Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Greenland Forest City seeks to shift arena office tower development rights to Site 5, for humongous 1.5M sf building (despite what City Planning said)

Site 5 is at far left
The 2016 Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park surprise--which I partly predicted--has come early, and it's a doozy, with self-serving motives portrayed as civic ones.

The bottom line is: to save money on construction costs, and not have to build a 511-foot office tower with 1.1 million square feet over the arena plaza, Greenland Forest City Partners want to move the entire development package across the street to Site 5.

That's currently home to P.C. Richard and Modell's, where already a 250-foot building with 439,050 square feet of development rights is planned.

The results: a humongous building, more than 1.5 million square feet (and of an unknown height), across the street from row houses. Forest City has characterized it as the Brooklyn analogue to the Time Warner Center. It's almost a quadrupling of development rights.

B1 development rights would be combined with smaller Site 5 (model approx. 2008, by Frank Gehry)
What next?

This will require new approvals (and public comment), and may even generate outrage, since even the New York City Planning Commission in 2006 recommended that the building at Site 5 be cut, and it was. (And it's right next to the Brooklyn Bear's Community Garden.)

But it is being pitched as a way to "save" the plaza so crucial for the arena (and appreciated by the public), as well as to deliver office jobs.

It's possible that this, like so much regarding this project, is a gambit, and they will "accept" a compromise in which 100,000 or more square feet are shaved off.

Or that some of the development rights might be moved to Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Center Mall, which already has the option to build about 1.1 million square feet (1.586 million square feet minus the Site 5 development rights) in three towers over the mall.

Note: the current Site 5 occupants, Modell's and P.C. Richard, still face an eminent domain proceeding, and P.C. Richard is challenging it in court.

The plot for Site 5 is a little more than an acre, at 48,655 square feet, according to the Atlantic Yards Design Guidelines. (An acre is 43,560 square feet.)

That makes for an astounding Floor Area Ratio (FAR) of 30.8, or nearly 31. Commercial zoning, C-6, has an FAR that maxes at 15. Almost all of Hudson Yards has a smaller FAR, though a small section (see p. 31) has an FAR of 33.

The plot for Site 5 is not much smaller than the "base envelope" for B1, which is 56,725 square feet, but that tower also was expected to stretch over the arena. (Site 5, by the way, is named as such because it was part of the Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area, or ATURA.)

There's a meeting Thursday at 9:30 am of Empire State Development, the state agency overseeing/shepherding the project. No agenda has been announced, but I wouldn't be surprised if this is on it.

The news

Crain's New York Business reports, in Developers reveal plan to build Brooklyn's largest office tower across from Barclays Center:
The developers of Pacific Park, a sprawling collection of apartment buildings being built next to Barclays Center, are exploring a plan to build the largest office tower in Brooklyn.
Greenland Forest City, a partnership between the New York City development firm Forest City Ratner and Chinese real estate company Greenland Holdings, are considering efforts to secure the approvals necessary to transfer as much as 1.1 million square feet of development rights to a site at 590 Atlantic Ave. that it controls across the street from Barclays Center.
If successful, the pair could erect a roughly 1.5 million-square-foot office tower across from Brooklyn's largest transit hub at Atlantic Avenue, where nine subway lines and the Long Island Rail Road converge.
No dimension "Pacific Park was always meant to include modern office space," a spokeswoman for Greenland Forest City said in a statement. "We think the time is right for the borough to have an iconic office building for the new Brooklyn economy and the thousands of jobs it will bring to the doorstep of one of the city’s largest transit hubs."
Crain's noted that Empire State Development--which surely knows of this proposal--would not comment.

The justification

From the article:
Greenland Forest City has presented its plan to both neighborhood and state economic-development officials as a way to preserve the open plaza space in front of the Barclays Center. The office tower already has the support of Tucker Reed, president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, a major local business group.
"Our office vacancy rate in downtown Brooklyn has fallen to a historic low of 1.6%," Reed said in a statement. "We risk losing significant investment and further job growth in downtown Brooklyn if additional inventory does not come online in the immediate future."
I don't think Tucker Reed is a neighborhood economic development official but rather a representative of the business community, most notably Forest City Ratner, whose CEO, MaryAnne Gilmartin, chairs the DBP's board

I had suspected they would not want to build on the arena plaza, given the complications, and would want to shift development rights. I just didn't think they'd have the effrontery to shift all of them all across the street.

If Brooklyn needs office space, well, wasn't Downtown Brooklyn rezoned?

DCP's 2006 recommendation

From the Department of City Planning's September 2006 letter (at bottom):
Site 5, located on a site bounded by Atlantic, Fourth and Flatbush avenues, is proposed for a height of 350 feet and to contain approximately 572,000 zoning square feet. The Commission recognizes the prominence of this site, which is located across from both the Williamsburgh Savings Bank and Building 1 of the Arena block, as well as directly adjacent to the low-rise buildings west along Atlantic Avenue and the terminus of the Fourth Avenue corridor. The Commission believes that Site 5’s height should be carefully assessed within this context. Given this location, the Commission therefore recommends that Site 5 be reduced to a height of 250 feet with a reduction of approximately 180,000 zoning square feet to approximately 392,000 zoning square feet in order to provide a more varied composition of building heights and to provide a stronger transition to the Fourth Avenue corridor to the south.
Note that it had already been cut from 400 feet to 350 feet. It was cut to 250 feet, but not to 392,000 square feet.

Forest City's lie in November

When the news leaked out in November, Forest City claimed that a report in BisNow "was corrected since it mistakenly said all 1.6M would be on Site 5."

Turns out it was right.

The official approvals

From the 2009 Modified General Project Plan:
The Project would concentrate its density, height, and commercial uses at the western end of the Project Site to reflect the higher density commercial and residential uses associated with Downtown Brooklyn to the north, with Site 5 serving as a transition in scale from the neighborhoods to the west and south of the Project Site, and to capitalize on the services provided by the mass transit system – specifically proximity to the Transportation Hub (the largest in Brooklyn), and the residential uses predominant on the eastern end of the Project Site would reflect the residential nature of the adjoining neighborhoods to the north and south.
...In addition, Site 5 (located across the street from Building 1 at the junction of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues and at the southern end of the Transportation Hub) also has high potential for either commercial or residential development, while providing a transition (in height and scale) to its surroundings. This very prominent and unique terminus is well suited for high density development with an emphasis on superior architecture and urban design.

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