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

Site constraints said to trigger change in massing (but not size) of B5 tower (first over the railyard), closer to the street

The is the fourth of multiple articles about the 7/16/19 Quality of Life meeting, which focused on proposed modifications to the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Modified General Project Plan (MGPP), none of which were said to trigger further official review. The first article concerned plans for a 100,000 square-foot below-grade fitness facility. The second concerned a cut in parking. The third concerned a cut in bike parking. The fifth concerned a cut in the North-South walkway width. The sixth concerned planned ventilation structures. The seventh concerned a swap in square footage and a change in the design guidelines. The eighth concerned updates on infrastructure work and the fate of Site 5.

So what did the agenda item "B5 Design Guidelines Drawings Modification" mean, regarding the first tower to be built over the railyard (and platform), east of Sixth Avenue?

Well, in many ways it's reminiscent of the 2013 change in the design of the B4 tower (aka 18 Sixth Avenue): a revision of dimensions to accommodate site constraints--allowing the upper parts of the building to shift closer to the street, rather than conform to previously required setbacks. That makes it easier for developer Greenland Forest City Partners (GFCP) to build.

The presentation didn't come, however, with particularly effective explication regarding this large building, approved at 397 feet tall and 635,443 square feet in bulk. (It may start in 2021, though that hasn't been confirmed.) For example, no before-and-after comparison was offered.


Driven by site constraints

Tobi Jaiyesimi, Atlantic Yards project director for Empire State Development, which oversees/shepherds the project, said the site was "rather unique," given the required Long Island Rail Road infrastructure and site constraints that impact where the foundation, and the building's massing, could go. Those constraints--part of the Vanderbilt Yard revamp--were imposed after the Design Guidelines were approved in 2006.

She pointed to the image below, which shows an access ramp from Sixth Avenue, a needed LIRR substation, a drill track and west portal that move trains between Atlantic Terminal and the railyard, as well as some footings for the deck and building to be built above it. (The level of progress of such precursor infrastructure was not specified.)
Image from presentation
The foundation schematic

The foundations, as well as a core foundation, have already been designed and, according to the image below at least, partly installed. See above image for some concrete pilings, especially at the Atlantic Avenue edge of the site.
Image from presentation
The image below shows the foundations and the outline of the expected design of the building, with required setbacks.
Image from presentation

Requested modifications

The image below, which Jaiyesimi allowed was "very technical," reflects the requested modifications.

The changes would seemingly shift the base of the building away from Pacific Street, allowing room for the LRR ramp, and two upper sections more toward Atlantic Avenue, while another upper segment would shift more toward Sixth Avenue. In other words, it looks like the base of the building will cover less floor area, while the upper parts will expand somewhat.

The "red is the Design Guideline envelope and the black is the proposed modifications," Jaiyesimi said, not fully explaining the color schematic.

It's a little more complex. In the image below, Pink represents up to 25% of the total surface area, Red exceeds 25% of the total surface area, and the scored/dotted area exceeds a 5'0" projection. The meaning of that was not explained.

Image from presentation
The separate Design Guidelines, excerpted in screenshot below (but not shown at the meeting), set a rule that all portions of the building shall fit within the development envelope, but no more than 25% of the surface area of any facade of the building base/shoulder/upper portion may project up to 5 feet beyond that development envelope.

On other words, those restrictions would be violated without the proposed amendment to the guidelines.

So that suggests the middle (shoulder) and upper portions of the building will move closer to Atlantic Avenue, and the upper portion will move closer to Sixth Avenue, in both cases diminishing setbacks.

(By the way, I could have this wrong because, well, they didn't make it easy, failing to share information and images beforehand, and failing to show a before-after comparison.)

From the 2006 Design Guidelines
Said to have no meaningful impact
The building's approved height, lot coverage, and square footage won't change, we were told. (Actually, it looks like the lot coverage would shrink, though that wasn't specified. It would be worth clarifying.)

"This is the only place that the core of this building could go, given the massing," said Scott Solish of Greenland USA (which dominates GFCP), "and to take advantage of the square footage that was assigned to the site."

"It's a shift of massing a few feet in the base, shoulder and tower," he said, not specifying the number. A 20-foot sidewalk will be maintained.

I asked if they had a comparison of the approved and proposed versions.

"There's will be updated Design Guideline exhibits," Solish said, "so you could take the old exhibits and compare them to the new one." Those exhibits have not been provided yet. Let's see if they're provided at the 7/22/19 meeting of the Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation, expected to endorse the changes.


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