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March 20, 2009

Beekman Street Tower, questions and speculation

The news reported yesterday by WNYC and Crain's NY Business that Forest City Ratner (FCR) might chop the Beekman St. Tower in half at 38 stories has raised many questions and fueled some local speculation.

Here's a quick round-up of responses:

DDDB.net, If Ratner Can't Do Beekman Tower, How on Earth Can He Do Atlantic Yards?
Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, the coalition group spearheading the fight against FCR's Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, had this to say:

So. Let's see. Forest City Ratner, it appears, is going to stop 38 stories short of its 76-story, 900-unit Downtown Manhattan, Frank Gehry designed tower, which is already well underway. But the same Forest City Ratner claims it can finance and build a one-billion-dollar-18,000-seat arena and 16 skyscrapers including a hotel, an office tower and 6,430 units of housing, aka the as-of-yet commenced $4 billion Atlantic Yards project.

And the only things stopping the Atlantic Yards project are lawsuits...so they say.

BeekmanStUnderConst-AYR.jpg Atlantic Yards Report, If FCR's Beekman Tower faces 50% cut, what does that say about Atlantic Yards promises (and designs)?
Watchdog journalist Norman Oder posted a news round-up along with some important questions and analysis:

What value would remain at 38 stories?

Though a 38-story Beekman Tower would surely represent an enormous compromise for Gehry's vision, it still could find a place in the market. "We're selling views," [FCR executive MaryAnne] Gilmartin said last October. "From the moment you step into the apartment, you see sky.” Each apartment has three vistas, “which is extraordinary… When you clear the 11th floor, there’s not much to compete with it.”

What is to become of the Liberty Bond financing?

The $680 million in financing for the project—the largest construction loan in the company’s history (according to the Trib)--was announced a year ago.

The bonds issued by the New York City Housing Development Corporation (NYC HDC) are a combination of $190 million in tax-exempt Liberty Bonds, aimed to revive Lower Manhattan, and $476.1 million in taxable bonds. The New York State Housing Finance Agency contributed $13.9 million from its Liberty Bond allocation.
I asked NYC HDC spokesperson Catie Marshall yesterday how much the developer would be allowed to spend. "The funding for a project such as the Beekman is generally done in tranches, thus it is phased (sort of pay-as-you-go)," she responded. "In the case of the Beekman, the bonds are variable rate and only the first two tranches have been issued. In general terms, if a project is altered and does not need all of the funding, the remaining tranche(s) will not close. It’s pretty straight forward."

The Tribeca Trib, Ratner: 76-story Beekman Tower Design Not Shrinking, Yet
The Trib reports that FCR claims that the design HASN'T changed:

WNYC reported that the city’s Department of Buildings issued the developers a permit for work to be done on the roof of the building. The report concluded that the permit “treats the top of the current [38-story] structure as a roof.”

According to the developers, the “roof” referenced in the permit is actually the first of three setbacks included in the building’s design, not the proposed top of the tower.

“The design has not changed,” a company spokeswoman said.

Curbed.com, Trouble Surfacing at Frank Gehry's Beekman Tower
That's "trouble" with a capital "T" that rhymes with "B" that stands for "Beekman":

...the underlying meaning is clear: Things aren't quite going as planned at the legendary starchitect's signature addition to the New York City skyline. Is Bruce Ratner just playing hardball with unions, or with the government to get added subsidies? Hopefully. Real estate bust or not, what would a half-built skyscraper left rotting near the Brooklyn Bridge do to the image of the Financial District as a reborn residential neighborhood-on-the-rise? Or, if it's completed at half its envisioned size, to the legacy of Gehry?

Posted by lumi at March 20, 2009 6:36 AM