Thursday, July 30, 2009

Ties that Bind: The Arts' Social Role

Vital, dynamic cities need creative and green communities.  Art districts, sustainable neighborhood developments and revitalized downtowns need creative, green development. 

Cherokee Studios is a bold step towards growing Los Angeles’ support for artists that can contribute to city vitality and dynamism through the social role of the arts. 

“While the arts are commerce, they revitalize cities not through their bottom-line but through their social role.”[1]  Investment in urban space for art and artists is a fruitful means to drive neighborhood identity and spatially connect neighborhoods through their different cultural identities.  After all, who would want to commute to Hollywood or any other neighborhood if it was not, somehow, different. 

For, it is the interpretation of space as producers of not just goods, services and identity, but the interrelatedness of such products to neighboring spaces.  Cherokee Studios revitalizes an historic building and recording house while assisting Hollywood to place artists within the city.  Cherokee Studios is therefore a necessary part of a developing ecosystem of creativity, be it artistic, cultural, technological or economic that makes Hollywood a vital and dynamic neighborhood.  

Cities identified as creative centers are not thriving for traditional economic reasons such as tax breaks and incentives to lure business.  They are succeeding because creative people generate their success.  Beyond their economic impacts, urban artists make contributions to community vitality and dynamism by producing commissioned and informal public art.  Artists often participate in the planning of parks and cultural facilities.  Community events such as parades, festivals and fairs all receive active engagement from artists.  All of their efforts enliven the community.

As a locus of creative activity, Cherokee Studios and its residents will build ties that bind.  By providing a center for creative neighbors to congregate and a platform for communities to share resources like cultural facilities, the dividends of creative processes and conservationist techniques for urban living Cherokee Studios is an asset to the Los Angeles community.  The social network created by Cherokee for Hollywood residents and Los Angeles’ communities will translate into cultural vitality and economic dynamism. 

[1] Seifert, Susan C. & Mark J. Stern.  “Cultivating “Natural” Cultural Districts.”

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Artists Centers: RE-thinking Live/Work

"[Art] Centers operate in living neighborhoods or towns that offer a potential constituency and for whom they can be an ecnomic and social as well as cultural asset.  In smaller cities, centers may be tourist attractions and anchor tenants in commercial districts."(1)

REthink Development is not an arts manager or administrator that designs for organizational needs (i.e. nonprofits, unions or coalitions), but as creative industry advocates.

In that vein, REthink designs for place: a theater space, creative offices or, like Cherokee Studios, an entire enclave for artists to reside within Hollywood, a defined and growing arts district.

Art centers like Cherokee Studios can stimulate the creation of other artistic, commercial and community venues.  Support of creative engineers - fine artists, arts occupation employees as well as though leaders, symbol makers and creative entrepreneurs - can increase social interaction, create neighborhood identity and increase local economies.

As such, the affected neighborhods may resemble the strengths of the communities urban savat Jane Jacobs celebrated in 1960s Manhattan: SoHO, Chinatown, Little Italy and Greenwich Village - "a mosaic of unique cultural destinations that encourage city residents to cross porous borders to visit distinctive neighborhoods (Jacobs, 1961)"(2) - an attractive proposition to city developer and one sure still to be recognized to be as unique as Los Angeles.

Traditional definitions of art centers are derived from two distinguishing factors: 1) a dedicated space for gatherings, personl or group work areas, exhibitions and performances and shared equipment; and 2) an open door, so as to allow anyone who expresses interest to become a member, have access to events and services at an affordable price and apply for merit-based mentorships, funding, and exhibitions.

Cherokee is designed not as a traditional art center, but a place to house creative engineers and develop neighborhood culture, identity and arts related industries.

REthink-ing Live/Work
Rethink Development made use of a storied Hollywood building and recording studio to create residential communities for artists and to bolster local arts-related and supportive businesses.  And as larger entertainment and residential destinations receive a disproportionate share of public art and economic development funding, Cherokee Studios is smaller scale, embedded in the neighborhood and relates the unique character of the community.  

Art centers can develop an informal arts district, compound the impact of area arts-related industries and drive and economy of scale.  Art centers attract artists and audiences who spend money in nearby stores and restaurants.  They occupy and beautify building and spaces with outmoded zoning due to their flexible housing and work needs and disparate demographic representation.  Art centers present the city with one-off planning goals to develop urban centers through cultural planning.  It is the encouragement of grassroots urban planning.

Generally speaking, cultural and economic development policy undervalues the importance of space and place, particularly for the creative industries.  "Ongoing access to spaces that offer novelty and serendipitous encounters with other artists and art lovers is a great gift for artists."(3)  Regular and serendipitous encounters with art is a community asset, one that should be developed.  And we have done so with Cherokee studios.  

[1] Johnson, Amanda and Ann Markusen.  “Artists’ Centers: Evolution and Impact on Careers, Neighborhoods and Economies.”  University of Minnesota.  2006.

[2] Johnson, Amanda and Ann Markusen.  “Artists’ Centers: Evolution and Impact on Careers, Neighborhoods and Economies.”  University of Minnesota.  2006. 

[3] Markusen, Ann.  “The Urban Core as Cultural Sticky Place.”  

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Arts: Combating an Impoverished View

As urban theorist Anne Markusen documents, the economic impact of the arts and the contribution of creative professions on city and regional economies is often derided as a discretionary element of a city’s industry, finance and basic services.  Interpretations of the arts and artists as well as creative occupations and workers are, in fact, impoverished by an outmoded view of the relationship between city and industry. 

Los Angeles, even as one of the creative capitals of the world, is not immune to this interpretation.  REthink Development’s Cherokee Studios addresses the need to support industries that quietly contribute to what makes Los Angeles a mecca for the arts and green development through example and advocacy. 

Generally, the arts are measured as a contribution to economic impacts for city economies by totaling the dollar amount that patrons spend on performances, restaurants, parking and shopping in and around districts that house cultural facilities and retail shops.  While this is a good first step, it is also inadequate to address the function of a city beyond basic services – to seed vitality through the attraction and retention of residents that may themselves develop vital neighborhoods through their own industry within the urban setting. 

Cherokee & Economy

REthink’s Cherokee Studios is an opportunity to house artists.  As residents, they may distinguish themselves not as a fortunate few star entertainers but as everyday designers of forms and ideas – as material and building designers, internet entrepreneurs, advertising executives and videogame designers to give a few examples.  In this new interpretation, the arts are not a bi-product of or parasite upon business economy.  Instead, the arts community contributes to innovation and economy by machining original ideas.   

Los Angeles will benefit from corralled services as the placement of artists within cultural facilities increases.  Artists enhance the design, production and marketing of products and services in other economic sectors, attract the recruitment of other creative firm employees bolster both local economic base and export production out of the region.

With the development of cultural facilities like Cherokee Studios, creative individuals of various ages are not lost to out-migration.  Cherokee is, instead, a hub of creativity where spillover-effects within creative industry and arts-related economy will originate.  And as artists are attracted to live, work and congregate in and around Cherokee Studios there will be increased incidents of networking, partnership and learning resulting in greater opportunities for artists and creative professionals.

The placement of art and artists within urban settings can combat the idea of the creative industry as a discretionary element of a city services.  With Cherokee Studios, the interpretation of the arts and artists as well as the creative industry is, in fact, enriched.  For, Cherokee Studios within Hollywood will place artists that can compound the effect of creative industries on the local economy and continue to support the interpretation of Los Angeles as an international creative mecca.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Individuality. Diversity. Leadership.

Cherokee Studios presents its fellow community members and future residents with several shared values, including:  individuality, diversity, and thought leadership. 



Like Cherokee’s building design, community members that live, record and interact with Cherokee will be recognized for their individuality.  Cherokee’s innovation of design is as individualistic as its residents’ choice of lifestyle habits.  The design and development process for Cherokee was demanding and unique.  The process positioned Cherokee to be the first multi-use, live/work building designed for LEED Platinum certification. 

Similarly, Cherokee community members will have a unique live/work environment that can include a custom, home-recording space within a LEED certified residence not because they are eccentric or demanding artists, but individuals that are pro-active in discerning conscious lifestyle choices. 



Cherokee Studios’ history may stand in contrast to the diversity of resident professions for which the new home-recording spaces are designed.  Any musician, professional or recreational, can live here.  Loft recording specs are outfitted for film scorers as well as music, film, and game producers.  Editors, writers and animators should view our spaces too.

Residents of Cherokee will see the benefit of living and working in a community of diverse, albeit like-minded residents.  Each resident may form worthwhile professional bonds or engage in otherwise infrequent conversation regarding life and work in and around Cherokee.  All recording enthusiasts or professionals can identify with Cherokee’s design for pro-active, conscious and creative lifestyle demands.  The result will be a community of creative design leadership.


Thought Leadership

Cherokee Studios is not a benchmark in development, but a call for innovation to our peer group of creatives and greenies.

Cherokee Studios welcomes individuals that will work, as Cherokee’s design team has done, to create new meaningful forms and expression.  Just as forms and expression such as the Capitol Records building and so many lyrics about Hollywood or Sunset Boulevard, the creative community at Cherokee Studios will be leaders in creative identity of Los Angeles and in their respective fields as they create, for example, video games, screenplays and viral videos.     

Cherokee Studios can serve unto its fellow community members as creative stimulation.  As creative community members demand innovative thinking and design measures in their own work, Cherokee Studios demanded the same of its builders in planning and design.  As a result, Cherokee Studios is not a project of scale or a derivative of proven development measures, but a case study in green development. 

In other words, Cherokee Studios is space for the creative individual to utilize extracurricular and work skills to design a participatory home/work environment… to actively participate in developing their community.   


For more information on the specs of the custom, home-recording spaces, please contact DeKoven at REthink Development at

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A New Class of Creative, American Workers

The American working class now consists of 33 million employees... that is one-quarter of the entire U.S. workforce.  Blue-collar employees work within what one may consider traditional areas of working class industry - production operations, transportation and materials moving as well as repair and maintenance and construction work.  

As American industry has transformed in recent history, however, so too has its workforce.  In 1920, 40% of American workers were employed within the working class.  From 1950 until 1970 those numbers dwindled by 36% and thereafter fell precipitously within the 1990s.  As ideas of industry have shifted, so too have definitions of "place" as it regards home and work.

Similarly, the American service class, or a robust 43% of the domestic workforce, has shifted.  America's service workers comprise lower-wage, lower-autonomy employees in occupational fields such as health care, food preparation, personal care, clerical work and other lower-end office work.  In direct contrast to trends of the working class, the service class has seen a tremendous rise from 5 million workers in 1900 to its current total of more than 50 million.

These trends and statistics are from Richard Florida's 2002 book, The Rise of the Creative Class.  Florida's popularity amongst mayors, city planners and, well, New York Times reviewers grant him a strong voice within urban planning circles.  Florida's definition of the Creative Class - the rising class of American workers that may account for the decline of traditional, particularly blue-collar, employees - profiles young professionals, not new occupations.

To be clear, Florida's creative class is defined not by artist occupation or "what they do/make."  But, his point is no less valid.  A new class of creative, American workers is growing:

The Creative Class now includes some 38.3 million Americans, roughly 30 percent of the entire U.S. workforce.  It has grown from rouhly 3 million workers in 1900, an increase of more than tenfold.  At the turn of the twentieth century, the Creative Class made up just 10 percent of the workforce, where it hovered until 1950 when it began a slow rise; it held steady around 20 percent in the 1970s and 1980s.  Since that time, this new class has virtually exploded, increasing from less than 20 million to its current total, reaching 25 percent of the working population in 1991 before climbing to 30 percent by 1999.

The continued growth of the service industry and generation of the creative class redefine planning priorities for cities.  The placement and makeup of home- and work-life within urban centers must reflect the needs f its workers.  REthink Development's Cherokee Studios reflects this change of attitude towards "place," home, and work amongst young professionals.  Cherokee is an opportunity for creative professionals to find vibrant, dynamic life at their doorstep.  Cherokee is an opportunity to live in Hollywood and participate in its development by supporting the critical link between the arts, innovation and community development. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Case Study: Contextual Development

REthink Development defines its ethos as "Contextual Development" - a holistic approach to real estate development that integrates all influences, from people to the environment and from cradle to grave, through the entire development process.

Our Definition of Development
The three core principals of contextual development are:

CONTEXT: Context within the development process surveys the past, present and future of the project site and neighborhood in order to earnestly relate it to the surrounding people, places and environment.  

SUSTAINABILITY: The tenets of sustainability constitute REthink's leadership position within the green building industry.  REthink's design and development process brings all environmental aspects of our project to the most logical form: the maximization of environmental and health benefits produced with only a measured additional investment.  

STORY: Lastly, story emerges from the nexus of context and sustainability to give meaning to the project's form, function and image.  Story, as it is defined here, clearly differentiates REthink projects within the marketplace and gives them a distinct marketing edge.

In other words, REthink seeks to build upon a community's history with a sensitivity to its needs and concerns while revitalizing the spaces in which our fellow community members live, work and play.  As a point of departure, REthink's design is of the highest respect to ecological sensitivity.  To that end, conservationist techniques will not be sacrificed for scale to make a project economically desirable.  The result? - innovation in building design and advocacy in city planning for the health and prosperity of its residents.

There is a difference between building interventions such as smaller-scale, street-level space and amenities as opposed to large-scale attractions.  For example, is it a new sports stadium or museum that will facilitate the attraction and retention of professionals and tourists or the support of neighborhoods to be the catalyst for community, city and regional vitality that is attractive to investment?  

To be sure, it can be argued both ways, and one interpretation does not preclude the other.  As always, the question is nuanced, yet answered clearly by REthink's eye towards innovative development.

Housing Creatives in Hollywood
Los Angeles is a vital and dynamic city due, in part, to its enviable number of community assets: temperate climate, coastal lines and varied topography; strong tourist and entertainment industries; and population density that supports professional sports as well as arts patronage and philanthropy to name a few.  Nevertheless, as REthink addresses its concern for Los Angeles' continued vitality the issue of scale is a point of departure for development.

Young professionals are attracted to vibrant street life, readily available outdoor recreation and live, local music scenes.  In contrast to years past, young professionals in the wireless, information age choose stimulating, creative environments in which to work rather than relocating for jobs or firms.  The cityscape caption that highlights the large stadium or towers of industry that anchor a skyline are ineffective brochures to attract new residents.

REthink Development's Cherokee Studios is designed to respond to the needs of these young professionals.

Cherokee Studios is an innovation in green building design positioned on Hollywood's Fairfax Avenue to offer street-level services and amenities in-keeping with human scale that currently serve Fairfax so well.  Cherokee Studios' design welcomes a diversity of creative industry.  Creative enthusiasts and professionals can house their need for live/work space at Cherokee.  Taken together, the reflection of scale, services, amenities and diverse demographics of the community and future residents honor the needs and traditions of Hollywood.  As a result, Cherokee embodies contextual development and will serve as a case study in commitment to arts industry advocacy and green building design.

Cherokee Studios will be a landmark to Hollywood as the Cherokee recording house was to the music industry because it is both unique and authentic.  Cherokee Studios is unique because it is the first mixed-use, live/work building designed for LEED Platinum certification.  And the live/work lofts are authentic because of its rich recording history, the continued involvement of the recording studio's founder, Bruce Robb, throughout the design and development process as well as its comingling of the old with the new as old studio history, material and aesthetic were redistributed for use in the new Cherokee Studios.

For more information on REthink Development and Cherokee Studios, please visit  Thanks.

The Legacy of Cherokee Studios Continues...

Where Sinatra, Elvis and Bowie worked, twelve new owners will carry Cherokee Studios into a new recording era.

Cherokee Studios, REthink Development and Pugh + Scarpa Architects invite you to learn how this building is designed to inspire new creative endeavors and promote resident health and productivity.

Since 1975, Cherokee Studios has been the site of 300 Gold and Platinum recordings.  Hollywood now has a need for creative live/work spaces.  This summer, the creative spirit of Cherokee Studios will be integrated into design adhering to the world's leading green building accreditation - LEED Platinum by USGBC.  Be a part of Cherokee Studios as its legacy continues...

In what follows, some ideas of community, development and live/work spaces that influenced the design of Cherokee Studios are explored.  We welcome feedback!  To learn more about Cherokee Studios and/or submit comments or questions, please contact us at  Thanks & Best,

REthink Development