Apparently, though, newly appointed president and CEO MaryAnne Gilmartin is now thrilled about housing. As she told a crowd of urban planning gurus, developers and real estate powerbrokers at a CURE. (Center for Urban Real Estate) dinner at Columbia University Wednesday night, while all of the positive feedback on the arena had been nice, “it is the housing component that will truly revolutionize the project.”My comments:
Ms. Gilmartin raved about the Forest City Ratner’s decision to go with modular, conflating the cost-saving measure with much higher-minded ideals than cheapness. It was about innovation, Ms. Gilmartin said, and the developer’s commitment to affordable housing—the much-delayed component that helped Forest City sell the controversial project to political leaders and community groups. (While the first tower, at 32 stories, will be the world’s tallest pre-fab building, there was likely more afoot than trailblazing in the developer’s decision to go with modular, which promises cost savings and speed for a project that has been plagued by delays and financial woes.)
After speaking about the undeniable influence of Robert Moses, Ms. Gilmartin also expressed her admiration for Jane Jacobs, praising her focus on mixed-use development and declaring that: “It may surprise some given my developer DNA, that I identify more with Jane Jacobs than Robert Moses.”
It may surprise some, indeed. As Paul Goldberger has suggested, "So if there is any way to follow Jane Jacobs, it is to think of her as showing us not a physical model for city form but rather a perceptual model for skepticism."An academic and a businessperson
There's ample reason to be skeptical of Gilmartin and Forest City, not least the developer's longstanding claim that the project would be completed in a decade, a claim abandoned for a contract allowing 25 years.
Bruce Ratner in September 2010 famously tried to revise the story: “It was never supposed to be the time we were supposed to build them in.”
Would Jane Jacobs or Robert Moses produce those slick brochures that Forest City spent so much $ on? Pay the lobbyists and p.r. people?
Forest City's hard-nosed negotiation style--trying to get some of the larger subsidized units assigned to the highest-income brackets--shows that their first commitment, of course, is to the bottom line.
But then, Ms. Gilmartin was not the only one to extoll the altruism and selflessness of real estate developers. CURE. director and SHoP partner Vishaan Chakrabarti opened the evening with rather lavish praise for those in attendance, proclaiming: “heroes, heroes, you are heroes.”
Mr. Chakrabarti uneasily wears the dual hats of businessperson and academic. For example, at a hearing last month regarding Madison Square Garden, he praised the Barclays Center--designed by SHoP, where he's now a partner, as operating "seamlessly" because of proper loading dock operations.
It doesn't operate seamlessly, and that detracts from Chakrabarti's credibility as an architect.