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

Newly acquired 2016 document offers hint on developer strategy for massive Site 5 project: larger building = solution; also, potential bulk shift to enlarge railyard towers?

Looking northeast
At the What's Next for Atlantic Yards public discussion next Monday (see more here on timeline and ownership issues), one topic surely will be the future of Site 5, currently home to P.C. Richard and Modell's but long slated for something bigger or, perhaps, much bigger.

As I wrote in July 2016 for City Limits, developer Greenland Forest City Partners has floated--but not yet implemented--plans to shift most (but likely not all) of the bulk of the unbuilt "Miss Brooklyn" tower--once planned for Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, now site of the arena plaza--across Flatbush to Site 5.

That would super-size the tower already approved there--to a potential Floor Area Ratio (FAR) of 23.5, nearly double that of the Downtown Brooklyn rezoning. (FAR is a multiple of bulk compared to lot coverage.) It also would preserve the plaza, an important safety valve for arena operations.
From both 2016 Greenland Forest City Partners' presentations
Several proposed modifications--including the bulk transfer and change of use--would require a public approval process, involving public hearings and a vote by Empire State Development (ESD), the state authority overseeing/shepherding the project. While ESD is pretty much a rubber stamp for the governor, the process does offer potential leverage.

A lawsuit from P.C. Richard, which in January 2019 won a ruling against original developer Forest City Ratner that guarantees it space in the replacement tower, has stalled the process; to resolve that dispute, Forest City must win an appeal, pay P.C. Richard damages, or commit to providing that space. So ESD has not proceeded with a once-planned condemnation action, to acquire the P.C. Richard property.

Some clues

This week, thanks to a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request to the Department of City Planning, I gained a bit more insight into the Site 5 plans: a February 2016 slide presentation, which put some slightly different spin on the January 2016 slide presentation, on which I based the City Limits article. Both are at bottom.

Given the one-month difference, there was relatively little change between the two presentations.

But the second document showed even more clearly that the joint venture prepared to portray Site 5 as a solution to a perceived need for office space. It also used a current proposal for another super-sized office building in Downtown Brooklyn as a precedent for the two-tower Site 5 project.

Arrow points to P.C. Richard
Going forward--and we don't know when the process will start, given that legal hitch--I speculate that they will opportunistically portray Site 5 as a solution for any current perceived need: affordable housing? another school?

Also, they'll likely seize on the more recent approval of another major two-tower project nearby to argue that the changing context justifies upsizing Site 5, which, while located at Flatbush, Fourth, and Atlantic avenues, is also significant bordered by narrow, low-rise Pacific Street.

(Note: While I requested all documents from recent years, apparently the February 2016 presentation was the last one shared with the Department of City Planning. It possible that Empire State Development has a more recent presentation; that state authority typically responds more slowly to FOIL queries.)

Another shift in bulk?

Site 5 was already approved as a substantial tower, 250 feet tall, with 439,050 square feet.

Both the January 2016 and February 2016 presentations also left an important clue that requires math. They say "Transfer B1 SF (~760,000 SF) to Site 5." However, the unbuilt Building 1 (aka "Miss Brooklyn") was approved to have not 760,000 square feet but rather 1,106,009 square feet.

Left on the table would be 346,009 square feet, the size of another substantial building.

That's approximately the bulk of the completed 38 Sixth (B3) and the under-construction 664 Pacific (B15), and larger than the already completed towers on the southeast block, 550 Vanderbilt (B11) and 535 Carlton (B14). Below is a project schematic.

No real estate developer voluntarily gives up square footage, so I wouldn't be surprised if there's a plan to shift that remaining bulk, likely to some of the six planned building over the Vanderbilt Yard, which require a deck before vertical construction.

They're all pretty large. The smallest of those buildings, B6, is approved to have 445,060 square feet. That tower, by the way, has been suggested--according to documents that the developer would neither confirm nor deny--is a future "100% affordable" building that would help the project meet the looming deadline of 2,250 affordable units by 2025.

Lots of options

Both presentations suggest the same four Conceptual Development Scenarios, with Tower A, the larger tower, containing apartments (in two versions), a mix of apartments and hotel space, and office space. The smaller tower contain either office of hotel space.

A significant "retail podium," perhaps 108 feet high, would contain stores likened by one former executive to the Time Warner Center.

Pushing for office space

As of 2016, Greenland Forest City, with Greenland USA 70% owner of the project (putting aside the B2 tower and the arena operating company), was pushing hard for office space. The February 2016 presentation--but not the earlier one--contains the slide below, headlined "Commercial Office Market in Brooklyn is Heating Up."

Interestingly enough, of the headlines cited, three were from 2015, and thus potentially could have been in the January 2016 slide presentation, while two were later in January. The list: New York Times, 10/27/15; Commercial Observer, 10/27/15; Politico, 11/9/15; New York Post, 1/21/16; Bloomberg View, 1/21/16.

From February 2016 document
"Opportunity for Brooklyn," with B4

Only the February 2016 presentation contains the slide below, which pairs Site 5 and B4, otherwise the largest tower, 511' tall, with 824,629 square feet, as "commercial bookends."

That was shortly before Greenland Forest City began promoting two towers as "activating" the Atlantic Avenue corridor with office space and, in April 2016, marketing B4 (and two other towers) to outside investors.

From February 2016 document
Those transactions didn't come to fruition as of July 2017, when a spokeswoman said a "marketing book" was no longer being circulated.

That said, after Greenland USA in early 2018 agreed to buy all but 5% of the project going forward from Forest City New York/Forest City Realty Trust, it was then able to unilaterally make deals, and since has announced leases for B4, B15, B12, and B13, the first two with The Brodsky Organization and the latter two with TF Cornerstone.

Moving less bulk?

Though one slide cited the transfer of about 760,000 square feet from B1 to Site 5, the hand-written annotation on the February 2016 slide below cited 650,000 square feet.

Perhaps that's a fallback figure: start with the larger number, and agree to less. But surely they'd want to transfer unbuilt square footage to other buildings.
From February 2016 presentation; same as previous, except for annotations

The 141 Willoughby example, and even bigger towers

The February 2016 presentation contains four pages on 141 Willoughby, a spot rezoning at Flatbush Avenue near MetroTech, which that year was proposed at 577', with a Floor Area Ratio of 18, well more than the Downtown Brooklyn rezoning level of 12.

Ultimately, the City Council agreed to an FAR of 15, still a significant gain. The office building would now would be 360 feet tall.

From February 2016 document
So surely they're looking to other buildings as precedent.

Last year, an even larger project less than two blocks from Site 5 was approved, a two-tower project at 80 Flatbush, with the taller tower rising 840 feet and the shorter one 510 feet.  The Floor Area Ratio is 15.75. 

The proposed FAR for Site 5, based on the 2016 plan, would be 23.5, a far larger figure.

Misleading progress report

The January 2016 presentation contained the slide below, which noted that four buildings were under construction, and two others in design.
From January 2016 document
By contrast, the February 2016 presentation, in the slide below, appended the more optimistic headline "Significant Progress at Pacific Park," counting B15 (664 Pacific) and B12 (615) as under construction. Actually, they were unveiled but never launched. B15 just started this spring; B12 might start next year.

From February 2016 document
Bottom line: we shouldn't necessarily trust the developer's timeline. After all, the new Vanderbilt Yard was not completed in Q4 2017 but is projected to be completed this summer.

January 2016 presentation on Site 5, Atlantic Yards/Pacific Par... by on Scribd