Williamsburg's first office building in more than 50 years is set to rise at 25 Kent Avenue. Designed by San Francisco's Gensler and New York–based Hollwich Kushner (HWKN), the office complex will span 480,000 square feet, rising to eight stories with space available for commercial and manufacturing purposes, as well as an extensive public courtyard area. Brooklyn-based Heritage Equity Partners is the developer.
Crucially, to make the development happen, the city approved a special zoning district that permits developers to trade light manufacturing space for extra office construction.
Approved by the City Council and City Planning Commission, YIMBY reports that the new zoning rules allow for greater design flexibility and mandate less parking to encourage office development. The “Enhanced Business Area” is set to incorporate much of the North Williamsburg Industrial Business Zone, a zoning area which, according to the New York City Economic Development Corporation, seeks to "protect existing manufacturing districts and encourage industrial growth citywide."
As for the building itself, a stepped-back brick facade respects the surrounding context while certain structural elements are revealed behind glass to establish a modern yet industrial feel. “At the east and west ends of the building, it’s as if an old building was sliced and we put a curtain wall on,” said Joseph Brancato of Gensler. The scheme will also have 16-foot slab-to-slab heights to facilitate adequate daylighting made possible through large windows deployed throughout the building. Per the new zoning regulations, the number of parking spaces have been set to 275—all situated underground. Before the zoning rules kicked in, the scheme would have had to made room for 1,200 parking spaces.
According to Toby Moskovits of Heritage Equity Partners in Brownstoner, the staggered facade enables office and manufacturing spaces to be modular and have greater flexibility. Startups, whatever stage of development they may be in, would be able to step into 25 Kent Avenue at any time, while amenities such as cafes can be positioned centrally on every level.
Moskovits argued that the development will support Williamsburg by “giving economic opportunity to small businesses and people in the community who need jobs.” Moskovits added: “We’re of the community and we are entrepreneurs. Our goal is to tenant the building in a way that makes sense for the neighborhood...We believe passionately in what we are doing."