Though it will someday be capped by a sizable office tower, a new SHoP-designed public plaza at the entrance to the under-construction Brooklyn Nets arena was unveiled today. The key features of the roughly 39,000-square-foot plaza are a greenroof-capped subway entrance and a large oculus at the prow of the arena with programmable, wrap-around displays. Everything from live game footage to Prospect Park live-cams has been contemplated.
Forest City plans on programming the plaza in partnership with the community to make it a swinging space, including the possibility of pop-up cafes and farmers’ markets and, developer Bruce Ratner hopes, possibly the Brooklyn Flea and a Fashion Week satellite. (Take that, Lincoln Center.)
Yet comparisons were also made to the hustle and bustle of Grand Central, which could lead to congestion on the plaza. Given that Union Square already boasts the Greenmarks and numerous public events–like Sukkah City, say–means this is more a matter of timing than feasibility (i.e., plan things for the weekend, not rush hour).
Given that the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues is the busiest in the borough, who would actually want to hang out there, though? “It is true that there is traffic there,” said Gregg Pasquarelli, a principal at SHoP Architects, which designed the plaza along with the arena’s new, post-Gehry facade. “But you look at Union Square, which is on Broadway and 14th Street, and that’s very busy.”
The new subway and plaza drew some skepticism from the press, given that the plan calls for eventually replacing both with a roughly 300,000-square-foot office building, but Mr. Ratner said that, for better or worse, the market for that looks a few years off at the very least. “This, in my view, is an extraordinary plaza,” he added. “We did not cut any corners on the design.”
Mr. Ratner reiterated his intention to begin building housing by next year, in a tower on the south side of the arena, on Dean Street, though there is no funding in place. He said he hopes a second will follow shortly thereafter. “The market for rental housing is still very strong in Brooklyn,” he said. He said designs should be revealed sometime at the start of next year, but no architect has been selected. (Asked if he was interested in designing the tower, Mr. Pasquarelli played coy. “SHoP’s goal is to make sure it’s a beautiful and cohesive whole,” he said.)
Mr. Ratner briefly addressed reports by the Altantic Yards Report about the sale of visas to attract investment to the project, saying it is a proven program dating to the 1990s. He also all but promised the arena would be open in time for the 2012 basketball season: “It was the pre-stuff that’s difficult [no kidding!]. The construction part”—Mr. Ratner paused to rap on the wooden lectern—”is easy.”