Sunday, October 31, 2010

In promotional "Brooklyn Tomorrow," architect Pasquarelli hailed as Barclays Center savior; he says arena's in a "residential neighborhood"

After taking an Atlantic Yards hiatus in 2009, the infamous Brooklyn Tomorrow advertorial promotional magazine published by the Community Newspaper Group, publisher of the Brooklyn Paper and the Courier-Life chain, again puts Atlantic Yards on the cover, as it had in the 2007 and 2008 issues.

Brooklyn Tomorrow appears as an insert in both weeklies, promoted on the cover, but is not yet online.

The headline promises "Barclays Bounce: How the arena got back in the game."

Intriguing.

[Update: Editor Gersh Kuntzman protests that it's not an advertorial. Given that previous editions featured content clearly tied to advertising, such as from Forest City Ratner, I'd call them advertorials. This issue does not, but the upbeat tone of the articles seems geared to a "positive" promotional publication.]

The savior of Barclays?

The Table of Contents pulls no promotional punches regarding p. 14: "Barclays Center: Architect Gregg Pasquarelli will be remembered as the man who saved basketball in Brooklyn."

The letter from the editors, Vince DiMiceli and Gersh Kuntzman, further assists developer Forest City Ratner (who just happens to be the two newspapers' landlord) citing "our exclusive interview with the man who saved the Barclays Arena (the focal point of what we're sure is to become America's Downtown)."

The focal point of America's Downtown? Even for a promotional real estate publication, that's a double stretch. The arena would extend Downtown Brooklyn to the southeast.

And no one's going to mistake the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, even with the new temporary plaza Pasquarelli's designing, as America's Downtown. Not even New York's. Does America's Downtown feature Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal malls?

Meanwhile, the Brooklyn Paper hasn't touched the story about Forest City Ratner's effort to raise $249 million by hawking green cards to Chinese investors.

Adjusting to the real estate downturn

Given the economic downturn in real estate, the issue, by the way, takes a much broader view than previous issues of the supplement.

There's an interview with an environmental designer and mini-profiles of five "future leaders" (who, in this most diverse of boroughs, are three white males and two white females).

None of the three biggest advertising opportunities--back cover and inside covers--attracted real estate advertising.

The exclusive

The interview/profile (at bottom) is headlined "The man who saved the Barclays Center: A new design jump-starts the Nets' new home." It's quite brief, and in many ways offers less than what the architect said in his September 29 presentation at Borough Hall.

But consider the logic of Brooklyn Tomorrow:
Meet Gregg Pasquarelli, the architect who saved basketball in Brooklyn.

No development will change the face of our borough more than the Barclays Center--the future home of Brooklyn's first major league sports team in 55 years.

And without Pasquarelli, the entire 19,000-seat arena that will host the Brooklyn Nets would have been in doubt.
What's the logic? The article states:
Ratner had fired starchitect Frank Gehry Frank Gehry in 2008, and brought in the budget-conscious Kansas City firm Ellerbe Becket, which promptly released a hanger-style" [sic] design for the arena that was met with near-unanimous disgust.

Then came Pasquarelli, who unveiled the current design, which is so good that it attracted the eye--and, more important, the money--of Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, who bought the Nets franchise from Ratner and invested in the significantly more attractive arena.

His cash saved the arena project.

Would Prokhorov have made his investment if the arena had looked like a hanger? One can't say for certain, but there are plenty of hangars selling for a much cheaper price in Siberia.
That's called a non sequitur. Prokhorov's gaining fame--like a cover story in today's New York Times Magazine--not because he's a 45% investor in Forest City Ratner's arena but because he's the majority owner of a professional basketball team.

The plaza and the neighborhood

Most of the rest of the article consists of Pasquarelli's description of the plaza plan, and his insistence that it will "become a meeting place, and the focus of the neighborhood."

Maybe, maybe not. I think it's a stretch to compare the plaza to Gansevoort Plaza and Union Square in Manhattan.

But the last paragraph shows the architect veering slightly off message and confirming that he recognizes the very tight fit that an arena has in Prospect Heights:
It's a big building in a residential neighborhood, and it's an incredible challenge," said Pasquarelli. "But it's been a blast designing it."
He and his firm haven't designed the building.

Missing from the article is this important distinction. The arena is the same hangar Ellerbe Becket designed, with a new facade. The architect of record is Ellerbe Becket. SHoP is the facade architect.

The article (click on images to enlarge)


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