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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.

Click on graphic to enlarge. Design by Ben Keel.
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't be so cheap.

As of Nov. 2017, the buildings finished include 1,242 units with the capacity for 2,608 people (using the 2.1 persons/unit estimate, which does not necessarily hold in each building; nor are any full yet):
No buildings are under construction as of March 2018. There are 1,468 affordable rentals to be built, which will be allocated among low-, moderate-, and middle-income households.

A January 2018 graphic from L&L MAG

This is more of a concept plan than a confirmed representation, from the new firm L&L MAG (which is working on Atlantic Yards on behalf of minority shareholder Forest City New York), but it does show the bulk from a different angle. The pink arrows point to completed buildings, the green to the two tallest (Site 5 and B4). Note that the huge two-tower Site 5 project has been floated but not yet approved.


FAQ

What was the project's timeline, and how has it changed?

When Atlantic Yards was announced in December 2003, it was supposed to take ten years to build. That same timeline persisted after the project received official state approvals in 2006. After delays, including lawsuits and the recession, project terms were changed in 2009. A 2035 "outside date" was assigned for the project, with penalties only for a few buildings and the platform.

In 2014, the state and community negotiators, who had threatened a lawsuit regarding delayed affordable housing, agreed to a 2025 deadline for the affordable housing. That

Four of 15 (or 16) towers were completed (or nearly so) when, in 2016, Forest City Realty Trust, at that point the junior partner in the joint venture with Greenland USA (see below) announced it would pause new construction. In early 2018, after Greenland agreed to buy most of Forest City's remaining share, the developer said it aimed to start a new building in 2019.

Greenland has said it will meet the affordability deadline, which implies front-loading affordable units. (One question--see below--is how affordable they will be.) A former Forest City executive in January 2018 offhandedly estimated that the project would take another decade. I'd bet it goes past 2028.

What's the next building to be built?

Probably B4, on the northeast corner of the arena block, but it likely won't launch until the second quarter of 2019.


What after that?

The sites are cleared for B12 and B13 on the arena block, and B15 across Sixth Avenue from the Barclays Center. B12 was unveiled in September 2015 as 615 Dean Street and B15 was unveiled in December 2015 as 664 Pacific Street. The latter--delayed by a dispute with neighbors and perhaps for business reasons--would contain the planned middle school, which, had it been built, would be open by now. It would take two years to build.

How many affordable units have been built?

Exactly 782 (of 1,242 total), including 254 (32%) highly-coveted low-income units, for which there was a huge response in the lottery. By the way, the low-income units are supposed to be 40% of the overall total of below-market units, so they're lagging. 

But 336 of them (43%) have been Band 5 upper-middle-income units--for households earning near or above six figures--approaching market rate, so it's been hard to find tenants. Some renters at 535 Carlton were actually offered a free month on a one-year lease. (Rent at one market-rate studio actually dipped below an affordable unit within another project building.) It's better to describe "affordable units" as "below-market" "income-linked," since households are supposed to pay 30% of their income in rent.

How many jobs have there been?

That's tough to figure out, because, while there have been periodic reports of the number of workers at the construction site, or the number of total arena employees, the most important metric is FTE (full-time equivalent) jobs. Consider this analysis, which suggests that the supposed 2,000 arena jobs (since increased) can't add up to 1,135 FTE. 

Suffice it to say that there's no proof of the supposed 10,000 construction jobs (in job-years), nor any evidence that the number of jobs, on a pro-rata basis, meets that metric. There are few permanent jobs, since only four residential buildings have opened, with no retail. The developer failed to hire the promised Independent Compliance Monitor required by the Community Benefits Agreement. A highly-coveted pathway to union construction careers ended in a bitter lawsuit and murky settlement.

In back of 535 Carlton
Does the project have an "brand-new 8-acre park," as marketers have trumpeted?

No. The "park" won't be finished until the project is done. And it's not a park, but publicly-accessible, privately-managed open space. For now, as of early 2018, it's pretty paltry.

Do people still support the project?

Sure. There's a huge need in the city for "affordable housing," and the mayor has made an example of this project, with relatively little public dissent or scrutiny. The one active signatory of the Community Benefits Agreement, the Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance, distributes 50 free tickets (and, usually, tickets to one suite) to arena events to grateful nonprofit groups.

Have some former project supporters or overseers changed their mind?

Investor Londell McMillan said "it breaks my heart to have been a party of the project." Fervent public testifier Umar Jordan said "they played Brooklyn." Former state overseer Arana Hankin said "there really is no accountability."

Has original developer Forest City Ratner made money on the project, given the benefits of public subsidies, tax breaks, and a zoning override?

No, it looks like they have taken significant losses. However, if they'd had the patience--tough with a public company--and skill set to run a basketball team, they might have endured to make a huge profit on the Brooklyn Nets, as Mikhail Prokhorov seems to be doing.

How much money did the developers raise via cheap loans from immigrant investors seeking green cards via the EB program? How much did they save? Did the loans create jobs?

As I wrote regarding the third round of fundraising, $228 million and $249 million and $100 million, or $577 million. It's hard to quantify the savings, but Fortune said "Raising $100 million through EB-5 can add $20 million to a project’s bottom line." A leading industry middleman, who worked on the second and third rounds of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park EB-5 fundraising, admitted that his projects typically don't need the money. That means EB-5 doesn't create jobs, which is the rationale behind the program. 

Proposed 80 Flatbush rendering near left. Arrow =Site 5
How has the context changed?

Until Atlantic Yards was announced, the 512-foot Williamsburgh Savings Bank tower, with a distinctive clock, was the tallest building in Brooklyn. Original architect Frank Gehry's flagship Atlantic Yards tower, Miss Brooklyn, was supposed to be 620 feet. It was lowered to 511 feet in 2011, but would have been three times the bulk. Now it won't be built, as the arena's plaza will persist, but the bulk of Miss Brooklyn is expected to be transferred across Flatbush Avenue to Site 5, and a tower could reach 785 feet.

The bank building has been sold: the upper floor offices are now condos, and the bank space became an event space and now will be retail. Meanwhile, the Downtown Brooklyn rezoning, and associated development around the Brooklyn Academy of Music, have changed the development spine along Flatbush Avenue, with numerous towers. A "supertall" is planned, more than 1000 feet, next to Junior's and a 926-foot tower, 80 Flatbush, is planned just north of the former bank building, now One Hanson.

Proposed 550 Clinton Avenue, with Pacific Park
So that normalizes the density/height around the arena block, at least that which solely borders avenues. Site 5 would border row houses and low-rise apartments, in part, as do 38 Sixth and 664 Pacific, and the four towers on the southeast block of the site. A proposed 312-foot tower just northeast of the Pacific Park site, 550 Clinton Avenue, shows the changing context, as well as awkward transition of the project to the south.

Atlantic Yards was announced in 2003. Why was the name changed to Pacific Park in 2014?

That was when Greenland USA, an arm of Greenland Holding Co. (Shanghai government-owned, in significant part) bought 70% of the project going forward, excluding the modular tower, B3 (461 Dean) and the arena operating company. I argued that it was an effort to distance the project from the taint associated with "Atlantic Yards."

Why did Forest City announce in 2018 that it would sell all but 5% of its remaining share to Greenland?

It's cutting its risks, and losses, as the firm, now a real estate investment trust (REIT) is trying to get away from risky development projects and focus more on income-producing projects. We don't know the terms of the deal.

Will Greenland make money on the project?

Too soon to tell. We don't know the terms of the latest transaction with Forest City. We don't know the affordability levels and subsidies for future towers. We don't know what version of the Site 5 tower(s) will be approved. We don't know future business/real estate cycles. But Greenland also has/had other ambitions, such as making its mark in New York City and developing in an economy less volatile than China.

Would the various subsidies, tax breaks, and government assistance have been approved if city and state officials knew they were benefiting a Russian oligarch billionaire and a company significantly owned by Shanghai?

Good question!

Comments

  1. Great/helpful update (as always). What's the status of the school?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. See updates in FAQ for additional info.

      Delete

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