Brooklyn’s proposed $2.5-billion arena project, if built, would take the urban sports village to new heights, depths and lengths. The phased, 7.7-million-sq-ft megadevelopment in the New York City borough would not only have four office towers as tall as 60 stories clustered around the arena, it would contain 4.4 million sq ft of affordable, moderate-income and high-end housing in about 4,500 units, 300,000 sq ft of retail and six acres of recreational parkland. Much of the 24-acre complex would be built over unsightly rails yards in a near-derelict swath of terrain that would connect to the city’s third-largest transit hub via a tunnel and a partially sunken, outdoor "living room."

(Photo by Nadine M. Post for ENR)

Local developer Bruce Ratner of Forest City Ratner Cos., which for nearly 20 years has been building projects in Brooklyn where others would not, is the fire behind the development. Soon after the plan was unveiled in December, a group of investors led by Ratner successfully bid for the Nets, a National Basketball Association team currently in suburban New Jersey.

The arena is the first such commission for Gehry Partners, Los Angeles, which is also the master planner for the development, called Atlantic Yards. The office towers, which they expect to design, represent Gehry’s tallest buildings to date.


The signature tower would be on stilts so that the arena is visible at street level from a busy intersection nearby. The roof of the arena would double as a public park and contain a jogging path that becomes a skating rink in the winter.

"We see a synergy between the towers and the arena," says Gehry partner Marc Salette. "The arena as a civic building creates a very exclusive address and makes the buildings around it more attractive," he says.
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Gehry’s goal is to create a sense of place, with animation streetscapes and a tree-lined boulevard alongside the development, despite its density. The firm is currently fine-tuning the master plan.


Community activists are upset about displacement of low-income residents in the area, though much of the site is already clear. Their hesitation is countered by official enthusiasm for the development. "A project of this order of magnitude, that would bring housing, commercial space and jobs to that part of Brooklyn, plus an arena, will add to the economy of the city and state," says Charles A. Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corp., New York City.

Details have yet to be crafted with the city, state and Metropolitan Transportation Authority, owner of the rail yards. But Ratner hopes to have the arena open for the 2007 season.

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