As a senior vice president of residential and commercial development at Forest City Ratner, the Harvard College and Harvard Business School grad and Upper East Side resident has been involved in every aspect of the $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project since its inception 10 years ago.Solving problems
"I was knocking on doors, telling people I'd like to speak to them about purchasing their property," she recalled. "I was trying to acquire the New Jersey Nets basketball team and purchase air rights from the Long Island Rail Road." Now Ms. Burch is heading the project to build the first residential building on the site, a 32-story tower that will feature the tallest modular building ever constructed. "We think this is going to launch a new industry in New York," she said of the modular system.
..."A lot of what a developer does is solve problems," said MaryAnne Gilmartin, the executive vice president of Forest City Ratner who has been tapped to replace Bruce Ratner as CEO. "You have to feel comfortable with that constantly changing dynamic, and Melissa's adeptness and comfort with change makes her such an asset to the organization."
How exactly does Burch solve problems? As I reported for City Limits' Brooklyn Bureau 8/26/12, in Agency, Developer Wrestle Over Atlantic Yards Affordability, the New York City Housing Development Corporation [HDC] wanted Forest City to increase the number of two-bedroom affordable housing units:
HDC apparently asked the developer to alter the mix of affordable units by shifting 15 of the proposed one-bedrooms to two-bedrooms, and gearing these for families in the 120 percent and 150 percent AMI bands.What does "close the $2M funding gap" mean? It means "save us $2 million in costs."
That proposal, skewed toward middle-income subsidized units, was unacceptable to the devel-oper. Forest City's Melissa Burch offered a counterproposal: "We want to find common ground that gives HDC the 20 percent 2BRs that are important for your mission and at the same time helps close the $2M funding gap” created by the reassignment of 15 one-bedroom units to two-bedroom units.
To save $1 million of that stated “funding gap,’ Forest City asked that the 15 larger units be allocated solely to the higher 150 percent AMI band.
HDC seemed to take the deal. "We of course prefer more affordability," Tally responded to Burch, "but we will accept it. We'd like your commitment that this will be the minimum level of affordability [for this tower] no matter how future conditions may affect the budget."
In response to questions about the negotiations, HDC stresses that the specifics of the Tower 2 deal are still in flux. To that end, the income mix has shifted since the last email exchange contained in the documents City Limits obtained: HDC now says that of the 15 additional two-bedroom units, two will be for middle- and moderate income families below the 150 percent band, while a 16th unit will serve low-income families.