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Permit for first Atlantic Yards tower filed; signs suggest it won't be modular (so how will they save money?)

Brownstoner yesterday noted that Forest City Ratner had filed an application with the Department of Buildings for the long-delayed first residential tower in the Atlantic Yards project, to be sited at the corner of Dean Street and Flatbush Avenue.

Also see coverage by the Brooklyn Paper, under the somewhat overstated headline Ratner finally moves ahead with residential Yards tower, and a New York Post brief, Ratner eyes arena apts. None have seen fit to cover issues raised by the plan for arena bollards.

Brownstoner's quotation of a random arena construction worker--that it’s still unclear whether or not the tower will be built with pre-fabricated, modular units, as Forest City has been considering--was converted by Curbed into telling "Brownstoner that's still a possibility."

More likely not prefab

While the permit application doesn't say so explicitly, one sign points to conventional construction: the building's primary structural system would be "Steel (Encased in Concrete)," while the tallest modular building extant, a 24-story, $34 million high-rise in Wolverhampton, England, is framed with structural steel.

That structure is considerably shorter than the 33-story, 322-foot, 368-unit tower planned by Forest City. Indeed, what drew headlines was Forest City's apparent interest in building the world's tallest modular residential building--a tactic that might save significant sums but also could pose risks.

The Observer quoted Forest City executive MaryAnne Gilmartin:
“The permits were filed as standard operating procedure as we move forward,” Director of Commercial & Residential Development MaryAnne Gilmartin said in a statement. “We are still designing both prefab and conventional alternatives for the first residential building at Atlantic Yards and are shooting for a year end groundbreaking. We hope to show renderings to the public during the 4th quarter of this year.”
More subsidies?

If Forest City can't save money via modular construction, how do the numbers "pencil out"? After all, in March 2011, talk show host Brian Lehrer asked Rafael Cestero, outgoing Commissioner of the Department of Housing, Preservation, and Development (HPD), about the report that HPD had declined Forest City Ratner's recent request for an additional $10 million in additional subsidies--beyond the $14 million for 150 units--for the first residential building.

"One is, we have a set of programs that we use across the city... that fall within certain subsidy parameters that make sense for taxpayers and make sense for the city," Cestero responded. "We felt that the additional subsidy that Forest City was requesting... didn't meet those parameters and, frankly, that we felt was not a good public investment to go beyond what we have already committed."

"We want to see housing built there. We're all deeply committed to seeing not just the arena built, but to see... the affordable housing built," he added, "but we think the parameters that we've laid out, the program that we've laid out, allows that project to go forward."

So has the developer figured out a solution? Or has the Bloomberg administration moderated its position?

Modular longevity

Yesterday's earthquake might prompt readers to wonder whether modular buildings can survive seismic shock.

They're supposed to. But it is worth noting that, according to coverage of the tallest extant tower, "quality modular buildings have expected life spans of 20 to 50 years." That implies planned obsolescence for any Atlantic Yards towers built modular.

A sober assessment


Here's the tweet from the Observer writer:

Hey, @TMcEnery, meet @Jim_NYUSchack.

Where it is

By the way the official address is 461 Dean Street, formerly the address of the row house at left below. Now that address is a site bordering the under-construction Barclays Center arena.

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