Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The mysteries of Site 5: from housing to (obviously delayed) office space

The prospects for Site 5, the now-disappeared tower (graphic from 2006 iteration) planned at the property now occupied by P.C. Richard/Modell's, may be even more murky than previously assumed.

In May, when developer Forest City Rather released new renderings, there was no depiction of Site 5, located between Pacific Street and Atlantic, Flatbush, and Fourth avenues, the site farthest west in the Atlantic Yards footprint.

Though the Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) General Project Plan described the development of both Site 5 and Building 1 as "central to the goal of the Project," both are delayed. ESDC spokesman Warner Johnston told me in May, "Site 5 was never contemplated to be one of the first buildings and will be done in a future phase."

OK, but what wasn't clear at the time was that Forest City Ratner, at least as of May, was planning office space at Site 5. At that time, demand for office space in Brooklyn was doubtful. Now, after the meltdown on Wall Street has left much empty office space, the demand for office space in Brooklyn--at least in the current business cycle--must have dropped even further.

Housing or office space?

Site 5 has had variant potential fates. The ESDC had released two renderings of the project. (Go to Chapter 1 of the Final Environmental Impact Statement.) The Residential Mixed-Use Variation was to include office space (yellow) only at Building 1, abutting the arena to the west, with Site 5 devoted to housing (blue).



The Commercial Mixed-Use Variation was to include office space in three buildings; not only would all of Building 1 consist of office space, so would Building 2, directly south of the arena, as well as the building at Site 5.


FCR's plans

However, at least until recently, it was clear that Forest City Ratner favored the residential variation; after all, the Atlantic Yards web site, in a section called Key Facts, promises 336,000 square feet of office space, enough for only part of Building 1.

However, in May, the developer announced that Building 1 would consist only of office space, with 650,000 square feet, but would be constructed only when an anchor tenant could be found.

Why was housing eliminated? Perhaps FCR concluded that the condo market had softened.

A new site plan?

Further information, some not publicly released (as far as I know), offers a clue about FCR's thinking, at least as of May. FCR p.r. firm Geto & DeMilly's web site offers renderings and a site plan from May.

Note that both Site 5 and Building 1 were planned to contain office space, with the other three buildings around the arena slated to contain housing.

The decision to swap out housing planned for Site 5 might have been a reaction to the condo market.

However, the market for office space at this time is even more doubtful. Building 1 is clearly the priority; it would link to the Urban Room, the arena and subway entrance.

Given the obvious delay in the plans for Site 5, it's worth asking the “probabilistic” date for any construction there, especially given that the two retail outlets still operate, despite a projection in the Atlantic Yards construction schedule (linked from here) that demolition was to be completed by January 31, 2008.

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