Atlantic Yards is shedding its past. In 2003, Forest City Ratner created the megaproject moniker when the developer announced its plans to build 16 towers and a new basketball arena over 22 acres in Brooklyn. Now, eleven years later, with the arena open, one tower rising, and a plan to fast track the remaining 15 buildings, Forest City is ditching its original name and rebranding the project as Pacific Park. In an interview Friday, Forest City CEO and President MaryAnne Gilmartin said that the new name coincides with a new phase of the project, with work moving "from pre-development to vertical." While the development will forever be known as Atlantic Yardsthere is a movie about it, after allPacific Park will be the new community that's being built. Probably doesn't hurt that a new name also sloughs off associations with past lawsuits, controversies over eminent domain, and visceral community opposition. Forest City is also bringing on a new architect, COOKFOX.
The key to the next phase of Atlantic Yards is Forest City's recent partnership with Greenland USA, a subsidiary of Chinese development firm Greenland Holding Group. The two companies officially sealed the deal at the end of June, the same time they announced a much speedier timeline for the full project build-out. The developer must produce 2,250 units of affordable housing by 2025 or else risk a $5 million fine. As such, the next of the 15 buildings to go into the ground will be 100 percent affordable. Greenland has developed many mixed-use and affordable projects in China, and I-Fei Chang, CEO and President of Greenland US, stressed that they believe a variety of incomes is "what makes a city successful." The affordable units will be available to families making a range of incomes, from $25,000 or less and up to $138,000.
Greenland Forest City Partners, the official name of the joint development, hired the sustainable building experts at COOKFOX to design the next two buildings, which will sit beside a new park. The first building to to begin work will be 535 Carlton Avenue. Thankfully, the rebranding also drops the completely confusing "B" numbering system and gives the buildings real addresses, a fact that COOKFOX partner Rick Cook said was "extremely important" to his studio. "We want these to be urban buildings, not towers in a park. If the address is on Carlton Avenue, the building entrance will be on Carlton Avenue."
535 Carlton sits at the corner of Dean Street, and it will break ground by December of this year. The 285,000-square-foot building will rise 18 stories and hold 298 rental units, ranging from studios to three bedrooms. COOKFOX wanted a seamless transition from the townhouses of Prospect Heights to the tower, so to meet the surrounding neighborhood, the building's base will rise 60 feet and be made of brown brick, a material familiar to Brooklyn townhouses. There will be another setback around 85 feet that will hold a communal terrace with gardening plots. "We made this space purposefully low so you can connect to the neighborhood," said Cook. The site is currently occupied by a building that will be demolished and a surface parking lot.
550 Vanderbilt Avenue, a market-rate condo building also designed by COOKFOX, will sit at the eastern end of the block on Dean Street. It will be of similar size and design, but the buildings will not mirror each other. Work will begin on 550 Vanderbilt shortly after ground breaks on 535 Carlton, and it will hold 275 homes, from studios to four-bedrooms. Though there will be less units, 550 Vanderbilt will be larger than its western sister, measuring 330,000 square feet. Both buildings will have a variety of layouts, and marketing for the units will start about 18 months after the groundbreaking, so mark your calendars for June 2016.
With each new building will come a chunk of a new eight-acre park designed by landscape architect Thomas Balsley. Pacific Street between Carlton and Vanderbilt Avenues will be demapped to create the park (thus its influence on the new name), which is being designed as a "specifically public" green space. Even the lobbies of 535 Carlton and 550 Vanderbilt are being designed in such a way that when passers-by on the street look in, they'll see straight through to the park.
These two buildings are coming online next because they sit on existing earth; half of the other 13 buildings planned will rise on a platform that will be built over the Vanderbilt railyards. Part of the new speedy agreement requires that Forest City have all of the pre-platform railyard work complete by 2017, at which point work on the platform and remaining buildings will be built out in phases, with working happening simultaneously, much like what's currently happening at Hudson Yards.
The next building to rise beside the Barclays Center, 30 Sixth Avenue, will break ground in June 2015. SHoP Architects designed this building, and it will hold about 300 units, all of which will also be 100 percent affordable. Currently, this site, at the corner of Dean Street, is a staging ground for work related to the installation of the Barclays Center green roof. SHoP Architects also designed the now-rising first tower, B2, the tallest modular building in the world, which now goes by its address, 461 Dean Street.
Much was made over B2's use of prefabricated building techniques, but much was also made of the tower's deadline being pushed back about a year, to late 2015. But Forest City isn't giving up on modular. "It is my great hope that we will use it again in Pacific Park," said Gilmartin, but she also noted that "it's an ongoing experiment" that "needs to be validated with a standing building." She added, "it would be shortsighted to launch more right now." That said, Forest City made a serious investment in the technology, forming a partnership with engineering firm Skanska and creating a modular factory in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
All of the new buildings fit within the Frank Gehry-designed masterplan, and when complete, the whole shebang will have 6,430 units of housing spread out over 6 million square feet. There will also be 247,000 square feet of retail (all small spaces, no big box stores), and at least 336,000 square feet of commercial space; the plan allows a variation that could create up to 1.6 million square feet of commercial. While all 2,250 units of affordable housing must be delivered by 2025, 10 years sooner than under the original timeline, Forest City and Greenland believe that the entire project will be built-out by 2025, too. So the neighbors better get ready for a lot of construction.
· All Atlantic Yards coverage [Curbed]
· Pacific Park Brooklyn [official]
· COOKFOX [official]
· Forest City [official]