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What Could (Not Ever) Have Been at Ratner's Atlantic Yards

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Yesterday's big reveal of the pre-fab residential tower planned by Forest City Ratner and designed by SHoP Architects whipped up commenters and news media alike, fanning the flames for yet another hurdle (unions vs. developer) in the development of the Atlantic Yards megaproject. Six years on, we're feeling some design whiplash, between Frank Gehry's initial overwrought masterplan and several sideshow solutions put forth along the way. We've recapped some of those designs above, in a gallery's worth of images depicting what could have risen between Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues.

2005 began the Era of Gehry, with the starchitect-Bruce Ratner alliance still strong. The 22-acre masterplan was massive and expensive and a perfect example of developer frenzy during the boom years, expectant of a completion date by 2011. Also in 2005, Gary Barnett and Extell submitted an alternate bid to the MTA, proposing "11 buildings ranging from 4 to 28 stories," substantially smaller than Gehry's initital masterplan, which called for 17 buildings, many of them 40 to 50 stories tall and creating what he intended as a "dense urban skyline" in the middle of brownstone Brooklyn.

Extell's alternative would have only been built only over the Vanderbilt Rail Yards (no eminent domain, superblocks, or demapping streets) and its tallest tower would be equivalent to one of the same height in Downtown Brooklyn. Later, in 2007, an activist group submitted a bid for the "UNITY Plan," a segmented masterplan divided between eight developers which included more affordable housing than Ratner’s project, no arena and no eminent domain. In 2008, Ratner scrapped plans for Gehry's capstone 620-foot tower, "Miss Brooklyn," for a 511-foot tall commercial tower called B1, replete with signature metal waves, and another housing 350 market-rate and affordable apartments, colored red and pink in order to “speak to the residential fabric of the neighborhood."

Fast forward to 2009, after a brief attempt at value engineering, when Bruce dumps Frank and his $1 billion of starchitecture for a more modest and universally reviled hangar vision drummed up by Ellerbe Beckett. That didn't go over so well, so SHoP was brought on to class up the proceedings later that year. Barclays Center broke ground in 2010 and is now trucking along nicely; as for that residential building, rumors about the modular build-out first lit up the 'wire back in March, and now: voila.

As many have pointed out, the repeated focus on subsidized housing from the beginning was what cleared many of Ratner's development hurdles; even back in 2005, Forest City Ratner promised that half the housing units would be reserved for tenants making less than $100,000 per year.
· Atlantic Yards coverage [Curbed]

Barclays Center

Atlantic Avenue at Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn, NY