Thursday, July 13, 2006

All Atlantic Terminal? The rebranding of the Atlantic Center mall

(Imagined) Memorandum

To: Forest City Ratner
From: Your branding consultant
Re: Rebranding of Atlantic Center mall

We know we have a problem with the mall. The design is lousy, and the blank walls violate urban design principles college freshpersons should learn. Architectural historian Francis Morrone—and now he’s on the Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn advisory board—called it the “ugliest building in Brooklyn.” Ron Shiffman—and he’s a guy with some Brooklyn pedigree, since he founded the Pratt Center for Community and Environmental Development—now calls it “the only pre-existing blighting influence” in the neighborhood around the proposed Atlantic Yards project. Yikes.

Even Bruce Ratner agreed that it was designed in semi-paranoid style for mid-90s Brooklyn, aimed to keep “youth” (of unspecified ethnicity, but you know what he meant) from congregating. That’s why there are no doors on the northeast segments, next to the subsidized housing buildings. What did Bruce tell the Times (Rethinking Atlantic Center With the Customer in Mind; 5/26/04): "Look, you're in an urban area, you're next to projects, you've got tough kids." We were fortunate that the reporter didn't bother to get any other opinions about Bruce's statement. What if Tish James had wandered by?

So here’s what we do. We downplay it. And we gradually subsume its identity into the Atlantic Terminal mall next door, opened in 2004. OK, that one’s no beauty, but it has glass storefronts all around, and the brick makes it look more like Brooklyn than some appalling suburban slab. And we can call “Atlantic Terminal” simply “one destination.”

We'll say all the stores, all 32 of them—of course there are some vacancies in both malls—are part of Atlantic Terminal. (Wait, we won't mention the Department of Motor Vehicles or the Empire State Development Corporation, both of which rent space at the Atlantic Center mall. We shouldn't remind people how snagging the DMV helped us fill the taxpayer-subsidized space that should've gone to retail, right?) And then, in small type, we’ll acknowledge that "Atlantic Terminal" consists of “Atlantic Terminal” and “Atlantic Center.” It might be a little confusing, but that’s OK. Our math doesn’t always add up.

We have big plans for that Atlantic Center mall space. Some Atlantic Yards opponents wanted us to put the arena there, but that would block the three towers we plan. (Were we going to build on top of the mall, or tear down the whole thing? We haven't said, have we? Tear it down, we say.) We can call the whole thing Atlantic Terminal. After all, it is the Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area. (ATURA). And ATURA has been good to us; what other developer could've proposed the Atlantic Yards process and avoided an RFP for that valuable railyard for 18 months. Let's place an ad in Brooklyn’s Progress, the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce newspaper. Soon we'll see how we can put Atlantic Center to bed. (At right, ad from June/July issue of Brooklyn's Progress.)

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