2013-04-19 / Front Page

Design Comp For Arverne East

Déjà vu All Over Again
By Kevin Boyle

And now, even the last frontier, is getting attention in the post-Sandy era. The area called “Arverne East” is an 80+ acres oceanfront parcel, approximately from Beach 46th to Beach 32nd Street, just east of Ocean Village, that has lain fallow for decades. It is once again on the drawing board for development. The drawing board, actually, is blank right now but is being offered up in a design competition which developers hope will attract great ideas from all corners.

The competition was announced at a press conference on Tuesday at the Center of Architecture in Manhattan. According to partners in the competition, FarRoc (For a Resilient Rockaway) is a “two-phase design competition that will explore innovative strategies for the planning, design and construction of a resilient and sustainable development at Arverne East.”

Although the contest is a new wrinkle, Wave readers might have a sense of déjà vu when they learn that L & M Development, the Bluestone Organization, and Triangle Equities are the entities behind the contest. These same developers are the ones who were selected by the City and Mayor Bloomberg in 2006 to develop Arverne East. At the time, they revealed plans that included 47 acres of housing and commercial space including a hotel and a nature preserve. The economic downturn scuttled the plans.

Fair or not, the inaction did not sit well with the Rockaway Task Force – a joint effort of Councilman Eric Ulrich and then-Councilman James Sanders. They asked that the City cancel the development agreement in 2011.

Although the City did not move on the Task Force recommendation, a few things seem to have motivated the developers to get going again. Among the new factors are a stronger economy, greater interest (and spending) in Rockaway because of Sandy, and the fact that a new administration will soon be taking over City Hall which might not be as patient with development of the area as the Bloomberg administration.

The triumvirate of L & M, Bluestone, and Triangle has recruited others to partner in the competition including Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, and Enterprise Community Partners. City Councilman Donovan Richards, and Brad Gair of the Housing Recovery Office are among those on the jury who will select the best entries.

Ron Moelis, who heads L&M and recently took control of Ocean Village, said, “It’s a blank slate. We have the opportunity to be creative and innovative. We think we can build something that can be a prototype internationally. People will look at us and say, that’s how to build a waterfront.”

Moelis stressed that “community input” would be eagerly sought. Although a “competition brief” has a section called “Community Input” and highlighted comments made by locals at one workshop, the “advisory committee” consists of designated officers and staff from the sponsoring organizations. This committee will select “community leaders” to be part of the jury that will evaluate entries and select winners.

A Far Rockaway resident, Denean Ferguson, who made the trek into the city for the announcement, suggested Moelis and the committee make use of social media to allow Rockaway locals a voice in the competition. She suggested that entries that move on to Phase 2 be revealed to the community through easily accessible online sites, adding that not everyone in the community can make meetings. Moelis and others appeared to fully support the suggestion.

When asked if contestants were expected to include the boardwalk in submissions (because the boardwalk is a separate matter, not part of Arverne East), organizers said they did not wish to impose any restrictions on ideas but they expected the boardwalk to be included in most submissions. Important dates for the competition are as follows:

April 16, 2013: Competition Announcement May 10, 2013: Deadline for Submission of Questions
May 17, 2013: Q&A Posted to Website

June 14, 2013: Phase I Submission
July 15, 2013: Phase I Winners
October 7, 2013: Phase II Submission
October 24, 2013: Phase II Winner
Full details can be found on the website FarRoc.com

Phasing, Stipend, and Award

For Phase I of the competition, project teams are asked to submit a proposed site plan and an associated building parti (basic concept) along with ideas for resilient development, strategies for high-performance sustainable infrastructure, and appropriate and responsive programming for the site. Submissions from individuals, students, and non-licensed firms are welcomed during Phase I; however, finalist project teams proceeding to Phase II of the design competition must include at least one licensed architect and one licensed engineer. Successful Phase I entries will be given an opportunity to rectify any shortcomings with respect to their qualifications prior to commencement of Phase II.

The second phase of the competition will require further development of the selected Phase I entries by the selected competition teams. Subject to their agreement with the customary terms and conditions outlined in preliminary form in the design brief, each finalist team will be provided with a cash stipend of $30,000 to develop a design and planning report and other Phase II materials.

The winning project team will be announced on October 24th, 2013 in advance of the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy. The winning team will receive an additional cash prize of $30,000.

Finalist entries for Phase II and, possibly, honorable mention submissions from Phase I, will be showcased in a public exhibition at the AIA New York Center for Architecture from November 6th to November 30th, 2013.

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