Atlantic Yards will be many things to many people. The development will combine a sports and entertainment venue, the Barclays Center, designed by award winning architectural firms Ellerbe Becket and SHoP Architects, landscaped open space, ground-floor retail space for local businesses, office space and more than 6,400 units of affordable, middle-income and market-rate housing to create a vibrant addition to a thriving borough.
Gehry Building for Atlantic Yards (a bit freaky….)
Located at the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues, bounded by Pacific and Dean Streets and Vanderbilt Avenue, and primarily situated over the MTA/LIRR’s Vanderbilt Rail Yards, Atlantic Yards will span 22 acres and transform the current rail yards and predominantly underutilized and industrial area into 17 new buildings, including the state-of-the-art venue.
The $4 billion development will encompass 336,000 square feet of office space, 6.36 million square feet of residential space (6,430 units of affordable, middle-income and market-rate housing), an 18,000 seat sports and entertainment venue – the Barclays Center – 247,000 square feet of retail space, a 165,000-square-foot hotel (180 rooms) and over 8 acres of intricately designed publicly accessible open space.
The development will produce tremendous economic growth for the borough and city, creating more than 16,000 union construction jobs plus over 8,000 permanent jobs, as well as generating over $5.6 billion in tax revenue for the city and state over 30 years.
The height of the buildings will range from approximately 190 feet to 511 feet. Building 1 (B1), the building proposed for the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues, will not be taller than the nearby Williamsburg Savings Bank, which stands at 512 feet. Separate from the Atlantic Yards development, building heights as high as 600 feet have been approved by the City Council as part of the Downtown Brooklyn Plan.
The buildings are spaced and sized to minimize bulk. For example, the heights of the buildings along Dean Street and Vanderbilt Avenue have been stepped down to better conform to the residential neighborhood. The taller buildings of the development will be located near the commercial corridor of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues.
Atlantic Yards is one of the most important developments in the history of Brooklyn. It will serve as a proud emblem of Brooklyn’s reenergized vitality and create a new home for Brooklyn’s very own NBA franchise-the Brooklyn Nets.
The Atlantic Yards is a mixed-use commercial and residential development project of 16 high-rise buildings, currently proposed in the neighborhood of Prospect Heights, adjacent to Downtown Brooklyn and Fort Greene in Brooklyn, New York City. A portion of the project is part of the Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area (abbreviated as ATURA), and the rest is located in a low-rise brownstone neighborhood.
The centerpiece of the development, according to the developers, would be the Barclays Center, which would serve as the new home of the New Jersey Nets. Of the 22-acre (89,000 m2) project, 8.4 acres (34,000 m2) would be built over a train yard that is utilized by the Long Island Rail Road, and a portion of the site was a part of the Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area.
The project derives its name from being the rail yard located on Atlantic Avenue. Officially the Long Island Rail Road yard is called the “Vanderbilt Yards” (named for Vanderbilt Avenue that crosses over on its way to the Brooklyn Navy Yard) but there are other Vanderbilt rail place names in New York City so the Atlantic Yards name has stuck. The specific stop for the LIRR is the Atlantic Terminal, the westernmost stop of the Atlantic Branch of the LIRR. Easy access by rapid transit and suburban rail, and the desirable brownstone housing stock nearby made it a target for speculative development.
The project is often considered the most controversial in New York. While the fierce opposition to the environmental effects has spawned several legal battles, the real threat to the completion of the project is the credit crisis and the weakening housing market. Despite the reliance on public subsidies for such a risky project, preparatory sitework in anticipation of construction started February 20, 2007.
The Atlantic Yards project is being developed and overseen by Forest City Ratner of Cleveland, Ohio and the original design was by architect Frank Gehry.. Gehry was removed from the project in June 2009. Since September 2009, the new design has been a collaboration between Ellerbe Becket and the Manhattan architectural firm SHoP.
In March 2008, principal developer Bruce Ratner acknowledged that the slowing economy may delay construction of both the office and residential components of the project for several years. The uncertain economy and vagueness of the developer’s statements have led NY City Comptroller Bill Thompson to state “I’m not sure what that project is any longer.”
Clearance was given on June 23, 2008, when the Supreme Court of the United States refused to hear an appeal of the eviction notices and in November 2009, the project cleared what the New York Times called the “final major obstacle” when the New York Court of Appeals dismissed a challenge to the project’s use of eminent domain. When the project was announced at the end of 2003, the basketball arena was scheduled to open in the fall of 2006.
A groundbreaking ceremony was held on the site on March 11, 2010.
The area of Atlantic Yards has been slated for redevelopment in the past, but plans for the area have never coalesced. In the mid-1950s, Brooklyn Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley wanted to use the city to condemn the area in his favor, allowing him to build a new stadium for the ballclub to replace Ebbets Field. City developer Robert Moses refused to consider an eminent domain taking for a private use, and the plan was shelved. Although O’Malley had several local options, he relocated the Dodgers to Los Angeles instead. Los Angeles offered him free land and a free hand in developing it including mineral rights, incurring the long-term hatred of Brooklynites.
The main controversy concerning the development of the Atlantic Yards remains the use of eminent domain which would destroy a low-density neighborhood containing an undisclosed number of multi-million dollar townhouses and pre-war apartment buildings subject to rent stabilization regulations. Forest City Ratner offer the condo owners in 636 Pacific St. $850/sq. foot, the condo owners at 24 Sixth Ave (Spalding Buildings) $650/sq. foot and undisclosed amounts to renters. Sellers of condos signed a non disclosure agreement.
Another controversial aspect of the development is that the rail yard was valued at $214 million in 2005, and is in contract with the favored developer for $100 million, despite another bid for $150 million. Even though this property was appraised at $214 million in 2004, the MTA decided to negotiate exclusively with Forest City Ratner, which originally bid $50 million. Extell Development Company bid $150 million, and FCR eventually boosted its bid to $100 million. The Extell bid, however, was contingent on a contract for the company to provide energy to the city from a power plant that would have been constructed in the location. Professional appraisers are quick to point out that there has been no prior transaction anywhere in the country that has approached the complexity, scale, and cost of the rail yard. This inherently limited the accuracy of any appraisal.
An important community concern is that Forest City Ratner submitted an environmental impact plan that many experts have deemed inadequate. Forest City Ratner’s lead developer James L. Stuckey recently resigned citing a desire to “pursue new challenges.”