Hold the shovels! Ratner backtracks on residential construction schedule

Hold the shovels! Ratner backtracks on residential construction schedule
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Developers of the Atlantic Yards project were caught red-faced last week when one of the development company’s officials said that construction of the project’s first residential building would begin this year — but then had to admit that no financing has been lined up.

Forest City Ratner Vice President MaryAnne Gilmartin told real-estate insiders on Wednesday that construction of the long-delayed, 400-unit residential tower at the western end of the mega-project’s footprint would get underway this year, but the next day, a spokesman for the company admitted that the developer doesn’t have money for the project.

“We hope to release designs in late spring or early summer and still hope to break ground this year,” the spokesman said. “[But] they need to secure financing.”

History — and the economy — is not on Forest City Ratner’s side, at least in the short term. Last year, company executive Jane Marshall also said that a groundbreaking on the half-below-market-rate rental building would take place in 2010.

It’s the same old story for a project plan that once consisted of 16 skyscrapers and an arena near the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues in Prospect Heights. For now, the Barclays Center arena, the future home of the New Jersey Nets, is the project’s only slam dunk. It is expected to be completed in 2012.

That said, Gilmartin did reveal that the rental building has moved forward in one way — Forest City Ratner now has an architect for it, if the company comes up with financing. SHoP Architects — the same Manhattan firm that is credited with saving the arena project after developer Bruce Ratner fired starchitect Frank Gehry in 2009 — will design the rental, too.

Ratner’s inability to break ground on the rental building — the first of what he claims will be a 6,400-unit residential complex — is particularly glaring, given that the developer said last year that the tower was insulated from the depressed housing market because preparations to build it were already underway when the real-estate bubble burst.

At that time, Ratner also promised the start of “construction of a new residential building beginning every six to nine months” after the start of this first tower.