Wednesday, August 20, 2008

"Maximum" private participation: will the Urban Room become ADT Plaza?

Architect Frank Gehry, developer Forest City Ratner, and the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) have long called it the "Urban Room," publicly-accessible open space. (See more here and here.) It looks like we should start calling it the ADT Plaza.

While ADT Plaza is not described explicitly as the "Urban Room" on the Barclays Center web site, it would include several elements tagged to the Urban Room.

First, consider how the ESDC describes a large, at least 10,000-sf publicly accessible atrium that would serve as a dramatic gateway to the arena and provide a place for people to congregate... [I]t would serve as an entrance to the office space and hotel in Building 1, the restaurant and cafe, the arena (its ticket booths would be located here), and a new access point to the subway via an underground connection....The Urban Room would serve as its own destination when programmed with small concerts, cultural events, art shows, and readings that would be open to the public... The second level mezzanine of the Urban Room would be accessed externally by a grand stoop at the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues or internally by a stair and an elevator.
(Emphasis added)

Enter ADT

Then consider the description on the Barclays Center web site:
# 365-day meeting place
# The Primary entrance for the venue
# Direct elevator, escalator and stair access to the subway station
# Pedestrian access in and out from Flatbush & Atlantic Avenues
# Access to the Team Store
# Prime location adjacent to Venue Box Office
# Views directly into the Venue Bowl
# Jones Soda Shoppe


It would be named for "ADT Security Services, a unit of Tyco International, the largest provider of electronic security services to nearly six million commercial, government and residential customers throughout North America."

The Soda Stoop & Shoppe

And what about the second level mezzanine of ADT Plaza, accessed by a grand stoop? That sounds like the Jones Soda Shoppe, with its retro spelling of "shop." Again, according to the web site, Jones Soda Stoop & Adjacent Terrace are expected to include:
# Open air structure at tip of the Plaza – the main access point to the Barclays Center – will serve as a year-round gathering point and meeting place for residents, visitors and tourists
# Prime location at the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues; the Jones Soda Stoop and Terrace will be visible to 60,000 vehicles that pass through the intersection daily
# WIFI capabilities

Jones Soda Shoppe expected to include:
# Jones Soda branded signs visible to Atlantic & Flatbush Avenues
# Open daily for residents, commuters, and event attendees
# WIFI capabilities
# Digital TV service displayed on plasma televisions
# Branded environment (e.g., cups, napkins, staff uniforms)


Maximum private participation

The ESDC, in Part II of the Modified General Project Plan, assures us (p. 35) that FCRC will maintain the Urban Room as a publicly accessible space with a subway entrance.

That's keyed to a finding that Atlantic Yards would be a Land Use Improvement Project under state law, that the plan or undertaking affords maximum opportunity for a participation by private enterprise, consistent with the sound needs of the municipality as a whole.

Thus a Civil Rights-era provision aimed to clear slums in the absence of willing private investors apparently leads, in the 21st century, to a highly-branded "Urban Room."

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