By Sarah Trefethen
Forest City Ratner is in talks to lease a 100,000 s/f factory space at the Brooklyn Navy Yards.
The facility would be the manufacturing hub for pre-fabricated modules the developer wants to use to build on the Atlantic Yards site in Brooklyn.
Speaking at the first annual Real Estate Weekly Women’s Forum, which took place at the McGraw Hill Auditorium last week, MaryAnne Gilmartin, executive vice president of Forest City Ratner in charge of the 22-acre project that includes the new Nets arena, said the company was excited to be pioneering the use of modular building technology.
The developer is still in talks with construction unions over the modular approach, which would divide building labor between factory and on-site workers.
But Gilmartin explained to delegates how workers would manufacture tower elements, called modules, to then be assembled into a residential high-rise on site at the Atlantic Yards in downtown Brooklyn, which will feature the Barclays Center sports complex, future home of the New Jersey Nets basketball team, as well as residential, retail and offices space.
The first of the 14 residential buildings planned for the site is a 32-story, 350-unit tower scheduled to begin construction this spring.
If it is built using modular technology, it will be the tallest prefabricated steel structure in the world, Gilmartin told the Women’s Forum.
While she stopped short of saying how much the company hopes to save on construction costs using the modular technology, Gilmartin said that if the test case of the first tower proves the technology’s benefits, the technique could also be used to build the remaining residential buildings planned to go up at the site in the coming years.
At the same time, the Brooklyn facility would also have the potential to branch out and produce modules for use in other developments across the city and country, Gilmartin said.
Speaking after the forum, FCR spokesman Joe DePlasco said the Navy Yards was one of three possible sites the company was considering for a factory base.
The executive’s remarks rounded out a day of presentations by some of the industry’s top talent that was attended by over 300 participants.
The morning keynote address was delivered by Leslie Himmel, managing partner of Himmel + Meringoff Properties since 1985.
Himmel treated her audience to detailed profiles of some of the innovative deals she and business partner Stephen Meringoff have orchestrated over their 27 years of collaboration.
And she shared advice for investors starting out in the industry, including a caution that interest rates and government regulations can change unexpectedly, and real estate investors need to plan for the future.
Nonetheless, she said, she is “very bullish,” about New York investments. “I think New York City is on fire,” she said.
Other panels throughout the day covered deal making, mentorship and professional development, asset management, government policy, construction and design, and a roundtable of women founders and CEOs.
Attendees said they enjoyed the event both for it’s strong content as well as it’s positive, collegial atmosphere — which some said was no surprise, given that the high-powered speakers were all women.
“Their message was, ‘This is an open field, and this is how you get into the game,’” said Lisa Weitzman, of the day’s speakers.
But the event wasn’t only for women.
Alex Kostlev, a representative of the two-year-old construction firm INS Contractors, was busy exchanging business cards and showing off pictures of his company’s work during the lunch-time networking session. Kostlev and his colleagues attended the event for the people they could meet, he said, but also found the speakers enlightening.
“We know a few real estate agents, but we don’t know the sharks — we know the fish,” he said. “It’s interesting to listen to the people who are at the very top and get their perspective.”