Friday, July 17, 2015

So what if Prokhorov owns the Barclays Center? Arena operations vs. construction imperatives

There has been (and will be) inevitable tension between the imperatives of operating the Barclays Center and building and operating towers around it, especially but not limited to the three or four towers on the arena block.

That's what makes the prospective sale of Forest City Enterprises' shares in the arena and Brooklyn Nets to team majority owner and arena minority owner Mikhail Prokhorov intriguing--and surely should give both sides--Prokhorov and developer Greenland Forest City Parters--some pause.

For now, at least, despite those inevitable tensions, presumably people inside Forest City offices can easily share information and complain/solve problems. When ownership separates, even if there are cordial relations, the structure is different.

Impact of arena operations on towers

Consider that arena crowds line up not merely on the plaza but sometimes toward the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Sixth Avenue, eventually the site of a large residential tower. Or that the second-largest entrance to the arena is on Dean Street, in between two under-construction residential towers.

So too is the arena loading dock, outside of which limos and trucks have historically lingered, both on the "pad" as well as the turn lane just outside the B3 site.

(See photo at right, from Atlantic Yards Watch, from June 25, the night of the NBA draft.)

Or that, for some concerts, rowdy or hyped crowds stream out of the building, some on routes past those tower sites.

Consider that B15, opposite the arena between Dean and Pacific streets just east of Sixth Avenue, is supposed to be the site not just for rental apartments but also a 616-seat school. (The location and nature of the school--primary/intermediate or just intermediate--hasn't been approved yet.)

There's no one living in the towers yet. But surely some will be concerned when arena operations intrude.

Impact of tower construction on arena

From the other angle, consider how tower construction impacts the Barclays Center. The lingering B2 site, at the intersection of Dean Street and Flatbush Avenue, severely narrows the pedestrian passageway, forcing it into the street. The now under-construction B3 site, at Dean Street and Sixth Avenue, also narrows the passageway on Dean,

Surely construction of B2, at Atlantic and Sixth, will narrow both pedestrian passageways.

And the big kahuna is the construction of B1, the flagship office tower over the arena plaza. If and when it's built, an alternate entrance to the arena is supposed to open at the east, at Sixth Avenue and Pacific Street, in between two towers. That will make things challenging both for the arena, as well as for the residents of adjacent towers.

I'd bet that many will want to "save" the unplanned arena plaza, and the developers would be happy to not build that tower--just as long as they get 1M+ square feet of equally valuable development rights.

Going forward

The point is there are many unknowns and, when ownership splits, less of an incentive to communicate and resolve problems. That's not to say it won't happen, just that there's less of an incentive.

Some issues may have been resolved. The new arena green roof is not only supposed to look nice but also to tamp down bass escaping from certain concerts and disturbing neighbors blocks away.

For now, Greenland Forest City can make nice to existing neighbors by offering them free or discount tickets to arena events. I'd bet that, even if Forest City sells its stake in the arena, it will maintain that practice, especially for the residents in the new towers around the arena.

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