Thursday, March 22, 2007

Coming demolitions mean "urban room" at crucial corner

No, it's not the grand 150-tall Urban Room, the gateway to the "Miss Brooklyn" skyscraper, planned at a short distance to the west. But as developer Forest City Ratner proceeds with demolitions over the next few months, the western segment of the project site is shaping up to become vacant, a distinct vision of "urban room."

Indeed, the triangle of land between Fifth, Flatbush, and Atlantic avenues is already vacant, with one building awaiting demoliton. Just east of Fifth Avenue, betweenFlatbush Avenue and Pacific Street, is where the action will move.
Lot 13 has been vacant for a while. Lots 19, 20, 55, and 56 were made vacant after demolitions next year.

Upcoming are demolitions of lots 10, 11, 12, 18, 22, 30, and 54--filling in the grey color in the map above. The largest plot, Lot 1, a gas station, is largely absent of structures.

The three buildings pictured at right are in lots 12, 11, and 10. Two of the buildings extend from Flatbush Avenue to Pacific Street. The vacant lot at the corner was deployed in December for Christmas tree sales.

Empty corner

Should Forest City Ratner follow through on the planned demolitions over the next weeks and months, that corner will be vacant. Notably, vacant lots--except for that gas station--will partly surround two buildings, on Lots 21 and 27, occupied by plaintiffs in two separate court cases. (Plaintiffs also occupy lots 50, 46, 43, and the square above 43. )

There may be more "urban room" coming soon. The tenants of Lot 29, the Community Benefits Agreement signatory BUILD, recently vacated their space.

Isolated building

Lot 21 is the building at right in the picture below, behind the gas station. Perhaps the court cases will be resolved and Forest City Ratner will be able to proceed apace with construction of the planned Brooklyn arena (aka Barclays Center). But if those cases linger, or the plaintiffs win, the lots likely will linger as well.

It may, indeed, start to look a little like Norwood, OH, where three property owners won a case resisting the use of eminent domain. "Many people who live near the site are tired of looking at the desolate piece of land surrounded by a chain-link fence," the Cincinnati Enquirer reported in a recent article.

"Facts on the ground"

Of course, the court battle is still in the early stages. But it never hurts to create "facts on the ground."

Indeed, in his Robert Moses biography The Power Broker, Robert Caro wrote, regarding demolitions and tenant relocation for expressways (p. 779):
Many tenants were already out, their buildings already demolished. Once you get that first stake driven, Moses was fond of saying, no one could stop you.

In this case, the buildings to be demolished--at least the initial ones--are already vacant. But the emerging "urban room" will help create an argument for action.

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