Wednesday, November 12, 2014

"Atlantic Yards will be many things to many people." “I could see this project taking many forms over the years.” (Yup)

Given the uneasy, incomplete transition from Atlantic Yards to Pacific Park Brooklyn, it's worth taking a look at a couple of open-ended statements that were unwittingly more meaningful than even intended.

Below, see a screenshot from the original Atlantic Yards web site--complete with deceptive fish-eye photo suggesting that one block of the railyard, plus a bit more, would become the entire 22-acre project).

"Atlantic Yards will be many things to many people," it stated. Indeed, it won't even be Atlantic Yards.

The difficulty of prediction

Also consider the closing paragraphs of a 7/1/07 New York Times article headlined Official Sees Possible Risk in Big Project in Brooklyn:
Richard Moore, a real estate analyst at RBC Capital Markets, said that Forest City had a reputation for careful planning and very conservative investments. But he also noted that even the most competent developers could not easily predict how a long-term project like Atlantic Yards would turn out.
“I could see this project taking many forms over the years,” Mr. Moore said. “It could go either direction, I imagine.”
Indeed. Some quick (but not exhaustive) examples...
  • A shift from office space to condos.
  • Arena block towers decoupled from the arena.
  • A timetable extension to 2035, a potential 25-year buildout.
  • A new arena architect and design aimed for basketball, not basketball and hockey.
  • A second architect with a new skin for the arena.
  • A new majority investor from Russia for the Nets.
  • That same Russian oligarch as a minority investor in the arena. 
  • Three separate efforts to raise cheap capital from immigrant investors in China
  • A modular plan aimed to revolutionize construction. 
  • A major league hockey team moving to the arena.
  • A new majority investor, owned by the Shanghai government, for the non-arena portion of the project.
  • A modular snag, leading to a bitter lawsuit. 
  • A new green roof aimed, in part, to deter escaping bass.  
  • A new architect for the next towers, which will be built conventionally.
  • A new "outside date" of 2025, meaning a 15-year buildout. (Depends when you start counting.)
  • A new name for the project.
  • Forest City's share of the team up for sale.
  • Forest City''s share of the arena up for sale.
What next? Don't be surprised at some unexpected change. As I've said, "Atlantic Yards is a never-say-never project."

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