As Dumbo has become one of New York City’s most desirable and upscale neighborhoods, the hulking Empire Stores complex has been a persistent reminder of the neighborhood's industrial past—before the boutiques, multimillion-dollar apartments, and Brooklyn Bridge Park. The complex—a series of seven buildings—dates back to the 19th century and was originally used to store dry goods, primarily coffee. For decades, it has been positioned in Dumbo like an impenetrable fortress—a barrier between the cobblestone streets and the landscaped waterfront. But that's about to change. https://youtu.be/Bzhb1WBUNps In 2013, after many failed attempts to revive the Empire Stores, Midtown Equities (with Rockwood Capital and HK Organization) was selected by the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation, to transform the warehouses into a mixed-use facility. (To fund the park’s upkeep, development sites along the park are being leased to developers.) Plans for the transformation were originally drawn up by STUDIO V which proposed exposing much of the buildings’ original details, creating a rooftop addition, and cutting an open-air courtyard through the complex. In Spring 2014, S9 Architecture, a Perkins Eastman affiliate, was brought onto the project as well. While the architectural plans have changed throughout the process, the signature moves like the central courtyard and rooftop addition (with some tweaks) have been preserved. "I'm especially excited how closely the soon to be finished building remains true to our design from the original competition to the final details: the dramatic vertical slice of the courtyard with its bridges and suspended stairs, sharp profiles of glass and steel at the courtyard and addition, to the explosion of space and views of the rooftop park overlooking the Manhattan skyline," said Jay Valgora, founder and principal of STUDIO V, in an email to AN. The restored Empire Stores will include restaurants, offices, retail, a food hall, event spaces, and a rooftop beer garden. The full complex is scheduled to be completed in the spring. As construction continues at the Empire Stores, The Architect’s Newspaper got a look inside the site with Navid Maqami, a design principal at S9.
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Downtown Brooklyn's ever-growing, not-all-that-inspiring, skyline could soon see a 57th Street–style addition. That's right, Brooklyn might be getting its first supertall tower. It was only a matter of time, really. Crain's reported that Michael Stern of JDS Development, which is behind SHoP's very tall 111 West 57th Street, has partnered with Joe Chetrit of the Chetrit Group to build a Brooklyn tower so tall it could rival, or eclipse, the Empire State Building. To do so, the two developers have reportedly purchased the landmarked Dime Savings Bank (and its 300,000 square feet of development rights) at 9 Dekalb Avenue for $90 million from JPMorgan Chase. Stern would use these rights to build a supertall next door at 340 Flatbush Avenue Extension, a site he co-owns with Chetrit. With the combined air rights of that site, the developer duo would have almost 600,000 square feet to work with. Crain's noted that the historic bank could be used as a lobby for the new tower or as a stand-alone retail space. An architect for the project has not yet been named. For those wondering, the iconic Junior's restaurant next to the site isn't going anywhere anytime soon.
As part of Mayor de Blasio’s mission to eliminate traffic deaths in New York City, his administration has committed $250 million toward its “Great Streets” initiative to redesign four of the city’s most dangerous arterial roadways: 4th Avenue in Brooklyn, Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn and Queens, Queens Boulevard, and Grand Concourse in the Bronx. On 4th Avenue in Brooklyn—which is known as “the canyon of mediocrity” for its lackluster architecture—the Department of Transportation is making permanent a temporary road diet it put in place in recent years. Street adjustments like wider medians and banning left turns at certain intersections have paid huge dividends: On a 15-block stretch of the remade roadway, pedestrian injuries decreased 61 percent. The DOT did not include bike lanes in its road diet, instead opting for 13-foot-wide parking lanes. Construction has also just begun on the DOT's "Great Streets" remake of Queens Boulevard, a harrowing roadway dubbed the “Boulevard of Death." This transformation has been widely lauded in transportation circles for its inclusion of pedestrian pathways and protected bike lanes. But now the DOT has unveiled its $60 million plan to remake two miles of Atlantic Avenue, and like many recent street-calming measures undertaken by the department (Queens Boulevard excluded) it does little—if anything—to protect the city’s cyclists. On the dangerous section of Atlantic, most of which is in East New York—a neighborhood de Blasio wants to rezone to create affordable housing—the DOT plans to replace existing medians with longer and raised medians that have space for plantings and benches. The design would also implement left turn bays, high-visibility crosswalks, ban left turns at some intersections, and create mid-block crossings. The DOT says these strategies will calm traffic and reduce speeding. “The design proposed by DOT will make Atlantic look nicer and probably yield a marginal improvement in safety,” wrote StreetsBlog, “but it does not fundamentally alter the geometry of the street.” As part of its Vision Zero rollout, the DOT had previously re-timed traffic lights on Atlantic Avenue, and stepped-up traffic enforcement. It was also one of the first streets to have its speed limit dropped from 30 miles per hour to 25. The absence of any bike infrastructure in this “Great Streets” project is especially notable given the fatal bicycle crash that recently occurred just off Atlantic Avenue in Downtown Brooklyn. After the cyclist was killed, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams held a press conference at the intersection calling on the city to fast-track a redesign of the dangerous intersection. Adams also brought reporters on a bike ride along Flatbush Avenue to underscore the harrowing conditions cyclists have to contend with on many city streets. Last year, pedestrian fatalities in New York City fell to their lowest level in over a century, but cyclists' deaths rose from 12 in 2013 to 20. The DOT says it will finalize this plan with the Department of Design an Construction by August 2016 and start construction the following spring. It remains to be seen what the department has planned for the Grand Concourse.
A controversial plan to boost the coffers of the financially-strapped Brooklyn Public Library system with the revenue from a new condo tower is moving forward. Last fall, library trustees approved the $52 million sale of the system's Brooklyn Heights branch to the Hudson Companies which planned to build a new market-rate condo tower on the coveted site. As part of the deal, the developer would also include a new library within the tower and commit to building 114 units of affordable housing off-site. The local community board has now signed-off on the plan, which sends it to the Brooklyn Borough President's office and then onto the City Planning Commission, reported the New York Times. The Hudson Companies has tapped Marvel Architects to design all aspects of the project including the condo tower, new library branch, and the two affordable housing buildings that will rise in Clinton Hill a couple of miles away. (During construction, the developer will also set up an interim library near the existing branch.) The triangular-shaped, 36-story condo tower is clad in limestone and has dark spandrels bands that cut across its skin. The new public library is housed in the building's base, facing Borough Hall and the stately court buildings across the street. On the structure's Clinton Street–facing side, there is space for a lobby, two retail outlets, and a connection to the below-grade community space. The two affordable buildings included in this project have a notably more austere presence, both with boxy brick facades and significant setbacks. The units in these buildings will be available to those making between 60 and 165 percent of the Area Median Income. Brooklyn Public Library president and CEO Linda E. Johnson told the New York Times that $40 million from the sale will go toward four other struggling branches in the borough. It's a significant figure, especially for the system which has $300 million in unmet capital needs. The project could break ground in 2016.
Last August, the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation (BBPC) unveiled 14 proposed designs for a pair of controversial towers it planned to build near the park's southern-most pier. Under a Bloomberg-era development plan, sites along the park would be leased to private developers to finance the upkeep of Michael Van Valkenburgh's 85-acre green space. These two towers near Pier 6 represented the last piece of the development puzzle. Proposals for the two sites came from some of architecture's heavy hitters like Bjarke Ingels, Morris Adjmi, Pelli Clarke Pelli, and Selldorf Architects. But now, nearly a year later, the BBPC has picked a design for the project by a firm not included in that original group: ODA Architecture. Unsurprisingly, the firm is sticking with its boxy aesthetic for its Pier 6 design. The taller of the two structures, containing 192 market-rate condos, rises to 285 feet. It features factory-style windows and triple-height cutouts punched into its facade. The smaller building tops out at 125 feet and has a mix of market-rate and affordable units, as well as a 75-seat pre-kindergarten. The height of both buildings has been lowered by 30 feet in response to public outcry over their size. Their size, though, has been just one of the controversies surrounding this development. A local group called People for Green Space sued to stop the plan after Mayor Bill de Blasio pushed to increase the percentage of affordable units within the project to 30 percent. The group argued that the inclusion of affordable housing went against the original funding scheme, and thus required an additional environmental review an amendment to the decade-old General Park Plan. People for Green Space and the BBPC settled this spring. At the time, the New York Times reported "the group was denied the environmental review, but it prevailed in its demand that the park corporation formally amend its plan." The agreement cleared the path for the project to move forward. It is being developed by RAL Development Services (RAL) and Oliver’s Realty Group. When asked why none of the original 14 designs, or architects, were selected for this project, a spokesperson for the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation told AN in an email: “The RAL/Oliver’s plan was determined to be the best proposal by the selection committee based on the strength of its financial offer, the affordable housing component, the inclusion of generous public amenities, and a design that demonstrates excellence and creativity in architecture and recognition of the surrounding context that inspires a welcoming entrance to the Park.” If the plan is approved by the Brooklyn Bridge Park Board of Directors, construction would start next spring and wrap up in Fall 2017.
After countless delays, plenty of controversy, and a few lawsuits, Brooklyn's Pacific Park mega-development (formerly Atlantic Yards) is starting to take shape. The Barclays Center's green roof is showing progress, SHoP's long-delayed modular tower is rising again next door, and a pair of COOKFOX-designed residential buildings are underway at the development's eastern edge. And now, the project's new namesake, the 8-acre Pacific Park, has finally been unveiled. The New York Daily News has posted the first renderings, and a master plan, of the Thomas Balsley-designed green space which replaces a street-level parking lot and will stretch through the development's crop of new towers. Besides the requisite grassy lawns and planted areas, Pacific Park is packed with cruise-ship-like amenities including a bocce court, basketball court, maisonette court, water garden, and play areas for kids and toddlers. There is also cafe seating, lanterns, and a "gateway portal" with graphic signage. The green space is a major amenity for the development's new tenants, but will also be open to the public. The first piece of Pacific Park will run between COOKFOX's two under-construction buildings and be completed next summer. The full eight acres will be built out over the next 10 years, along with the rest of the development.
No longer endangered: Greenpoint’s Sgt. William Dougherty Playground will be revamped after facing threat of closure
Space-starved Greenpoint is about to receive a welcome overhaul of its Sgt. William Dougherty Playground, a compact park at the corner of Cherry Street and Vandervoort Avenue. Once threatened with a four-year closure to facilitate completion of the Kosciuszko Bridge in 2013, the park will now receive some extra real estate—with a modest expansion from 0.76 to 0.83 acres—and a perimeter fringed with trees. Officials from the NYS Department of Transportation announced plans for a new rectangular design and a children’s playground with all-new equipment on a rubber safety surface. One of the main attractions will be a skate park designed by “mayor of NYC skateboarding” Steve Rodriguez of 5Boro with its own viewing area and skate fixtures, including a bank to bank, double-mound, hubba (skate wall), flat bank with a ride wall, and a 3-inch ramp. For cooling off on hot summer days, the playground will have spray showers for kids to run through. The plans were spurred by the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway construction, in which led to buildings being demolished, longtime businesses relocated, and the park downsized. According to the proposal, the existing basketball and handball courts will be relocated to a more central position in the park, while the three entrances—two off Anthony Street and one on the corner of Vandervoort Avenue and Cherry Street—will be outfitted with new gates. At the community board meeting, residents requested a basketball court that could be converted into a skating rink in the winter, however, this idea was rejected by Jim Lau of the NYC Department of Transportation, who said: "We found it to be too much of a liability. It would not be feasible." While the existing park offers no restroom facilities, its new iteration will have a comfort station installed on the Anthony Street side of the playground between the spray shower and skate park. The park honors US Marine William Dougherty of the 155th infantry, who fought and died in World War II.
Take a trip up onto the Barclays Center’s green roof, where sedum installation is over half complete
When The Architect’s Newspaper first visited the Barclays Center’s green roof, installation had just begun and there was only one strip of sedum running up the arena. Now, six weeks later, sedum covers more than 50 percent of the roof, and, without being too hyperbolic about things, it's looking like a verdant hillside up there. On a visit to the Barclays Center this week, Linda Chiarelli, Deputy Director of Construction for Forest City Ratner, told AN that the roof's 135,000 square feet of sedum should all be in place by the end of July. The green plant is especially hardy and does not need an elaborate irrigation system. (There are four hose bibs on the roof just in case of a drought situation.) The full green roof project, which requires some additional architectural and engineering work, is on track to wrap up in September. The three-acre space will not be open to the public, but rather is designed to absorb rainwater and keep excess noise from escaping the arena. https://vimeo.com/128175007 For much more on the Barclays Center's green roof, be sure to watch our video above, and to see where things stand today, check out the gallery below.
Stacked boxes are all the architectural rage these days—from Bjarke Ingels' Two World Trade, to ODA's Midtown skyscraper, to ODA's Financial District skyscraper, to ODA's Bushwick residential project, to ODA's Williamsburg condos, to ODA's other boxy buildings in Long Island City, Harlem, and the Lower East Side. It should surprise nobody, then, that ODA's latest project will stay true to the firm's trademark form. The New York Times reported that Eliot Spitzer, the former governor and short-lived cable news host, is now heading his father's real estate business and has tapped ODA to design his first project. The $700 million, 856-unit development sits along the East River, directly south of the Williamsburg Bridge in Brooklyn. The project appears as a collection of stacked-box towers that each rise 24 stories. ODA founder Eran Chen said the design resembles a "molded iceberg." (For reference, here are some pictures of icebergs.) Along the river is also a new park and esplanade. "[Spitzer] said he decided to build rental housing rather than condominiums, and agreed to set aside 20 percent of the units for poor and working-class households," reported the Times. "But with Mayor Bill de Blasio seeking to require as much as 30 percent affordable housing for what are known as 421-a projects, Mr. Spitzer wanted to get his project moving before the current regulations changed or expired this month." This did not go over too well with some people on Team de Blasio. The Observer noted that Lincoln Restler, a senior policy advisor to the mayor, shared the Times' story on Facebook and called Spitzer's attempt to keep the project at 20 percent affordable "offensive." A spokesperson for de Blasio told the Observer that Restler's comments did not necessarily reflect the thinking of the administration. Either way, the Facebook post has been deleted.
Bernheimer and Dattner start work on BAM building as construction in Brooklyn’s art district kicks up a notch
As Downtown Brooklyn's skyline grows taller, denser, and a bit more interesting, construction is whirring along in the BAM Cultural District just across Flatbush Avenue. The latest project to break ground within the area is bringing the borough new cultural institutions, affordable housing, and well, architecture. It's the Brooklyn Cultural District Apartments. The 115,000-square-foot structure was designed by Bernheimer Architecture and Dattner Architects with some landscaping accoutrement by SCAPE. The mixed-use building includes a restaurant along with the Center for Fiction and space for the Mark Morris Dance Group. Above the building's cultural podium are 109 apartments, 40 percent of which are below market-rate. "Extensive glazing at the lower floors highlights the cultural components and activates the pedestrian experience," Dattner explained on its website. "In-set balconies and double-height terraces articulate the upper base and tower." The Brooklyn Cultural District Apartments is intended to flow into the collection of high-design buildings and public spaces that are appearing one after the other on numerous sites around it. The building's restaurant, for instance, flows into Ken Smith's Arts Plaza which itself flows into the slightly cantilevering Theatre For a New Audience by Hugh Hardy of H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture. Between the new apartment building and the existing theater and plaza is yet another planned building—a 200-room hotel with a jagged facade by Leeser Architecture. There's one more big project to mention on the block: FXFOWLE's 52-story mixed-income residential tower that is quickly ascending into Brooklyn's skyline. On the other side of Fulton Street from the tower is the BRIC Arts Media House, another Leeser project. Adjacent to all of this is the site of Francis Cauffman's very artsy and wavy medical center that is currently under-construction. And across Lafayette Avenue is TEN Arquitectos' 32-story, mixed-use residential tower that is beginning to make its ascent.
Time and its degenerating aspect came under scrutiny in a public installation by Los Angeles–based artist Sam Falls. Light Over Time casts everyday outdoor objects such as benches, scales, and seesaws in an experiment of the long-term effects of sunlight, rain, and temperature on diverse materials including painted aluminum, heat-sensitive tiles, and colored glass. https://vimeo.com/116682135 Peeling paint, scratches, cracks and general harbingers of wear-and-tear evoke the passage of time, an existential pulse point for Falls. “Temporality defines life for me; our growth and movement forwarding, our aging and our death,” he said in statement. Fascinated by the representation of light in photography, Falls used it as his muse. “I use photography as a starting point because it’s the best tool for representation–light is how we see,” he said. Untitled (Maze), is a series of powder-coated modular sculptures bolted together, cubicle-like, and painted in garish colors. One side is painted with UV protective paint and hence doesn’t age, while the other side is susceptible to the elements and degenerates. “As more time passes, a layer of protected pigment that exists beneath the layer of unprotected UV pigment will emerge and sort of rebirth the sculpture, bringing it back to its original form,” said Falls, describing a process comparable to snakeskin shedding. In Light Rooms, viewers step into a human-sized rectangular shelter with a marbled glass ceiling. Sunlight projects the colors of the stained glass into the tiny room, with just enough space for the head and shoulders, the dappled light ebbing and flowing according to the brightness outside. Meanwhile, Untitled (Wind Chimes) reveals new colors beneath the surface of the painted clapper when played, while Untitled (Thermochromatic bench) features heat-sensitive tiles that change color in response to light, shadows and temperature. By combining quotidian objects such as windows, benches and playgrounds, the artist attempts to underscore the passage of time and our engagement with the objects around us. The exhibition was on view at the MetroTech Center in Brooklyn until May 15, 2015.
As multi-use, coworking-type spaces continue to be all the rage, East Williamsburg is hopping on the bandwagon with a tentatively named ‘Morgantown’ creative community. Planned on an industrial lot on Johnson Avenue, the large complex will comprise office spaces, a retail corridor, rooftop dining, and communal courtyards. An “on-site artisanal food production space” is also in the works and will be located at the courtyards planned on Bogart and White Street, according to brokerage firm TerraCRG, which represents the property owner. The lot will have more than 40,000 square feet of outdoor space and over 23,000 square feet of office space, not including retail. The lot was the former headquarters of commercial printing company A.J. Bart, which recently sold the land plot for $26.75 million. The structure is projected to be three stories tall, according to DTZ, the commercial real estate firm responsible for attracting tenants. According to renderings, a mural will cover an entire wall facing Johnson Avenue. Construction of the complex is starting immediately, with a projected completion date of early 2016. Tenants, however, should be free to move in starting late this year.