Friday, April 22, 2016

DBP's Reed and BP Adams call for downtown Brooklyn upzoning (more/again?) for office space

A 4/20/16 op-ed in Crain's New York Business, from Downtown Brooklyn Partnership President Tucker Reed and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, is headlined The Brooklyn boom could get much bigger. Here's how: Unlock the borough's commercial potential before it becomes a victim of its own success.

Citing the surge in high-resident residential construction, the strain on infrastructure, and the low office vacancy rate, the authors write:
To truly satiate demand and allow for firms to grow and stay in the borough, we must look beyond basic market forces to generate the additional commercial density needed to secure the future of Brooklyn’s economy.
Wasn't that exactly the point of the 2004 Downtown Brooklyn rezoning? Yup. Except the rules were written loosely enough to allow upzoning for housing development, without any reciprocal affordable housing, and that was far more lucrative than building office space.

They call for measures to "meet the original goals of the neighborhood rezoning," but don't explain why it went wrong.

Density increase

Now, beyond freeing up government office space downtown by moving it to other locations, like Broadway Junction (a win-win for both Adams as BP and Reed for his Downtown Brooklyn real estate constituency), they call for "tools that increase the supply of affordable housing in and around downtown" and, crucially:
At the same time, increasing allowable density for office uses will provide an alternative to residential as the highest and best use in the area, and finally realize the original vision of downtown Brooklyn as a 21st-century office market.
(Emphasis added)

I'm not sure what that means. Are they saying density should be increased on unbuilt sites within the 2004 rezoning? (How many sites are available?)

Or are they calling for an increase in density outside the boundaries of the rezoning, with no upzoning for residential? If so, that's both a reminder of the mistake made 12 years ago, as well as a bonus for landowners in the area for upzoning.

And that should be quantified and evaluated rather than simply cheered.

The Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park implication

I have to think that this argument, in some ways, connects to the separate plan by Greenland Forest City Partners to turn the B4 tower from residential to office space and to move the bulk of the B1 tower over the arena plaza to Site 5, where already a large tower is approved.

The former does not add density, actually, and seems like a gamble unless the developer already has an anchor tenant or tenants in mind.

However, the B1 move--1.1 million square feet--would be a significant boon for the developer, which would avoid having to build over the arena plaza, a tricky and difficult process. And it would result in a giant building of 1.55 million square feet--which I've dubbed the "Brooklyn Behemoth"--across the street from row houses.

This is a state process, not a city one, so outside any upzoning that Reed and Adams promote. But there are conceptual links.

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