Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park in 2016: buildings finally open; others rise; what's the surprise?

See Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park 2015 retrospective yesterday.

Some of the big Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park 2016 news has already occurred. Owner Mikhail Prokhorov canned the Brooklyn Nets coach and demoted the general manager. But expect some effort at buzz, if not competitiveness, as the Nets hire new leaders and find new players.

And, of course, an unresolved question, as Politico's Howard Megdal wrote, is whether Prokhorov, now that he owns 100% of the Nets and 100% of the Barclays Center operating company, will sell.

The New York Islanders, after a slow start in drawing fans, have begun to do better, and as the playoffs approach might tick up further.

But we won't know until late in 2016 whether, in fact, the Barclays Center arena will in 2015-16 reap the forecasted $55 million in net operating income, which would be a huge jump from the previous $38 million yet still would not allow much profit. After all, that also depends on the concert industry.

We may see further union pressure and protests regarding the contract for service workers at the arena, which is due to be renewed.

The Brooklyn Nets' new luxurious training facility in Sunset Park did not open as expected in September, but is now due next month..

The Nassau Coliseum, revamped by the Nassau Events Center, originally led by Forest City Ratner and now owned mostly by Prokhorov, is supposed to open at the end of the year, but there are already rumblings it will be late.

The buildings open

The first buildings in the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park project should open, including the 550 Vanderbilt condo tower, the 535 Carlton "100% affordable" rental tower, and the 461 Dean 50% subsidized/50% market modular tower. All come with some questions:
  • will the condo building meet sales targets, and/or accelerate other condo construction?
  • how many owners will be overseas buyers?
  • will elected officials and/or the press notice the lack of affordability associated with the "100% affordable" building?
  • will the modular tower, after all its troubles, reap the expected market-rate rents?
  • will Greenland USA, the lead partner in the Greenland Forest City Partners joint venture, consider any more modular buildings?
Also, with a warning notice sent to workers at the modular plant about a possible closure at the end of February, we'll see whether--if there are no new Pacific Park modular towers--the modular factory retools to make other prefab structures.

Construction should continue/begin on sites recently cleared, such as B12 (651 Dean Street) and B15 (664 Pacific), while construction should also begin on B13, the last of four sites on the southeast block and another condo building. Work on the Vanderbilt Yard continues through 2017.

Tentative plan of buildout
Changing tides?

The emergence of open residential towers, and their new residents, could change some of the vibe around the project, with the new residents enthusiastic about Pacific Park (free arena tickets?) or, if things don't go as well as planned or construction remains onerous, demanding consumers.

The scale of the project, long alarming to many, may have grown somewhat more acceptable thanks to time and the emergence if enormous towers in relatively nearby zones of Downtown Brooklyn and the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Still, with multiple buildings finished or going up, Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park will be jarring from some perspectives. Will the developers still claim it's a "new neighborhood" or a "neighborhood from scratch"?

The assignment of the school planned for B15--a mixed elementary/middle school, or a dedicated middle school, as many local advocates seek--remains in question, but should emerge later this year.

Also in question is whether the continuing frustration experienced by neighbors regarding construction and arena operations addressed thanks to a promised--but delayed--app to track impacts.

Will the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation, not so impactful in its first year, do more? A few AY CDC board members, notably Jaime Stein, have pushed for more transparency from Empire State Development, the state agency overseeing/shepherding the project, with little visible progress.

What's the surprise?

What's the next Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park surprise? The ones in 2015 were relatively small, but there's always something.

Perhaps it will be the emerging plan for Site 5, currently home to Modell's and P.C. Richard, which may require a revised approval from the state, and offer the opportunity for public comment. (I don't expect public comment on the eminent domain process.). Forest City--er, Greenland Forest City Partners--has said it could be high-end retail, likening it the Time Warner Center of Brooklyn.

Or could it be an announcement that Greenland Forest City aims to build B1, the behemoth office tower over the arena plaza. That could be a construction nightmare, as well as a hardship for arena operations and a hazard for the school at B15, if an arena entrance shifts to its right flank.. But, as I've suggested, they're not going to simply discard 1.1 million square feet of development rights without getting something in return.

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