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Construction of arena tower begins in three weeks, will go on more than a year

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On December 18, near the Dean Street entrance of Barclays Center, Bruce Ratner and a group of supporters will thrust shovels into the ground to mark the beginning of 20 months of construction activity at the arena. It will be the ground-breaking for what is known as B2 or "Building 2" of Atlantic Yards, a 32-story apartment tower that will be the tallest modular building in the United States, perhaps the world. It's the first of 15 planned towers to be built east of the arena at the 22-acre site.

Ratner has secured financing for the building as well as agreements with the construction unions to finally get the residential sector of his $5 billion project underway. Some 930 modules -- each 14 feet wide, 35 feet long and 10 feet tall -- will be constructed at the nearby Brooklyn Navy Yard, then trucked to the site and erected, Lego-like, on a steel framework. Once B2 is complete, two other "pre-fab" towers, one 22 stories, the other 52, will go up nearby, meaning that fans can expect to see construction cranes and construction workers around the back of the arena for six years. SHoP, the design architects for Barclays Center, designed the modular buildings.

Gregg Pasquarelli of SHoP spoke of the challenges of making it all work a little more than a year ago. He said then...

We've got two parallel teams working on this modular project to see if there's a way to build a 40- or 50-story modular building because by keeping it in the factory we can control the cost in a lot better way that we can out in the field. And it's really hard. We've been working on it ...three separate teams of 25 people working day and night on this for a year with developers who say I want a good building supportive developers who say build me the best building you can but here's the budget. It's almost impossible.

Unlike the Nets and Barclays Center, Mikhail Prokhorov has no financial interest in the residential component of the project. He did acquire a somewhat open-ended option to purchase up to a 20 percent interest in Atlantic Yards at the same time he bought into the team and arena.