Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Forest City Ratner's ambitious plans for its Atlantic Terminal and (blighted) Atlantic Center malls; new towers not yet on the table, but new retail surely in sight

In Brooklyn Nets a Mega Mall: Forest City Mulls What’s Next for Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center, the Observer's Matt Chaban writes:
While everyone (but the neighbors and former neighbors) is looking forward to the opening of the new arena, Forest City Ratner now has its eyes trained across the street, to the two malls it owns there.
Atlantic Center
Everyone? Really?

But it surely is worth pointing out, to use Michael D.D. White's "mega-monopoly" term, that Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project was sure to rain benefits on the developer's adjacent malls, and that should have reflected in the public negotiations.

New opportunities

One opportunity is replacing existing tenants with more upscale retail, as well as more food and beverage. Chaban adds:
Ms. [MaryAnne] Gilmartin even raised the possibility of reskinning the building, replacing its imposing brick fa├žade with something more modern and inviting. The appearance of the mall has long been decried by some in the community for turning its back on the neighborhood, particularly the housing projects behind the building in Fort Greene. Almost two decades after the Atlantic Center was built, this has become a very different neighborhood, one retailers are hopefully less afraid of.
Atlantic Center, from the back.
Actually, it's the Atlantic Center Mall that has an imposing brick facade, while the Atlantic Center is known for a facade of blank walls, at least on the sides not open to customers, and thus the "ugliest building in Brooklyn," as per critic Francis Morrone. And it's even blighted, under state guidelines.

The overbuild

Chaban writes:
One piece in the possible architectural transformation of the two malls is more than a million square feet of development rights Forest City still holds on the property. Together, the two malls equal a little less than 800,000 square feet, meaning an expansion could more than double the space.

This does not necessarily have to be retail development, as the Atlantic Terminal building already has an office tower on top, known as 2 Hanson Place. As Norman Oder pointed out back in 2006, preliminary designs for the Atlantic Yards project revealed three towers atop the mall, tucked away in the background and unmentioned in discussions of the project.
The upshot: Forest City hasn't decided, but they know Brooklyn's hot--they heard it at a shopping center conference last month in Las Vegas, and they--and other landowners--will take the opportunity.

Thriving center?

It's unclear exactly which mall Gilmartin is referring to below, but I think it's Atlantic Center, because that's where the biggest potential upgrade would be:
But Forest City is also striving not to kill the goose that laid the golden egg. “This is a thriving center, with some of the most profitable stores in the country for these retailers, and we do not want to threaten that,” Ms. Gilmartin said. “But short of razing the building, which is not realistic, everything is on the table.”
If so, is she counting the Department of Motor Vehicles, which isn't open at night, as part of the "thriving center"?

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