Settlement Reached for 46-Story Mexican Museum Tower to Rise

Waylaid by a pair of lawsuits filed by a group of neighbors in the adjacent Four Seasons building at 765 Market Street, a settlement has been reached to allow Millennium Partners’ tower to rise up to 510-feet in height at 706 Mission Streetand the building permit for the $305 million project has been issued with the permit to start excavation in the works.

As part of the settlement, Millennium Partners will donate $100,000 to the City to offset the costs of installing a new crosswalk at Third Street and Stevenson and revising the signal timing on Third, assuming the improvements for the residents of the Four Seasons, and others, are approved.

The neighbors, who live in a building that’s 430 feet tall, had originally sued to limit the new building to 351 feet in height.

Primarily designed by Handel Architects, the 706 Mission Street project includes the redevelopment of the adjacent Aronson Building and San Francisco’s new Mexican Museum, designed by Ten Arquitectos, at its base.


One apartment complex’s rule: You write a bad review, we fine you $10k

One apartment complex’s rule: You write a bad review, we fine you $10k



Trying to control customer opinions online is nearly always a losing game for a business, and there's now a long line of cases where it has backfired on companies. We uncovered a new example this month, when a reader contacted Ars Technica to show us the "Social Media Addendum" that his Florida apartment complex, called Windermere Cay, included in his lease.

The Social Media Addendum, published here, is a triple-whammy. First, it explicitly bans all "negative commentary and reviews on Yelp! [sic], Apartment Ratings, Facebook, or any other website or Internet-based publication or blog." It also says any "breach" of the Social Media Addendum will result in a $10,000 fine, to be paid within ten business days. Finally, it assigns the renters' copyrights to the owner—not just the copyright on the negative review, but "any and all written or photographic works regarding the Owner, the Unit, the property, or the apartments." Snap a few shots of friends who come over for a dinner party? The photos are owned by your landlord.

Contacted by Ars, a manager disclaimed the contract—even though it had been given to a tenant to sign just a few days before.

Before one even gets to the terms of the Social Media Addendum, renters have to get through this explanatory paragraph:

There is a growing trend... where tenants will post unjustified and defamatory reviews regarding an apartment complex in an attempt to negotiate lower rent payments, or otherwise seek concessions from a landlord. Such postings can cripple a business by creating a false impression in the eyes of consumers. The damages resulting from this false impression can include potentially millions of dollars in economic losses, and have permanent consequences that can unjustly destroy a business.

The Addendum was provided to Ars by a resident of Windermere Cay who asked that his name be withheld. In this article, he'll be referred to as Martin. He moved in to the complex in early 2014, selecting it because it's an easy commute to his engineering job at an Orlando company. Martin describes Windermere Cay as a five-building complex, with each building holding about 30 apartments.

He never had any intention of writing a review of his apartment, good or bad. Still, he told the management that he wouldn't sign the Social Media Addendum on principle.

"If I took a photo of people in my apartment, they would own it," he said in an interview with Ars. "It's just ridiculous."

So in 2014, Martin asked to have the addendum removed from his lease. "They said, we'll talk to the property managers," Martin said. He didn't hear anything else about it.

This year, once his lease was up, Martin was given another year-long lease to sign. Despite his complaints and earlier refusal to sign, he was again given a Social Media Addendum to sign. Once more, he told management he disagreed with the terms of the document and wanted it removed.

"It was still in there," he said. "I assume if people don't question it, they would sign it."

Asked about the Social Media Addendum by Ars, Windermere Cay's property manager sent this response via e-mail: "This addendum was put in place by a previous general partner for the community following a series of false reviews. The current general partner and property management do not support the continued use of this addendum and have voided it for all residents."

While the addendum may be "voided," residents clearly haven't gotten the memo. Martin had been given a copy of the addendum just days earlier, and it's surrounded in a sheaf of other typical renter paperwork, such as mold and lead disclosures. The manager at Windermere Cay wouldn't answer follow-up questions or even give a name when asked—the name on the Windermere Cay e-mail read simply "Property Manager."

Better yet, don’t ask


Not only is such a contract unenforceable, but it could expose anyone promulgating it to legal repercussions, Santa Clara University Law Professor Eric Goldman explained.

"It would be a terrible idea to enforce this in court. A judge is going to shred it," Goldman said in an interview. "If a person posts an Instragram photo of them having a party in their apartment, the landlord is saying they own that as well. The overreach reinforces that this clause is bad news, and it may be actionable just to ask."

States have taken action in the past against businesses that pushed "no review" paperwork on customers, even when those businesses haven't been crazy enough to attempt enforcing the illegal deals. It's been clear that such contracts are legally questionable since at least 2003, when the New York v. Network Associates decision came out. In that case, a judge found that telling customers they couldn't publish reviews of software "without prior consent" violated New York's unfair competition law. In Goldman's opinion, "no review" contracts like the one pushed by Windermere could also lead to legal trouble under federal law, since the FTC Act bars "unfair and deceptive" business practices.

Goldman has written about some of the most notable attempts by businesses to squelch customer reviews, although he said the Windermere Cay Social Media Addendum is the first time he has seen such an attempt in the landlord-tenant context.

We've covered a few of the "greatest hits" on Ars: there's the online retailer that got pummeled with a $300k legal bill for trying to fine a couple for a negative review. Don't forget Medical Justice, which tried to use copyright to take control of patient reviews but promptly "retired" its contract once it was challenged in court. Finally, there's Suburban Express, whose owner has been accused of harassing and stalking customers who left negative reviews.

For his part, Martin says he really doesn't have any complaints about his apartment or the building—after all, he just chose to live there for another year. "It's an incredibly new complex, and I'm the first person to live in my unit," he said.


TruAmerica Multifamily and Capri Capital Partners Acquire 362-Unit Denver Apartment Community



DENVER, CO - TruAmerica Multifamily, in partnership with Capri Capital Partners, has acquired from Forum Real Estate Group the Veranda Highpointe Apartments, a 362-unit Class A multifamily development in Denver, CO in a transaction valued at $105 million. 

Built in 2014, the five-story multifamily property offers a mix of studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom floor plans, and a variety of resort-style amenities including a heated swimming pool with a unique ‘lazy river,’ two-story clubhouse, state-of-the-art fitness center, yoga studio, sports court, community kitchen, dog walking path, rooftop lounge and structured parking. Located at 6343 E. Girard Place, Veranda Highpointe Apartments is situated within seven miles of downtown Denver and 1.5 miles of the Denver Tech Center (DTC). The Southmoor Light Rail Station, which is less than one half-mile from the property, offers convenient access to both downtown and the DTC.

“Millennials make up approximately 40 percent of the Denver workforce and population, yet many have been priced out of most of the urban areas where young urban professionals typically would like to live,” said TruAmerica Senior Managing Director of Acquisition and Investor Relations Noah E. Hochman.  “This was an opportunity to acquire a high quality asset in an in-fill location that was built and priced to appeal to Denver’s largest demographic.” 
With today’s closing, TruAmerica’s Denver portfolio totals 2,037 units.  One of the most active buyers of multifamily assets in the United States, TruAmerica focuses on acquiring properties to provide higher quality and affordable rental units for working class families and young professionals that are priced out of urban locations.  In addition, the company focuses on high quality amenity rich Class A transit oriented developments in growing urban neighborhoods where homeownership is unaffordable.  Last year, the TruAmerica/Capri partnership acquired the Vermont, a newly constructed 464-unit luxury high-rise apartment complex along Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles.   
“Veranda is a prized asset in one of Denver’s most desirable areas, and we can improve operational efficiencies through our vertically integrated asset and construction management platform,” said Hochman.  “We will also undertake selective capital improvement projects and enhance the unit interiors with higher end finishes and additional high-tech features for residents.  The property has more amenities than any other building in the neighborhood and we want to make sure these are activated with good resident programming that will provide a sense of community.” 

Denver benefits from a diverse knowledge-based economy that includes aerospace, aviation, bioscience, telecom energy, financial services and information technology software. The Milken Institute cited the Denver metro’s “robust and diverse high-tech sector” as the reason for its strong job gains in one-year and five-year measures. Also, the city ranked in the top six markets to watch in ULI’s “Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2016.” 

"Capri’s investment strategy for this particular client is to invest in multifamily properties on a diversified basis across the US, focusing on core and value-add opportunities in high barrier-to-entry markets witnessing strong demographic and economic trends," says Dori Nolan, Partner, Investments.  "The acquisition of Veranda is consistent with this strategy."

“The sale of Veranda Highpointe marks Forum’s fourth ground-up development disposition in the Denver area. We are very proud of this residential community and the incredible attention and recognition this asset has garnered over the years. From the signature ‘lazy river’ amenity to the high level of custom finishes and details throughout the property, we put a lot of heart and soul into designing and developing Veranda Highpointe and could not be happier with the end result. We’ve found great partners in Capri and TruAmerica, and are confident they will continue to deliver superior service and the kind of living experience that Veranda is known for,” remarked Darren Fisk, Forum Real Estate Group founder and CEO.


This Office Tower Could Be The Greenest High-Rise In The World—Because It Breathes

In a typical high-rise, the only way to get rid of stale office air is by pumping air in and out through an energy-intensive ventilation system. If you're encased in glass and steel, you can't just open a window. A new office tower does things differently: When the temperature is right, the whole building breathes.

"When we started this project, we aimed at being the greenest skyrise in the world," says Mike Gilmore, director of design and construction services for PNC, which opened the new building, designed by Gensler, as part of its Pittsburgh headquarters. One part of being more sustainable was designing a natural ventilation system that would stretch up all 33 stories.

A double-layered facade wraps all the way around the building, with outer windows that automatically pop open when they sense that temperature and humidity are at the right level and air pollution is low. Inside, vents flop open to let in fresh air. On warm days, a solar chimney—heated by un on the roof—opens up, and sucks hot air out of the building.

"After the poppers pop and the floppers flop and louvers open . . . the stack effect takes the heat out with zero energy," says Gilmore.

In the winter, the roof collects heat and sends it through the building through a system of fans. The double-skin facade traps almost three feet of air between each layer, helping insulate the building and reduce the need for heating or cooling.

The natural system works quickly, as the team saw on a recent visit just before the building opened. "It was pretty warm because everything was closed," says Benson Gabler, who manages corporate sustainability. "We kind of overrode the system to open the facade, and all of the sudden the natural ventilation mode kicked in, and it just instantly cooled down the floor."

The building is also covered with blinds that automatically open and close to let in the sun and block out heat. Ninety-two percent of the office space gets natural light, and artificial lights don't switch on unless sensors detect that it's truly dim inside.

To save water, an on-site water treatment plant—like a miniature version of the kind that provides cities with drinking water—treats rainwater and recycled water from the building for reuse in flushing toilets, water gardens, and cooling building systems. By catching rainwater, the building helps Pittsburgh deal with a common problem during storms: If it rains too much, sewers often overflow into local rivers, polluting natural habitats.

PNC started experimenting with greener buildings more than a decade ago and quickly realized that building more sustainably didn't actually cost more than the conventional methods. The company now has more than 250 LEED-certified projects in the U.S., more, it says, than any other company in the world. The office tower in Pittsburgh is expected to exceed LEED Platinum, the highest rating for sustainability.

The next step: Teaching employees how to use the new office to make the most of its green features. "While we can design and construct a sustainable building, the actual performance is dependent on human behavior," says Gabler. So far, 140 people have signed up for training sessions on how the building works. "We want to get them educated and excited about the building so they could then share that with their colleagues to really create a culture of sustainability."

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Gas Station on the Market for $6.3 million

After 38 years in business on the southwest corner of 19th Avenue and Judah, the owner of the 19th Avenue 76 Gas and Service Station is retiring. And as a plugged-in tipster notes, both the core business and real estate below are now on the market for $6.3 million.

The 10,000 square foot site is actually zoned for one to three family homes rising up to 40-feet in height. And while never pursued, perhaps due to the subsequent market crash, San Francisco’s Planning Department met with a team a decade ago to explore the site’s potential for development.

And yes, there’s another 76 Station on the other side of 19th Avenue. At least for now.