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

Flashback, 2006: "It would not be appropriate to locate Building 1 elsewhere on the project site since other locations... do not provide a location at a major commercial and transit crossroads."

Given tonight's open meeting, What's Next for Atlantic Yards (and more coverage here), it's worth looking back on some official documentation regarding Site 5, currently home to Modell's and P.C. Richard across Flatbush Avenue from the arena block.

After all, it's widely expected that developer Greenland Forest City Partners will seek a change in the project's guiding General Project Plan--requiring a public approval process--to move most of the bulk from the unbuilt tower once planned for the arena plaza (aka "Miss Brooklyn") to create a much larger structure than previously approved.
2016 plan floated for Site 5
In other words, instead of a 250-foot tower with 439,040 square feet, how about a two-tower project, with one tower rising 785 feet (as of 2016 plans), with a total of 1,141,000 square feet. That was one possibility floated in 2016 plans shared with the Department of City Planning but not officially advanced.

By now, their plans could be more ambitious or--not surprising in development battles--that's a maximalist proposal which they'd be ready to strategically trim back. (Also note the proposal for a bolstered public process to support the public interest.)

A key thing to remember is that, as of 2006 at least, governing officials trimmed back some of the ambitious plan for Site 5. Some of that logic still holds, but another piece of that logic may be subject to counter-arguments.

Remember, "projects change, markets change," to quote the departed executive Jim Stuckey.

Defending the placement of Miss Brooklyn

As I wrote in November 2006, citing the Response to Comments document in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), Empire State Development--the state authority overseeing and shepherding the project--pushed back on requests to shrink Miss Brooklyn so as not to block the clock of the Williamsburgh Savings Bank.

From the document:
The bulk and height of Building 1 have been developed in consultation with City Planning. Building 1, designed in large part to relate to the Williamsburgh Savings Bank Building in form, would alter views of the Bank Building on the Brooklyn skyline... Reducing the height of Building 1 so that the Williamsburgh Savings Bank Building would be visible would require a substantial reduction in this and other building heights on the project site.
Indeed, it turned out that the much shorter B2, 461 Dean Street, also blocks the bank tower, and the context in and around Downtown Brooklyn has changed, with many taller towers built or approved.

Refusing to move Miss Brooklyn

From the document:
It would not be appropriate to locate Building 1 elsewhere on the project site since other locations on the project site do not provide a location at a major commercial and transit crossroads. Furthermore, since the DEIS, and in response to recommendations issued by CPC, the middle and upper portions of Building 1’s design have been narrowed. This results in a more obvious tower form that is more responsive to the distinct form of the Williamsburgh Savings Bank Building.
(Emphases added)

Well, one location on the project site is partly located at a "major commercial crossroads": Site 5. The site for "Miss Brooklyn" was to be bounded solely by major thoroughfares: Atlantic and Flatbush avenues.

Site 5 is bounded by those two avenues, plus broad Fourth Avenue--plus narrow Pacific Street, home to row houses and small apartment buildings. So it shares some of the characteristics, but not all.

Responding to comments: height and bulk of Site 5

In his filed comments on the plan, Borough President Marty Markowitz commented:
The heights of Building 3 and the building on Site 5 will result in a significant impact. Building 3 deviates too much from the neighboring brownstones across Dean Street and from what can be viewed both along the Dean Street corridor and the Dean Street Playground and the Sixth Avenue corridor as it extends into Park Slope. Site 5 deviates too much along the Fourth Avenue boundary of the site from the brownstones extending along Pacific Street into Boerum Hill and the intended 12-story “Brooklyn Boulevard” envision and as zoned along Fourth Avenue. 
(Note: all the comments are paraphrased.)

The response:

In response to recommendations made the City Planning Commission (CPC), the height of Site 5 has been reduced from 350 feet to 250 feet and the height of Building 3 has been reduced from 428 feet to 219 feet. Building 3 would have setbacks and articulations at the lower levels to relate to the nearby existing buildings. Along Dean Street, Building 3 would have residential and ground-floor retail uses to further promote street level activity. Site 5, at 250 feet tall, would be occupied by either a residential or office use. The base of the building would create a streetwall, containing retail use, along Pacific Street, Flatbush, Atlantic, and 4th Avenues. Above that, the structure would rise as a series of setbacks and angular forms.

Note that the context to the west and south has not changed much, which is likely why developer Greenland Forest City Partners has pointed to new buildings to the north that are taller.

Changing context regarding church across street

According to the Executive Summary of the Final EIS, the Site 5 building would have an impact on a State and National Register-eligible historic resources:
The proposed Phase I building on Site 5 would cast shadow to the west on the Church of the Redeemer (an S/NR-eligible historic resource) at 24-32 4th Avenue, in the morning during all seasons. In the late spring, summer, and late summer, the durations would be the longest, lasting approximately three hours. These incremental shadows would have a significant adverse impact because they would reduce light to the stained glass windows on the church’s east fa├žade in the morning when church services are typically held. As a result of the post-DEIS program modification, the building on Site 5 has been reduced in height and its incremental shadows would move off the church earlier in the late spring and summer. Since issuance of the DEIS, the project sponsors and the church have developed measures to offset the potential effect of the project’s shadows on the stained glass windows. These measures, which would be implemented by the project sponsors prior to the time when the proposed project would cast shadows on the stained-glass windows of the church, would include removing the existing protective coverings from all of the stained glass windows, including any patching and repair associated with the removal; cleaning the interior and exterior of the windows; and installation of new transparent protective coverings of similar or greater durability as the existing coverings. 
The rationale for reducing the height of Site 5, at least in relation to the church, is gone, because the church has been demolished for 561 Pacific Street, a coming 12-story building.

Disruptive construction at Site 5?


In the Response to Comments document, Community Board 6 suggested:
Site 5 should be designated as a separate Phase III so that construction is not occurring simultaneously on both sides of Flatbush Avenue at this busy location. 
The response:
Site 5 is included in Phase I because it is a site unencumbered by the need to move a rail yard or build an arena. As such, its construction could proceed independently and rapidly should, for example, an office tenant be identified. Thus, it is consistent with a reasonable worst-case construction impact analysis to include it in the Phase I build year of 2010.
While office tenants (Panasonic, Amazon) have been solicited, none has yet bit. So nothing has been built.

Which is perhaps why the 2016 documents regarding Site 5 offered multiple possible programs, some with mostly office space, and some with mostly residential space--and no office space.

Why wasn't Site 5 developed earlier?

In the Response to Comments document, the Boerum Hill Association and the Clermont Block Association observed:
The DEIS [earlier Draft EIS] bootstraps support for the improvements of the proposal by comparing the proposed Site 5 development with the unattractive conditions existing in the form of the Modells and PC Richards stores. The DEIS fails to note that the creator of this blight is the same developer who now proposes to save the arena by yet another controversial development. (37, 53) Boerum Hill, CLermont Block
The response:
At the time Site 5 was developed, market conditions did not support a large-scale development as permitted under zoning and envisioned in the ATURA plan.
ATURA means the Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area.

Here's the Site 5 description, to which the commenters were reacting, in the Draft EIS, Land Use chapter:
West of Flatbush Avenue Block 927, at the western end of the project site, is one of the few exceptions to the low level of economic activity for current land uses that characterizes the rest of the project site. It contains two one-story commercial buildings, built in the early 1990s. A P.C. Richard & Son appliance store occupies one building and has a 32-space parking lot. Modell’s Sporting Goods occupies the other building and collectively they are called the Shops at Atlantic Center. While these are active and beneficial businesses, the buildings only utilize 30,300 square feet (sf) of the 184,680 sf of available development rights at a site immediately adjacent to Brooklyn’s largest transportation hub.
Of course, something bigger could have been built there earlier. That site was added to the Atlantic Yards plan to enable a faster approval process and--as we now can see--future flexibility.

Connections to Downtown Brooklyn

That chapter also stated:
The proposed buildings would be of a scale generally compatible with the buildings to the north of the project site in Downtown Brooklyn. The commercial office and residential uses in Building 1 and on Site 5 would be located along Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues, where they would act as an extension of the Downtown Brooklyn central business district and be similar to higher-density uses north of Atlantic Avenue (e.g., the Bank of New York Tower). At the same time, proposed street-level retail uses, which would be located along Atlantic, Flatbush, and 6th Avenue, would be typical of the smaller retail establishments found in the adjacent corridors to the south and west of the project site, and would be consistent with the scale of ground-floor retail throughout the study area. No large ‘big box’ retail uses would be constructed as part of the proposed project
What was the schedule?

From the Project Description chapter in the Final EIS:
If approved, the proposed arena and new subway entrance are expected to be completed by fall 2009 for opening day of the Nets 2009 season. Construction of the other buildings on the arena block and Site 5, as well as the improved rail yard, is expected to be completed by 2010. It is expected that the entire proposed development would occur by 2016. The likely construction schedule for development at the site and an estimate of activity on-site is described in Chapter 17, “Construction Impacts.”
Of course, none of that turned out as planned. That's a reminder that Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park is a "never say never project."

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