Developer Jed Walentas of Two Trees Management Co. stood up in front of a packed house at a community forum in Williamsburg last night to discuss his ambitious new redevelopment plans for the Domino Sugar Factory Refinery. Citing his family’s history in DUMBO, Walentas told the beer-sipping, tattooed crowd that his intention is to “build an extension of the neighborhood” that is “socially contextual.” The new plan incorporates significantly more commercial and office space, which Walentas says won’t financially benefit Two Trees, but speaks to his company’s philosophy and intent to draw from and embrace the historic and cultural fabric of Williamsburg. While the zoning map doesn’t need to change, the plans still need to go through the ULURP process once again. The new vision for the site puts an emphasis on making the Domino Sugar Refinery a “nucleus” for the neighborhood that would house commercial space and artist studios (some subsidized, some not). An additional building on Grand Street would also be dedicated for small neighborhood retail. Walentas said, like DUMBO, he would fill these space will mom-and-pop stores and promised the audience that there will be no big box stores such as Duane Reade or Starbucks. In addition to commercial, two large community spaces will also be part of the overall plan. From the get-go, affordable housing has been a critical issue in the redevelopment of Domino Sugar Site, and the initial plans that were approved—prior to Two Trees acquiring the property—promised 660-affordable housing units. Walentas says he’s committed to keeping the affordable housing units, which will be 60 to 80 percent of the area median income (AMI), and identical to market rate apartments. The exact income levels have yet to be determined. But while Walentas said that the redevelopment will be “contextual,” Vishaan Chakrabarti, partner at SHoP Architects, told the audience that won't be the case with the design. He acknowledged that the new development isn’t in keeping with Williamsburg’s low-scale, but said, “It will be high no matter what,” referring to any future development to be built on the waterfront. “It is not contextual,” said Chakrabarti. “But we can start creating a skyline we can be proud of.” Chakrabarti argued that the height difference between the old and new plans won't be noticeable to people in the neighborhood and provides several benefits such as more open space inside and a lighter and airier feel. Since the building will be turned perpendicular to the water, he says more light will filter in. But Hurricane Sandy has forced developers and architects to reshape their approach to waterfront development. Chakrabarti addressed some of the changes they plan on implementing from setting the park back to putting basements above grade and building sloped sidewalks to allow water to drain. “The park will act as a sponge because it will be made of permeable material,” said Chakrabarti. The conversation grew heated when a few community members expressed doubt over Two Tree’s commitment to affordable housing and questioned whether the infrastructure in the neighborhood could support this influx of people and new commercial and business sector. “Our intent is to be a long term owner,” said Walentas. “Our interests are aligned with the community’s interests.”
Posts tagged with "Vishaan Chakrabarti":
L&L Holding Company, owners of a midcentury office tower at 425 Park Avenue, are looking to build a new, high design office tower on that site. It would be the first new office tower built on Park Avenue since the 1980s. Some of the biggest names in architecture are competing for the job: Ateliers Jean Nouvel, Ateliers Christian de Portzamparc, Herzog & de Meuron, Foster & Partners, Zaha Hadid Architects, OMA, Maki and Associates, KPF, Richard Meier and Partners, Rogers Sirk Harbour + Partners, and Renzo Piano Building Workshop. Vishaan Chakrabarti, director of the center for urban real estate at Columbia, is running the competition for L&L. "This competition of ideas is the first step in the process of realizing a globally advanced, bespoke skyscraper that will both complement Park Avenue’s existing architectural treasures and make its own indelible mark in the world’s most timeless office corridor,” he said in a statement.
Vishaan Chakrabarti, director of the Columbia Center for Urban Real Estate since 2009, has been appointed a partner at SHoP Architects effective immediately. The seventh partner (and only the second not related to the firm’s founders by blood or marriage), Chakrabarti will focus on large-scale urban projects, drawing on his years of expertise through such on-going endeavors as Related Companies’ involvement with the Moynihan Station project and development at Hudson Yards. (While he will remain director of the Columbia real estate program, he will forgo his consultancy with Related.) “We are thrilled to have Vishaan join the firm. His background and depth of experience allow SHoP to add expertise to our bench while continuing our firm-wide focus on both planning and building,” said William Sharples, SHoP Partner, in a statement, adding that the firm wants now to pay closer attention to the public realm and the consequences of building “through use of public space, density, sustainability, and innovative construction methods.” The aim, according to the press release is “to reinvent urbansim.” Few design professionals have parlayed their careers and urban interests as expertly as Chakrabarti, who served as head of the Manhattan office of the Department of City Planning from 2002 to 2004—heyday of the Doctoroff pro-development years—then became executive vice president of design and planning for Related in 2008 before joining Columbia. A vocal advocate of urban density and public-private partnerships, Chakrabarti wrote in his Country of Cities column—soon to be a book— for the website Urban Omnibus website on such issues as Tokyo as a model of dense development and the ethical binds implicit in energy development, writing in “Spill, Baby, Spill”: “Do we have the strength to reject the threat that is oil, both foreign and domestic? Do we have the vision to recognize that we have seen the enemy, and it is the suburban house? Do we have the will to embrace high-density living as the only solution, the only land use that limits our energy use, our healthcare costs, our vulnerability to petro-dictators, and our free fall into a sprawling national deficit?” In a recent issue, Metropolis magazine named him a “Game Changer of 2012” Chakrabarti joins SHoP Architects now steeped in a number of large-scale projects with urban impacts, ranging from heralded to controversial, from the East River Waterfront and the redevelopment of South Street Seaport to Atlantic Yards. Local projects in the office are for Google, Goldman Sachs, Columbia and the Fashion Institute of Technology, while the firm has also worked abroad on large-scale projects in Japan, China, Korea, and India. Chakrabarti is quoted in the press release announcement: “It is an honor and a thrill for me to join SHoP Architects, a firm that since its inception has redefined practice, and is now poised to design and build some of the most significant large-scale projects in the world. In the urban age that is upon us, we need the very best practitioners and I have long believed that SHoP offers to New York and the world an unsurpassed 21st Century vision of design and technology.”
Last night, I was lucky enough to enjoy assorted swells (but not very many architects) at the Hearst building for a screening of the enigmatic “How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster?", a film devoted to his lordship’s extravagantly photogenic architecture and life of work. Or so it looks in this approximately 90 minute film which sweeps us from the Engadin Alps where Foster annually plows through a 26-mile mile cross-country ski marathon in tight black lycra with some 14,000 others to his redbrick childhood home quite literally on the wrong side of the tracks in Manchester to his current home in a Swiss villa, spectacularly void of human touches, to his 1,000-plus strong office in London to the early Sainsbury Centre; the Swiss Re gherkin; the British Museum Great Court; the Berlin Reichstag, etc, etc, and of course, the
Hong Kong Beijing Airport that is the largest building on earth as narrator Deyan Sudjic intones mellifluously. (The trailor below provides but a morsel of this delight.)
Many of his buildings are seen as if from the wing of a Cessna gliding overhead—especially the great dinosaur-scaled Millau Viaduct in France—with the nice touch of swelling slow-mo clouds, and almost as if Foster himself were at the controls. And possibly he was, as we learn that he is quite the speed and height freak. All is accompanied by an original, also very swelling, score performed by the Bratislava Symphony Orchestra.
The cocktail party was not so dizzying with guests including Cesar Pelli, Rafael Viñoly, Vishaan Chakrabarti, Mark Wigley, Beatriz Colomina, Bob Stern, and Paul Goldberger who after the film said he had no recall whatsoever of where or when he was filmed speaking so glowingly of the Hearst tower. Pelli remembered exactly when he first met Foster in the 70s, when he was the partner in charge of design at Victor Gruen and Foster insisted on a meeting. Meanwhile, Foster smiled as graciously and blankly as the many on-hand socialites known primarily to Lady Foster, who produced the film. When asked about the film, Foster said he was amazed that it was so deep in detail. Agreed! And then we were all called into the auditorium where Lady Foster by way of introduction to “How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster?” said: “And we were able to follow Foster closely for three years!” As his wife, I should hope so.
And, oh yes, the title comes from a question Buckminster Fuller, a mentor of sorts for Foster in the 70s, asked on visiting his Faber headquarters in Ipswich many years ago. Apparently it weighed quite a few tons. And for one night of fun, so did his film.