Post-Gehry, Atlantic Yards’ Nets Arena To Be Designed by New York Boutique SHoP

The arena is the centerpiece of a larger $4.9 billion planned apartment tower complex known as Atlantic Yards, a project that was approved after a lengthy political fight in 2006, but has been stalled on account of lawsuits and the economic crisis. In the battle to win public opinion and assent of public officials leading up to the project’s approval, Forest City—led by its CEO Bruce Ratner—trumpeted the fact that it would be designed by Mr. Gehry, who was to design the arena and the surrounding 16 buildings. This was notable not just in that it brought a top architectural name to Brooklyn, but that iconic, high-quality architecture was going to be used for a structure that typically is left to functional design: the arena.

So when Mr. Ratner dropped Mr. Gehry—a decision announced in early June—there was understandable outrage (The Times architecture critic called it a “stunning bait-and-switch). That anger was no doubt fueled by the simplistic functional arena renderings shown to city officials and then leaked to the press (it’s been termed an “airplane hangar”).

Unclear is the timing on SHoP’s hire (SHoP principal Gregg Pasquarelli didn’t immediately respond to an email requesting comment), and just how long the firm has been working on the project.

When Forest City does release the renderings (there were no renderings made available this summer during the public comment period on the revised plan for the arena), it will mark the public start of yet another sales campaign for Mr. Ratner. The developer must sell about $700 million in bonds to investors before the end of the year in order to qualify for tax-exempt status, lest the cost of borrowing go up by perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars.

At the same time, the state’s highest court plans to hear in mid-October a key case on the use of eminent domain for the project. While Forest City has been victorious at every opportunity thus far, a victory for opponents and affected landowners in that court would certainly doom Mr. Ratner’s years-long efforts.

ebrown@observer.com