It’s springtime, and while much of the New York real estate market may still be frozen, a bud of hope has sprouted on a troubled lot in Downtown Brooklyn. Last week, The Public Design Commission of The City of New York approved a scheme by Cook+Fox for a gleaming new 50,000-square-foot retail building on the otherwise dilapidated Fulton Mall.
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Albee Development, a consortium of developers that includes Acadian Realty Trust, Washington Square Partners, and others, is developing the project. Known as One Dekalb Avenue, it will rise on the former site of the Albee Square Mall, which the team purchased from Coney Island developer Joseph Sitt in 2004 for $125 million.
In 2007, when the city was still booming, Albee Development proposed a 1.5 million-square-foot mixed-use project for the pentagonal site, which is bounded by Albee Square, Willoughby Street, Flatbush Avenue, Fleet Street, and Dekalb Avenue. Called City Point, it included retail, office, and residential space, and a tower that would have been one of the tallest structures in downtown Brooklyn. When the market went south the project stalled out.
“After that we worked with the city to figure out how to move forward in a very different environment,” said Paul Travers of Washington Square Partners. “We decided to break it up into parts and start with what was probably most important to the neighborhood.” The project also got a boost when it was awarded $20 million in federal stimulus money by the city’s Economic Development Corporation in September.
Part of the reason the city was so eager to see the project move forward was because the original Albee Square Mall had been demolished by the developers in 2008, prior to the project’s stalling. This left a gaping hole in the urban fabric of downtown Brooklyn, a wound the designers at Cook+Fox worked diligently to mend.
“When the project became a phased project, we took a step back and designed a building that held the urban space on Albee Square and Fulton,” said Cook + Fox partner Rick Cook. “The goal was to create something that sits well between The Dime Savings Bank and an adjacent white terracotta building.”
At four stories, the design steps down toward DeKalb and Fleet, opening up to its neighbors a to remain contextual with its neighboring structures. The building’s white terracotta cladding also echoes these edifices. A glazed corner maintains views to the Dime Savings Bank, while the large windows provide places for the advertising that once invigorated the Albee Mall.
The commission’s support opens the way for construction to begin. Previously, Community Board 2 approved the project in February. Travers expects the first phase to break ground in May, and the project’s second, which will include 500,000 square feet of retail and residential space, to move ahead in the next 12 to 24 months.