It wasn't surprising to learn that the Nets put the kibosh on architect Frank Gehry's plans for their proposed arena in Brooklyn, not after it became clear that raising money for construction was going to be a serious problem. The loss of Gehry is also a serious problem, though. When the Atlantic Yards project was first proposed, the involvement of Gehry was a big part of what got people on board, and his departure leaves few reasons to still be excited about the project.
The office building and resulting revenue have been scrapped, whatever housing was planned seems to be on hold as the arena push dominates the effort and now there's an unappealing arena design. The New York Times has renderings of the building, which is likened to an "airplane hangar." That's what it looks like in the drawing, and what urban downtown couldn't use an airplane hangar in the middle of it?
A better question might be, would Barclays Bank, which has promised $400 million over 20 years of naming rights, want its name on an airplane hangar instead of something designed by Gehry?
There's another issue with the design change. The new arena wouldn't have enough space to be home to a hockey team, like the wayward Islanders perhaps. That's another potential revenue stream closed, which saves Nets owner and real estate developer Bruce Ratner money and doesn't bring anything back to the city.
All of this comes on the heels of a report from the Independent Budget Office last week that found the net fiscal impact from public investment would be negative. That was based on the $950 million projected cost for the old design, but with an $800 million price tag on the new one there doesn't figure to be a massive difference in the projections.
Call it a victim of the recession, a victim of oversized expectations or a combination of both, but the only reason to do this project was to do something spectacular. It's not spectacular anymore, not even close, and it may be time for those in power to start looking for a back door.