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Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park infographics: what's built/coming/missing, who's responsible, + project overview/FAQ/timeline (pinned post)

Beyond the latest announcement: a new architect, replacing SHoP, for a redesigned B4; was giant Site 5 plan downplayed?

Beyond the scoop spoon-fed to the New York Post about two developers buying three terra firma sites in the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park project, there wasn't much new in the press release dutifully repackaged by Real Estate Weekly, Bklyner, 6sqft, Bisnow, and Curbed.

But a few things are worthy of notice. First, though the Post didn't make it clear, TF Cornerstone is leasing buying the two adjacent sites on the southeast block, 615 Dean (B12) and 595 Dean (B13), while the Brodsky Organization is leasing buying 664 Pacific (B15). The two firms are not operating in partnership.

Enter Perkins Eastman, exit SHoP

Also, Greenland USA--which controls 95% of the project (except those three sites) going forward as part of Greenland Forest City Partners--disclosed that the architect for B4 (18 Sixth Avenue) will be Perkins Eastman, which produced the rendering above right.

That means that SHoP, which designed the other two towers (461 Dean and 38 Sixth) on the arena block and in 2011 produced a rendering (below left) that included the third tower, is off the job.

Why is that? They didn't say, but the original plan was to build a cluster of modular towers (though SHoP designed at least the first one in both modular and conventional styles).

"Right now... we're working on 2.7 million square feet of affordable housing, five towers," SHoP principal Gregg Pasquarelli said at a forum in September 2011. But Forest City gave up on the modular plan, which turned out to take longer and cost more than promised, and then sold a majority stake to Greenland.

Also, it should be noted, while SHoP got much praise for wrapping the arena--designed initially by Ellerbe Beckett--with a pre-rusted metal skin, and adding the wraparound oculus, its design of 461 Dean and 38 Sixth has not received applause.

Part of that might that modular construction imposed--or encouraged--a boxy, rectilinear design. Another might be the silver/red/blue color palette.

Whatever the reason, the Perkins Eastman design, however unspectacular at first blush, seems more glassy, and with at least one slight wedge.

Also note a contrast between the two designs, with the SHoP version clearly more sectional. That's because, in 2013, Empire State Development--the state authority that oversees/shepherds the project--approved changes to the building's setbacks, moving them closer to the street.

The rationale was to allow the approved amount of bulk within a smaller development envelope, since the B4 footprint was constrained after the arena was redesigned in 2009.

A new architect in the mix

It should be noted that Perkins Eastman would be the fifth architectural firm involved in the project's towers: SHoP designed two towers on the arena block; CookFox designed the two towers built on the southeast block; KPF designed the unbuilt B12 (615 Dean), on the southeast block; Marvel Architects designed the unbuilt B15 (664 Pacific) just east of the arena block.

The latter two designs, which had no affordable housing, were unveiled at a time when it was expected that they would qualify for the 421-a tax break. Now all buildings must contain on-site affordable housing to qualify for the tax break.

So B12, for example, will become a rental building, rather than contain condos, and B15 will be 30% affordable, as noted in previous coverage. Will TF Cornerstone and Brodsky keep the previous architects and simply modify their designs? Unclear.

Beyond the single architect/single developer plan

Of course, Forest City originally insisted that architect Frank Gehry, announced during more flush times as the Atlantic Yards guiding genius, would design the entire project, even though he said he'd typically bring other architects into the mix.

Former Forest City Ratner/Forest City New York CEO MaryAnne Gilmartin in 2016 even portrayed herself as some kind of in-house dissident: "I certainly don't think I ever believed or supported the notion that Frank Gehry would be the architect of all of the buildings.”

Also, as I wrote, the entrance of TF Cornerstone and Brodsky also means that the project will in fact be accelerated by the presence of multiple developers, despite official resistance to such a proposal when proposed by project opponents and critics.

Will B4 be the largest tower? What about Site 5, and office space?

Approved at 511 feet and some 824,629 square feet, B4 was to be the largest in the entire project, outside of the long-delayed and seemingly jettisoned B1 (aka "Miss Brooklyn"), the office tower once planned to loom over the arena, rising from the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues.

Several recent news reports, surely parroting the press release, referred to B4 as the project's tallest building and also quoted Greenland's Scott Solish: “Greenland Forest City Partners is now in a position to accelerate development at Pacific Park, where we are fully committed to delivering industry-leading, thoughtfully designed residential buildings and community space to Brooklyn."

That omits the plan for Site 5, catercorner to the arena block, currently home to P.C. Richard and Modell's, and most recently promoted as a flagship office tower suitable for a new-economy firm, such as for Amazon's second headquarters.

Could it be that, following the successful argument for a giant residential tower at 80 Flatbush, Site 5 will now be promoted as mostly residential?

As to whether B4 will be the tallest building, well, it's the tallest building currently approved, but I suspect that statement was misdirection. Greenland Forest City has long intended to transfer the bulk from B1 to Site 5.

A 250-foot, 439,050-square-foot building was approved at Site 5. With the transfer of bulk, a giant two-tower project would be achieved, as I wrote in July 2016, at 1.1 million square feet and up to 785 feet tall.

That plan has not yet been approved by Empire State Development, but the state authority has reliably complied with the developer's requests. 

So stay tuned; surely the recent City Council approval of 80 Flatbush, with a tower stretching 840 feet, gives Greenland Forest City new ammunition for a drastic change in scale near row houses.