CRA board places West Atlantic redevelopment project on notice

A rendering of Fabrick project. Courtesy of BH3.

By: Marisa Herman

Associate Editor

Developer BH3’s plans to redevelop West Atlantic Avenue with a grocery store, office space, places to live and shops may be over before a shovel has hit the dirt. 

At a Community Redevelopment Agency meeting on Tuesday, the board placed the developers on notice of default after missing a deadline.

The developers were scheduled to present a site plan for the project in mid-January, but they missed the deadline. 

The developers will have 30 days to cure the problem, but during the meeting the fix didn’t seem possible.

The board took a lot of heat after selecting BH3 to revamp the land last year because they were the lowest bidder. They offered to pay just $10 to acquire the land. But the benefits the project promised including a surplus of parking and a lot of open and green space.

Elements of the project once pitched as Alta West have since changed without much communication from the developers to the agency. 

During the meeting attorney Neil Schiller presented an entirely new project called FABRICK.

And while the workforce housing, excess parking and office space along with other requirements remained in the project, the entire look and feel of the proposal changed. None of those changes had been relayed to the agency before the meeting, which caused concern.

“I do see this as a partnership,” Commissioner Ryan Boylston said. “But as part of a partnership you communicate. If you need more time, ask for more time before you run out of it. If you want to change the project, say you want to change it.”

Board members agreed the new project was just dumped on them right before Schiller dove into a presentation. 

“I am disappointed the plans are done without any of our input,” board member Angie Gray said. “This is way too big. I am not interested in a whole new project.”

Schiller said the reason for the redesign had to do with the pinnacle piece of the project, attracting a grocer- a requirement of the entire project. 

He said the team is very close to securing a grocer, but would not name the company. He said the changes were made to accommodate requests the grocer needed to see before agreeing to come on board. Those changes would need to be approved by the CRA and various city boards. 

Schiller called the project an “iconic design” that has “unparalleled public space with a national grocer.”

But not everyone agreed with the new look, which was more modern and featured an elevated park space similar to New York City’s High Line. 

“With this project we expected some small deviations, but this is a 360,” board member Pam Brinson said. “We took a lot of heat in order to make this thing possible. I like the original design and this is totally different.” 

But returning to the old design seems like it’s out of the cards. 

BH3 Principal Daniel Lebensohn said the grocer is “opposed” to the previous iteration of the plan. 

“They want something very specific,” he told the board. “We can’t go back to that plan.” 

Ultimately, the board opted to put the developers on notice for blowing through the deadline in a 4-2 vote. Commissioners Ryan Boylston and Shirley Johnson dissented and Adam Frankel was absent.

There is still a chance for the developers and agency to remedy the road block and get the project back on track.

“This is holding someone’s feet to the fire,” Mayor Shelly Petrolia said. “Our contracts, with dates, mean something.”