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Gehry Loses Atlantic Yards Arena to Ellerbe Becket

June 5, 2009

By Nadine M. Post
This story first appeared on Engineering News-Record

Architect Ellerbe Becket, of Kansas City, has been retained by New Jersey Nets owner and Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner, of Forest City Ratner Cos. (FCRC) to come up with a new design for the long-delayed and controversial Atlantic Yards basketball and entertainment arena in Brooklyn.

Ellerbe Becket replaces Gehry Partners. New York City-based structural engineer Thornton-Tomasetti, and mechanical-electrical-plumbing engineer, WSP Flack + Kurtz, will remain on the project.

FCRC says it hopes to unveil new images of the arena, named Barclays Center, in late June and intends to break ground later this year in anticipation of a completed arena in time for the Nets to play the 2011-2012 NBA season in Brooklyn. In 2006, the developer was aiming to move the Nets into the arena by the 2009-2010 NBA season.

Recently, the Appellate Division of the New York state court ruled four to zero to uphold the state’s right to use eminent domain to build the Frank Gehry-master planned Atlantic Yards mega-development in Brooklyn, which includes the arena.

"I have an immense gratitude toward Frank Gehry for his amazing vision, unparalleled talent and steadfast partnership," said Ratner, FCRC chairman and CEO, in a statement.  “Both at Atlantic Yards and with the Beekman Tower in Lower Manhattan, he has continually produced beyond our expectations.”

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Ratner added: “Throughout this process—-as litigation produced delays; as rising construction costs impacted the budgets of all developers; and a slowing economy altered expectations—Frank and his team have shown remarkable flexibility and professionalism, making cost-effective revisions as needed. The current economic climate is not right for this design, and with Frank’s understanding, the arena is undergoing a redesign that will make it more limited in scope.”

Also in a statement, Gehry said: “We remain extremely proud of our work on the Atlantic Yards master plan and on the original arena, which we designed in close collaboration with Forest City Ratner. While there are always regrets at designs not realized, we greatly appreciate our ongoing relationship with Bruce and his team."

Under a master plan by Frank Gehry, the development would encompass 606,000 square feet of office space, 6.79 million square feet of residential space (6,860 units of affordable and market-rate housing), 850,000 square feet of sports and entertainment arena, 247,000 square feet for retail use, a 165,000-square-foot hotel (180 rooms), and over seven acres of open space. FCRC says it expects to begin construction of at least one residential building during the project’s first construction phase.

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