Wednesday, February 27, 2008

AY scaleback? Well, at least Miss Brooklyn, apparently

As I wrote yesterday, the evidence from the transcript of Forest City Enterprises' "Investor Day" last October suggested that "the size of the project may have been reduced" and "the flagship Miss Brooklyn tower has apparently been trimmed." But I didn't put them in the headline or lead sections because the evidence was murky.

But the potential scaleback was apparently the news of the day, as Brownstoner declared in a headline, Atlantic Yards Scope Trimmed; Funding Still Fuzzy and commenters piled on, suggesting that the affordable housing would be cut, even though a company executive said in the transcript that "we are committed to creating [the 2250 units] over the life of the project."

Miss Brooklyn cut

And if Miss Brooklyn no longer would contain condos, as Forest City Ratner officials seem to have confirmed, part of a reduction in total bulk as well as a tradeoff for office space. The loss of some 435,000 square feet of condo space suggests a reduction in planned residential units from 6430 to about 6000, assuming an average of 1000 square feet a unit.

That means the project's residential density would go down, as well, from 292 apartments/acre to 273 apartments/acre.

Indeed, as I should've pointed out yesterday, just before Atlantic Yards was approved in December 2006, Miss Brooklyn was reduced in height from 620 feet to shorter than the 512-foot Williamsburgh Savings Bank. That implies some reduction in square footage. I kept asking about the revised bulk, but never got an answer.

And it's not clear whether the building would still contain a hotel, as originally planned.

(Update) To clarify, FCR officials described the building as 528,000 square feet "of zoning rights." It was to have 908,144 square feet. A hotel would add 164,652 square feet to 528,000 square feet of condos, but the use of the term "zoning rights" implies an overall cap. Then again, a reduction to 528,000 square feet would be a more than 40% cut, while the height of the building was reduced only 18%, from 620 feet to 511 feet. Include the hotel and the cut in bulk is less than 24%. Maybe the building is getting a little shorter, too.

Crain's confirms, sort of

Later in the day, Crain's New York Business weighed in, in an online article headlined Atlantic Yards quietly scaled back? A representative of the developer asserted that the project had not been scaled back but acknowledged that Miss Brooklyn had been cut.

There's a gap there. As I commented on the Crain's site, If "the square footage adds up to what was previously projected" and Miss Brooklyn has "smaller square footage," then where has the developer *added* square footage to stay at square one? The evidence suggests there's been a reduction of a couple of hundred thousand square feet, but until full dimensions of the project are released, we can't be certain.

A company rep confirmed that, as I had suggested, the discussion in October had omitted the portion of the project at Site 5, hence the omission of one building and a significant amount of square footage.

Signed agreements?

According to the transcript, FCR Executive VP MaryAnne Gilmartin said, “In June of 2007, we received [a] favorable decision on the Federal eminent domain lawsuit, in September of 2007, executed critical funding agreements with the City and State of New York, which allow us to be reimbursed for investments made in infrastructure and land to date on the project.”

That seems to contradict some public statements, as I noted. Crain's followed up:
Yet company sources suggested to Crain’s last month that said no such funding agreements had been completed because litigation against the development was still pending.

A source familiar with the agreements says they were indeed signed by Forest City Ratner last fall but are still waiting for approval by the city and state comptrollers.


OK, so they've been signed, but not completed. But the term "executed" sure sounds like the process is finished.

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