appearance throughout the day as the sun moved and environmental conditions changed.  It would be an iconic statement of the city's focus on conservation and unique ways to make the built environment softer its impact to the Earth.  This is the other approach that ties with the previous as my most desirable.  It would also be a potential magnet for grant funding.

Zeidler - A large international firm with a lot of varied experience, Zeidler designed the Port of Palm Beach Terminal Building and was the architect for the Kravis Center.  Their approach would be worth following if the city chose to preserve the existing International Style architecture.  In the process, they would open up the west side of the building - as many architects discussed the need yesterday - to be inviting to the public and create a pass-through in the middle of the building.  They have a great reputation and a sound team - I just think that Lake Worth has never really wrapped its arms completely around the existing style and, without much different than what is there today, I am not sure it is worth doing.   But, again, it depends on what direction the city wants to follow.

Song and Associates - A West Palm Beach firm with a full resume of public projects, including the West Palm Beach City Center, is one of the few firms that addressed the staging issue related to this project.  We have a set of existing tenants that will need to operate while the construction is going on - including John G's restaurant.  Their solution would be to keep the restaurant operating in its current location and construct another building immediately to the west. When that building is finished, the restaurant would move and that formerly inhabited portion of the building would be demolished, making way for a rather large plaza area.  south of the plaza would be the continuation of the existing building.  The firm showed flexibility in the style choice and the two-buildings could even lend themselves to different architectural treatment or not.  I am suspicious of their low cost estimates which is of some concern.

The others - in order of appearance.

Architectural Dimensions - I appeared in the Commission Chambers about halfway through their presentation, so I may not be getting the whole story.  They prefer an early 20th Century architecture in the Med Rev vein.  It seemed that they didn't have a lot of experience in historic preservation-related projects.  Their design included some awkward elements - especially as it related to the arches along the pedestrian colonnade.  With the rest of the competition, they just didn't measure up.

Donaldson Group - They came across as knowledgeable and had experience with historic architecture.  Their submitted design, while well-thought-out, ended up with an unattractive building.  At the end of the day, after spending the amount of public money that this project will represent, we need to end up with an attractive building.

Gestalt - A firm headed up Lake Worth resident Manuel Occhiogrosso, Manuel also sits on the Lake Worth Planning and Zoning Board.  I appreciated someone involved with the city throwing their hat into contention for work on our most important property - it recalled Edgar Wortman - City Commissioner and architect of the current version of the Casino building.  His response contained some good ideas but did not stand up to the other respondents.

West Architecture - Another Lake Worth firm - they tended to emphasize their historical consultant's experience with other projects more than how they would use that experience and apply to our situation.  I'm also curious about some of their conclusions related to preservation.  Short on details related to the overall project.

David Godwin - I got absorbed by their analysis working up to their response and ultimate design - but then they lost me on the result.  I like the notion of a gold dome - but the overall style and scale of building just didn't do it for me.

RS Architects - Two person team that I didn't think had the horsepower for this type of project.

Slattery and Associates - This firm presented three options based upon three eras of the building's history - 20s, 30s and 40s as either/or choices.  The Commission started falling all over themselves about how great it was we weren't demolishing the building and being green in the process with this one.  What they didn't realize  is that this firm's response included going back to the original size buildings (much smaller) of the 20s and 30s - which would require demolition of the remaining southern portion of the building - and substantial demolition of the existing building on the north end.  This made me skeptical.

BRPH - This is the firm that we have seen before and worked with the city, the tenants and others to come up with a throwback 1920esque design.  This is achieved by skirting the building with another colonnade area.  In so doing, they create some nice second floor deck area.  They also double the size of the ballroom.  But the delicate columns don't fit the massive scale of this building - bigger than whatever preceded it - and much bigger than the 1920s version.  I highly doubt this would be eligible for listing as a historic structure - as I have said here before.  The architect responded that they would apply for a historic designation - whether it is accepted is out of their control.  Doesn't inspire confidence.  The end result is a sort of "battleship" looking structure.  Of all of the responses, this one qualified as the most political.


Yesterday, a few of the architect presenters used this picture in their presentation.  It's taken in the days before the Casino building - at the beach.  Apparently, the community would raise money for the building fund by holding boxing matches.  It seems that we have never been able to shake the legacy of fighting over the beach - could this be why?

I didn't go, but this is all over YouTube's the only one I found without some sort of vulgarity.

Just talked to a friend on North "F" Street

He bought a property that had a 2/2 with a 1/1 garage apartment that he picked up for about $50,000.  In 2005, it sold for $250,000 - he bought it from the bank.  This is someone who now realizes it is the time to buy.