June 5th, 2009
So what effect will Bruce Ratner’s decision to drop Frank Gehry’s much-touted design for the basketball arena mean to the future of Atlantic Yards? For one thing, the massive complex when — or more accurately if — built will have little resemblance to the glossy original plans.
The switch to a more conventional arena designed by Ellerbe Becket could save $200 million, a key consideration at a time when money for real estate projects is tight. And, the Times reported, Ratner has to act quickly. He has to start building the home for the Nets by the end of the year, according to Charles Bagli’s article, or face losing his right to use tax-exempt financing.
In the bid to save money, “Gehry’s swooping glass and metal designs have been swapped for a more traditional brick façade … that is not unlike Ellerbe Becket’s Conseco Fieldhouse, home to the Indianapolis Pacers,” The Architects Newspaper observed. (For reviews and pictures of Ellerbe Becket’s previous work, see Atlantic Yards Report, which last week anticipated the firm’s taking over the Nets arena.)
Such a change could reinvigorate opposition to the entire project. “The current Atlantic Yards plan bears increasingly less resemblance to the project that was approved in 2006,” said Vin Cipolla, the president of the Municipal Art Society, told Bagli. “The replacement of Gehry further reduces the public benefits of the project, which urgently needs re-evaluation and oversight.”
Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, a longtime, opponent of the project agrees, citing the uncertainly of affordable housing at the site, the lack of office space — which might have brought revnue and jobs — and recent Independent Budget Office data indicating the whole project would cost the city money. Meanwhile, Ratner wants to renegotiate his deal with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to delay payment of $100 million, due later this month. “It is time for Gov. Paterson to take control of this debacle, end the charade that the Atlantic Yards would provide any benefit for the public and make it official, on paper, that Atlantic Yards is scrapped,” writes Develop Don’t Destroy.
Government approval might not be the only barrier. Daniel Goldstein a spokesman for Develop Don’t Destoroy, said the change in the design for the arena could threaten corporate support. “Is Barclays going to pay $400 million to put their name on what will be an airport hanger? Will other sponsors stick with a building that is no longer Gehry, no longer world-class building?” he asked.
But longtime Atlamgtic Yards cheerleader Borough President Marty Markowitz shows no signs of budging. “Ellerbe Becket is one of the best firms in the business — so we can be confident that the Nets and Brooklyn will indeed have a world-class, stunning arena here in Downtown Brooklyn and we will be bringing more affordable housing to those who so desperately need it,” he said in a statement.By Gail Robinson on June 5, 2009, 11:45 am
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