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TO: FROM: DATE: RE:
File Rachel Shatz October 8, 2013
Modifications to Design Guideline Drawings SK-1935, SK-1943 and SK-1944 for Building 4 of the Atlantic Yards Project
Design & Construction (“D&C”) staff of Empire State Development (“ESD”) has reviewed the request made by Forest City Ratner Companies (“FCRC”) to approve modifications to three of the drawings (specifically, Drawings SK-1935, SK-1943 and SK-1944) that are included in Appendix 1 to the Design Guidelines (“Design Guidelines”) for the Atlantic Yards Land Use Improvement and Civic Project (the “Project”). Those drawings relate to the footprint and massing of Building 4 (“B4”), to be constructed at the southwest corner of Atlantic and 6th Avenues, on the Arena Block. B4 is the only building that would be affected by the requested modifications. FCRC has not requested any modification to the overall floor area, height or use of B4. D&C staff have undertaken this review to determine whether the proposed modifications would be consistent with the general goals and objectives of the Design Guidelines and whether they would result in any specific adverse impact to the design of the Project as a whole or B4 in particular.
The modifications to the B4 envelope are proposed in large part because the Arena was developed on the western portion of the approved B4 envelope in a way that precludes the installation of foundations for B4 in that area, thereby leaving a much narrower potential development site for B4 within the remainder of the approved envelope. Because FCRC has found it to be structurally infeasible to cantilever the upper portions of B4 over the Arena, the existing B4 envelope constraints result in a residential floorplate that has a depth of just 45 feet, which does not allow for an efficient doubleloaded corridor. Absent the proposed modifications, B4 would be much smaller than what is permitted under the General Project Plan and the Design Guidelines, and consequently, would contain many fewer units which could have an effect on the number of affordable units that would be constructed on the
Arena Block. As described more fully below, to remedy this technical issue, FCRC proposes to shift a portion of B4’s footprint and bulk to the east and south, which would require modifications to three of the design drawings attached to the Design Guidelines.
Overview of the Design Guidelines The Design Guidelines are annexed as Exhibit B to the 2009 Modified General Project Plan for the Project (the “MGPP”) and provide a design framework for the Atlantic Yards development. They establish “general goals and objectives” for the Project and provide specific design guidelines for the Arena Block as a whole, and for each development parcel, including B4. The Design Guidelines also incorporate their own appendices that include drawings defining an envelope for each building, with dimensions establishing height limits and setback requirements.
The “general goals and objectives” of the Design Guidelines address building organization, building articulation, open space and streetscape. Most relevant to the proposed modifications are the goals to “*c+reate [d]evelopment [e]nvelopes that establish both a street wall presence and a unique identity for individual buildings”; to “*m+odulate building scale by requiring setback and horizontal and vertical architectural breaks”; and to “*e+nsure a high level of building façade articulation by requiring variation in materials and window detailing.” See the Design Guidelines at p. 4. The Design Guidelines generally call for an overall building massing divided into three parts: a Base, a Shoulder and an Upper Portion. See Design Guidelines at p. 7 (defining these terms).
Among the relevant design guidelines specific to the Arena Block are requirements regarding ground floor transparency, ground floor uses, and signage. Among the relevant design guidelines specific to B4 are requirements to provide street walls along portions of Atlantic Avenue and 6th Avenue, to define lower and middle portions of the building with changes to the architectural treatment of the building’s façade both horizontally and vertically, and to cap the overall building floor area at 824,629 gross square feet above grade.
The Current B4 Design Envelope The term “design envelope” as used herein refers to the maximum dimensions of a building, or portion of a building. (In general, the Design Guidelines do not set forth specific minimum dimensions.)
Base: The current B4 design envelope includes a Base with a maximum height of 150 feet that is set back from Atlantic Avenue to provide a minimum sidewalk width of 20 feet along Atlantic Avenue. Along B4’s 6th Avenue frontage, there is no building setback on the northern portion (i.e., the portion within 100 feet of the Atlantic Avenue property line) of the Base, while the southern portion of the Base is set back from the property line, providing a minimum 25-foot deep and 100-foot long at-grade open area adjoining the sidewalk on 6th Avenue.
Shoulder: The Shoulder of B4 rises above the Base to a maximum height of 275 feet and is set back 6 feet from the Base envelope along the northern portion of the 6th Avenue frontage and 15 feet along the southern portion of the 6th Avenue frontage.
Upper Portion: The Upper Portion envelope extends above the Shoulder to a height of 511 feet and is set back from the Shoulder envelope by 10 feet along Atlantic Avenue, 10 feet from the northern portion of the 6th Avenue frontage, 15 feet from the southern portion of the 6th Avenue frontage, and 35 feet from the southern frontage of the B4 footprint.
Proposed Changes to the B4 Envelope The proposed revisions to Drawings SK-1935, SK-1943 and SK-1944 would modify the design envelope for B4 as follows: Base: The Base along the southern portion of the 6th Avenue frontage would be set back 15 feet instead of 25 feet from the property line. Shoulder: The Shoulder along the southern portion of the 6th Avenue frontage would be set back 5 feet instead of 15 feet from the Base. Upper Portion: The Upper Portion along the southern portion of the 6th Avenue frontage would be set back 5 feet instead of 15 feet from the Shoulder and would be set back 20 feet instead of 35 feet from the southern frontage of the building footprint.
While the proposed drawing modifications would enlarge the envelope to the east and south, they would reduce the envelope to the west. The proposed revised Drawing SK-1943 (like the original drawing SK-1943) would contain a note indicating that the Base envelope area may not exceed 34,500 square feet. The proposed revised Drawing SK-1943 would allow portions of the bulk of the Upper Portion floor plate to be moved to the east and south, but the overall floor plate of the Upper Portion is not expected to be any larger than the floor plate under the originally approved Drawing SK-1943 because FCRC has stated that the area of the Upper Portion envelope over the arena cannot be utilized. ESD would review this issue for consistency when FCRC submits actual design plans (rather than illustrative plans) for ESD’s approval of B4’s final design. The B4 envelope, as proposed, would comply with all other envelope requirements, including the Base, Shoulder and Upper Portion setbacks along Atlantic Avenue.
In support of this request to modify Drawings SK-1935, SK-1943 and SK-1944, FCRC submitted renderings of B4 that depict an illustrative building design that would be consistent with the proposed modified envelope for B4. The illustrative design would modulate building scale by breaking up the massing of B4 with setbacks and changes in architectural treatment both vertically and horizontally. It would provide façade articulation, and would establish a street wall presence along Atlantic Avenue and 6th Avenue. It would continue to meet all of the material-related, ground floor use, and glazing requirements for the Arena Block, as well as the architectural breaks, street walls, and overall floor area maximum that are specific to the Project as a whole and to B4 in particular. ESD would review these qualitative design issues for conformity with the Design Guidelines when FCRC submits actual design plans (rather than illustrative plans) for ESD’s approval of B4’s final design.
Consistency with the Goals and Objectives of the Design Guidelines The changes proposed are consistent with the overall design goals and objectives of the Design Guidelines. While the proposed reduction of setback depth could have the potential to affect how the Base, Shoulder and Upper Portion components are viewed as separate and distinct building elements, these elements, as depicted in the proposed renderings of B4 discussed above, would be additionally differentiated by architectural breaks such as a change in building wall material and/or color. At such time that FCRC submits a final design for B4 for Design Guideline compliance review, ESD will evaluate the design to confirm that it similarly uses such techniques to maintain architectural breaks in
accordance with the Design Guidelines requirements, goals and objectives.
In combination, the
modified setback and architectural breaks can achieve the visual breaks contemplated by the Design Guidelines, as depicted in the proposed renderings of B4. Moreover, the proposed 5-foot setbacks would be similar to the 5-foot setbacks in the Design Guideline envelopes of other Project buildings.
With regard to the proposed reduction in the at-grade open area along the southern portion of the 6th Avenue frontage from 25 to 15 feet, the reduced area, in conjunction with the existing sidewalk area beyond the property line, would continue to provide for an articulated ground floor street frontage as well as a minimum 20 foot walkable sidewalk area. The 25 foot-wide area originally proposed was not programmed open space and was not counted as open space in the analysis of open space resources in the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Project prepared in 2006 (the “FEIS”). Accordingly, a reduction in the setback of the base would not affect the FEIS open space analysis. The reduction of the setback of B4’s base on the southern portion of B4’s 6th Avenue frontage would not affect the minimum sidewalk width assumed in the FEIS, and therefore would not affect the pedestrian levels of service disclosed in the FEIS.
With regard to the proposed reduction of the Upper Portion setback on the southern façade of B4, this change would not affect the location of the Base or Shoulder. The B4 Upper Portion would be shifted 15 feet closer to the footprint of Building 3 (“B3”), but the B4 Upper Portion is located above the maximum height of B3. The reduced southern setback of the Upper Portion of B4 would continue to provide sufficient separation between the buildings, and would comply with the building-separation requirements of the Multiple Dwelling Law and Zoning Resolution.
The reduction in the southern setback of the Upper Portion would result in a slightly wider Upper Portion along the 6th Avenue frontage, but the width of the Upper Portion would not exceed the width of the Upper Portions of Buildings 7 or 15.
While the Shoulder and Upper Portions of B4 would shift to the east closer to Building 5, which is located on the east side of 6th Avenue, the two buildings would continue to have an adequate amount
of separation to preserve view corridors and provide light and air along the segment of 6th Avenue between Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street. As proposed, the Shoulder portions of the two buildings would be separated by a minimum of 80 feet and the Upper Portions of the two buildings would be separated by a minimum of 100 feet. Moreover, the width of the Building 5 Shoulder fronting 6th Avenue is 115 feet and its Upper Portion width fronting 6th Avenue is 105 feet. As a result, the Shoulder and Upper Portion of B5 are narrower than the B5 base thereby reducing the massing of B5 facing the Shoulder and Upper Portions of B4 and allowing sufficient light and air on 6th Avenue.
FCRC’s architect (SHoP) has submitted a shadows analysis to assess the potential shadow impacts of the proposed change in the B4 design envelope, in comparison to the shadows from the B4 design envelope studied in the shadows chapter of the FEIS. The analysis determined that the proposed change in the B4 design envelope would not result in any material change to the shadows that would be cast by the building. ESD staff has reviewed the SHoP analysis and concurs with its findings.
Conclusion The proposed changes to Drawings SK-1935, SK-1943 and SK-1944 would be consistent with the general goals and objectives of the Design Guidelines. For the reasons discussed above, the limited changes to the B4 design envelope would not result in any adverse impacts to the Project design in general or the B4 design in particular. ESD will carefully review the final design of B4 for consistency with the technical requirements of the Design Guidelines, and their overall goals and objectives, when the final design is submitted to ESD for approval. For the reasons discussed above, the proposed changes to Drawings SK1935, SK-1943 and SK-1944 would not result in any significant adverse environmental impacts not disclosed in the FEIS, and the Directors’ consideration of the proposed changes to these D rawings does not require further environmental review.
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