Skip to main content

Cracking the code? Hints Forest City modular factory will change from high-rise residential to building components

A 12/14/15 article in the trade magazine Building Design & Construction ((BD & C) is headlined Undaunted, Forest City pushes ahead on modular construction, with the subtitle, "The president of its FC Modular division says new projects are under consideration, even as competitors falter or fall by the wayside."

Time will tell, but there are signs that the future of modular will not be towers like the B2 high-rise at Dean Street and Flatbush Avenue, but rather more modest efforts from the modular arm of Forest City Ratner,

That's why I consider overblown the observation, in a Real Deal profile of former Forest City executive Melissa Burch, regarding Forest City's "once-faltering experiment with modular construction."  Heck, they're still making interior repairs on modules that were supposed to have been delivered complete. That's hardly steady.

The BD & C also hints at some major changes in factory output, from modules aimed at high-rise apartments in New York City--remember, Forest City claimed to have "cracked the code" regarding high-rise modular--to less ambitious components for non-residential projects that could go outside the city.

So too does a Real Deal article, The Future of NYC Real Estate, that cites Susan Hayes, president of FC Modular, in paraphrase as anticipating that modular will "become a mainstream method for multi-family homes, hospitals and dormitories in the next five to 10 years."

The business is in flux

Yes, as noted by BD &C, some longer-established modular competitors have struggled. Capsys, in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, has closed after losing its lease, and Deluxe Building Systems in Berwick, PA, is on the rocks.

FC Modular might seem to be faltering too; on 11/30/15, it offered a 90-day warning that it may lay off some or all 220 workers (194 of them union) from its Brooklyn Navy Yard factory once modules are finished for the B2 tower at 461 Dean Street, next to the Barclays Center.

However, "FC Modular has every intention of moving forward," Hayes, said in the magazine's paraphrase. Of course "every intention" is weasel language that could encompass multiple outcomes.

While Hayes claimed to have projects in various stages of development, she wouldn't offer details, and acknowledged “we’re not getting 75 RFPs a week for modular.”

That's vague, but it does contrast significantly with Forest City Ratner CEO MaryAnne Gilmartin's March 2014 claim that the company was "beseiged" with interest from developers.

Of course, since then, B2 has been delayed for two years, Forest City and former partner Skanska USA Building have filed dueling lawsuits over cost overruns, and water infiltration and mold have required internal repairs to modules.

Changing the emphasis from residential

“The difference today for FC Modular is that we are not an indoor construction company; we are [instead] an assembly plant with the same quality controls and standards for excellence as any other factory,” Hayes told the magazine.

The difference is not quite clear, but the statement that FC Modular can now "meet what our clients want," as well as Hayes's statement that modular will be “a bigger deal” in nonresidential building, suggests that the factory may produce modules for retail, institutional, or office use.

That might keep FC Modular open, and it might amortize some of the significant research and development costs in Forest City's modular venture. But remember, Forest City initially aimed to revolutionize high-rise residential construction in New York City.

That said, the 1/6/12 Opportunity Brief Forest City presented to potential partners described the potential for not one but three levels of prefabrication: preassembled components, subassemblies, and modular construction.
From the Opportunity Brief caption
So, Hayes's statement suggests that the "assembly plant" will focus on preassembled components and subassemblies rather than more finished pieces of a building.

Three target markets, including bathrooms and data modules

The Opportunity Brief, excerpted below, noted three--not one--target markets. They included Multi-Story Housing Modules, which could be sold within a 500-miles radius of New York City; Prefabricated Bathroom PODS for hospitals, hotels, and housing, which could be sold nationally; and Telco/Data Center modules, which could be sold globally.

I think those were all rather optimistic--the transportation cost/time is such that the market for housing is likely limited to a much narrower range than 500 miles, while the other markets are also likely smaller. However, large potential markets remain. So we'll see.

The Real Deal article indeed backs up that conclusion, quoting (in paraphrase) Joseph Maraia of Lend Lease as saying said prefab bathrooms could save 10 percent, but "the difficulty in transporting large prefabricated materials throughout the city will likely impede the proliferation of full-building modular construction. "

From the Opportunity Brief

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

No, security guards can't ban photos. Questions remain about visibility of ID/sticker system.

The bi-monthly Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Community Update meeting June 14, held at 55 Hanson Place, addressed multiple issues, including delays in the project, a new detente with project neighbors,concerns about traffic congestion, upcoming sewer work and demolitions, and an explanation of how high winds caused debris to fly off the under-construction 38 Sixth Avenue building. I'll have more coverage.
Security issues came up several times at the meeting.
Wayne Bailey, a resident who regularly takes photos and videos (that I often use) of construction/operations issues that impact residents, asked representatives of Tishman Construction if the security guard at the sites they're building works for them.
After Tishman Senior VP Eric Reid said yes, Bailey asked why a guard told him not to shoot video of the site, even though he was on a public street.

"I will address it with principals for that security firm," Reid said.
Forest City Ratner executive Ashley Cotton, the …

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park graphic: what's built/what might be coming + FAQ (post-dated pinned post)

This graphic, posted in February 2018, is post-dated to stay at the top of the blog. It will be updated as announced configurations change and buildings launch. Note the unbuilt B1 and the proposed--but not yet approved--shift in bulk to the unbuilt Site 5.

The August 2014 tentative configurations proposed by developer Greenland Forest City Partners will change. The project is already well behind that tentative timetable.

How many people are expected?

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park has a projected 6,430 apartments housing 2.1 persons per unit (as per Chapter 4 of the 2006 Final Environmental Impact Statement), which would mean 13,503 new residents, with 1,890 among them in low-income affordable rentals, and 2,835 in moderate- and middle-income affordable rentals.

That leaves 8,778 people in market-rate rentals and condos, though let's call it 8,358 after subtracting 420 who may live in 200 promised below-market condos. So that's 5,145 in below-market units, though many of them won…

The passing of David Sheets, Dean Street renter, former Freddy's bartender, eminent domain plaintiff, and singular personality

David Sheets, longtime Dean Street renter, Freddy's bartender, eminent domain plaintiff, and singular personality, died 1/17/18 in HCA Greenview Hospital in Bowling Green, KY. He was 56.

There are obituary notices in the Bowling Green Daily News and the Wichita Eagle, which state:
He was born in Wichita, KS where he attended public Schools and Wichita State University. He lived for many years in Brooklyn, NY, and was employed as a legal assistant. David's hobby was cartography and had an avid interest in Mass Transit Systems of the world. David was predeceased by his father, Kenneth E. Sheets. He is survived by his mother, Wilma Smith, step-brother, Billy Ray Smith and his wife, Jane all of Bowling Green; step-sister, Ellen Smith Alexander and her husband, Jerry of Bella Vista, AR; several cousins and step-nieces and step-nephews also survive. Memorial Services will be on Monday, January 22, 2018 at 1:00 pm with visitation from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm Monday at Johnson-Vaughn-Phe…

Some skepticism on Belmont hockey deal: lease value seems far below Aqueduct racino; unclear (but large?) cost for LIRR service

As I wrote for The Bridge 12/20/1, The Islanders Say Bye to Brooklyn, But Where Next?, the press conference announcing a new arena at Belmont Park for the New York Islanders was "long on pomp... but short on specifics."

Notably, a lease valued at $40 million "upfront to lease up to 43 acres over 49 years... seems like a good deal on rent for the state-controlled property." Also, the Long Island Rail Road will expand service to Belmont.

That indicates public support for an arena widely described as "privately financed," but how much? We don't know yet, but some more details--or at least questions--have emerged.

An Aqueduct comparable?

Well, we don't know what the other bid was, and there aren't exactly parcels that large offering direct comparables.

But consider: Genting New York LLC in September 2010 was granted a franchise to operate a video lottery terminal under a 30 year lease on 67 acres at Aqueduct Park (as noted by Gov. Andrew Cuomo).

As…

Barclays Center event June 11 to protest plans to expand Israeli draft; questions about logistics

At right is a photo of a poster spotted in Hasidic Williamsburg right. Clearly there's an event scheduled at the Barclays Center aimed at the Haredi Jewish community (strict Orthodox Jews who reject secular culture), but the lack of English text makes it cryptic.

The website Matzav.com explains, Protest Against Israeli Draft of Bnei Yeshiva Rescheduled for Barclays Center:
A large asifa to protest the drafting of bnei yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel into the Israeli army that had been set to take place this month will instead be held on Sunday, 17 Sivan/June 11, at the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, NY. So attendees at a big gathering will protest an apparent change of policy that will make it much more difficult for traditional Orthodox Jewish students--both Hasidic (who follow a rebbe) and non-Hasidic (who don't)--to get deferments from the draft. Comments on the Yeshiva World website explain some of the debate.

The logistical questions

What's unclear is how large the ev…