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

For B12 and B13, a big boost in unit count (which means smaller units, increased bulk, or?)

Yesterday I quoted a TF Cornerstone executive as saying the two buildings planned (B12, B13) to start next year contain 800 units. While that number has been cited multiple times, it doesn't quite add up.

Consider, according to an 8/13/14 map (below) circulated by developer Greenland Forest City Partners, the two towers, then expected to be condominiums, were to contain 265 and 277 units, respectively, for a total of 542 apartments.

A total of 800 means 258 more apartments, a 47.6% increase. There's been no indication yet of an increase in square footage; both previous plans used the maximum bulk available. (See chart at bottom.)

From condo to rental, smaller units

Part of the change might be explained by a switch from the previously planned condos, which are typically larger across the board, to rentals.

The previous version of B12, with 265 condos and 317,185 gsf (gross square feet), would've averaged 1,196.9 sf/unit. Similarly, the previous version of B13, with 277 condos and 327,215 gsf, would've averaged 1,181.3 sf/unit.

Those would've been on par with the already constructed condo building B11 (550 Vanderbilt), with 278 units and 330,778 gsf, averaging 1,189.8 sf/unit. (Those numbers all exaggerate slightly, given that the bulk totals include retail space and amenity space, which would've presumably been consistent across condo buildings.)

Rental units are typically smaller. The already constructed "100% affordable" rental building B14 (535 Carlton), with 298 units and 283,971 gsf, averages 952.9 sf/unit.

But that still wouldn't explain the switch. Put together the square footage for B12 and B13, divide by 800, and the result is 805.5 sf.

That average is 15.5% smaller than 535 Carlton. (I'm not using B3, or 38 Sixth, as a comparison, because it has such a larger chunk of community facility space, given the medical clinic.)

How might it work: fewer family-sized units?

That leads to a few speculative conclusions.

The two new rental buildings are expected to have at least 25%, and possibly 30%, affordable units. It's possible that the affordable units will not, as once pledged--but not adhered to with the first building, B2--contain 50% of square footage devoted to family-sized units.

Perhaps there will be no three-bedroom units, as in B2 (461 Dean), or few three-bedroom units.

Perhaps there will be two- and three-bedroom affordable units at B12 and B13, but all or most of the market-rate apartments will be studios and one-bedrooms. That could bring the square footage down.

How might it work: a bulk switch?

Another way they could pack more units in would be to increase the bulk of the buildings, adding commensurate square footage.

If the amount of space per unit is consistent with that at 535 Carlton, they'd need 762,320 gsf, not 644,400 gsf (as currently approved), in B12 and B13. That's an increase of 117,920 gsf, a not inconsiderable amount.

Where might it come from? Well, remember that the unbuilt B1 (aka "Miss Brooklyn") is approved at more than 1.1 million square feet, and the plans floated--but not yet approved--to transfer bulk to the two-tower plan at Site 5 would move only 760,000 square feet, not the full 1,106,009 square feet.

That leaves 346,009 square feet to redistribute, assuming that the developer doesn't want to throw away buildable square feet.

So that's a plausible plan, especially since it could be promoted as adding "more affordable housing sooner." However, to transfer bulk to those buildings would require a change in the General Project Plan, a process that involves public hearings and a vote by Empire State Development, adding uncertainty to a 2020 start.

Moving forward

If TF Cornerstone entered into an agreement to build 800 units with that level of uncertainty regarding a bulk switch, there surely must be contingencies.

Bottom line: Atlantic Yards, as I've said, is a "never-say-never project." Stay tuned. Perhaps we'll learn more at the recently rescheduled Quality of Life meeting on 7/16/19.

Maximum building heights and square footages