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FCR pushes back timetable for Building 2, hopes for groundbreaking by end of year, says SHoP will design that first tower

Despite happy talk by Forest City Ratner executives about a groundbreaking this year for the first arena block tower, and a mini-scoop by the Observer that the architect will be SHoP (designers of the arena facade), the real news is this: the tower is again delayed, and may not start this year, given the difficulty of getting financing.

(About a year ago, the plan was to break ground by the end of 2010.)

At a meeting this morning at Borough Hall of the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet, involving various involved agencies. City Council Member Letitia James asked about the timetable for the affordable housing.

The first building, at Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street, would have about 400 units, 50 percent subsidized, divided into 30 percent middle- and moderate-income and 20 percent low-income.

"We're working on the design of that building," responded Forest City Ratner executive Jane Marshall. "We've been making progress--it's not been as fast as we wanted it to be." And while FCR had hoped to announce the design around this time, "I think it'll be closer to the second quarter."

She later specified "probably the end of May or early June." (Here's Post coverage of this and more from the meeting.)

Enter SHoP

Marshall announced that FCR has retained SHoP architects to design the building. "It was important that the approach to the architecture recognized the arena and how distinctive it is, which makes sense that this sort of prominent place on Flatbush--that it read as a design, that they consider it as a whole," she said.

"In fact, we'll probalby have SHoP have some say in the other buildings on arena block, so that the whole design makes sense," she added.

Timing, financing

"We still believe we can get in the ground in 2011, and that’s our goal," Marshall said. "It's been a complicated procedure, because we are not only looking at design, we've been talking to the financing community... As you know, it's dire out there."

Unclear is whether this building, given the somewhat complicated site, costs more per unit than comparable projects. Forest City aims to use off-the-shelf housing subsidies, including the city's financing for such 50/30/20 buildings, but also needs to raise private money.

What is clear is that, if the arena proceeds on schedule, and opens in the summer/fall of 2012, it will not be accompanied by the opening of a residential building, as initially planned.

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