Thursday, March 08, 2012

Forest City's Sanna gets the star treatment in the Real Deal, which ignores hardball regarding 8 Spruce Street, Ratner's self-blame for Atlantic Center mall design

Photos from The Real Deal
In Power behind the throne: The lieutenants pulling the strings for NYC’s top real estate chiefs, Forest City Ratner construction chief Bob Sanna gets to pose (or be Photoshopped?) nobly in front of the Atlantic Yards arena.

But the article, which places Sanna first among the nine profiled "wingmen," hardly says anything about the Atlantic Yards arena, not timetable challenges, rodent proliferation, or the difficulties in getting that custom weathered metal exterior done.

Nor does it saying anything about Sanna's crusade in his New Jersey hometown to fight an allegedly out-of-scale building.

Making decisions

The article notes that top Forest City officials like Bruce Ratner and MaryAnne Gilmartin make decisions about where buildings should go:
But figuring out what the building will cost, how much time it will take to build and what it will look like are the responsibilities of Bob Sanna. While Ratner and Gilmartin are the faces of the company, Sanna, an architect by training, is the construction manager and point person for all the company’s high-profile projects.
Since 1988, he’s completed 40 projects for the firm, including the New York Times headquarters on Eighth Avenue; Metrotech, the 11-building Downtown Brooklyn office complex; and Regal’s United Artists cinema at 100 Court Street. Few other development firms give the in-house construction manager as much sway in decision-making as Sanna, who oversees an 18-member team.
Too-soft soil under the Frank Gehry-designed 8 Spruce Street, for example, prompted Sanna to retool the building’s underground parking. Along with Gehry and others, Sanna was also involved in other design changes at the building in 2006. At the time, the company, hedging against the market, decided to eliminate the condos units (they were originally planned for the top floors) and make it entirely rental, as well as make other tweaks to rein in development costs.
Sanna is undeniably able, but the "other tweaks" included playing hardball--stopping the building mid-construction to renegotiate with construction unions.

Spinning Atlantic Center

The article continues:
Sanna said his regrets, so far, are few, like wishing that the Atlantic Center mall in Brooklyn, for instance, had more windows. But when it was constructed in the late 1990s, Forest City capitulated to the demands of their big-box retail tenants, who were convinced that only replicas of their suburban stores would work.
“Poor Bruce was being forced to conform to lease requirements of these suburban stores,” said Sanna, who prefers what Home Depot did on West 23rd Street in fitting their store to an existing, more traditional space. “It’s a whole different level of sophistication.”
Sure, there's a push and pull between tenants and builders, especially in the 1990s, but "Poor Bruce"? He actually blames himself. Kurt Andersen, in his 11/20/05 New York magazine Imperial City column, wrote:
Until now, most of Ratner’s buildings have ranged from the uninspired to the bad, like his shopping center across from the Atlantic Yards. Even he admits the Atlantic Center mall is “not up to snuff. Philip Johnson did a first design, but I made a decision not to use him. I have to blame myself. I’ve been talking for ten years about trying to use ‘design architects’ instead of ‘developer architects.’ ”
Revising history

The Real Deal piece concludes:
Still, the two adjoining complexes, which have more than 400,000 square feet, in many ways opened the doors for the company’s nearby Atlantic Yards project. And the retail complexes have their fans.
“They did a really lovely job creating a vibrant area,” said Noel Caban, a broker with CB Richard Ellis who has done deals in Atlantic Center and who also lives in Boerum Hill. Caban added those malls were “a game-changer.
Paved the way--sure. Forest City got the inside track on projects nearby. As for "creating a vibrant area," well, not if you walk around the perimeter of the Atlantic Center mall. It could easily be said they took advantage of nearby vibrant areas.

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