In recent years, Brooklyn's waterfront has morphed into a breeding ground for start-ups, tech agencies, and boutique manufacturing. Now the massive Industry City complex in Sunset Park could emerge as the next creative hub in the borough joining other booming neighborhoods to the north such as DUMBO, the Navy Yard, and Williamsburg. Crain's reported that Jamestown Properties, a real estate management and investment company, which owns Chelsea Market and the Milk Studios Building in Manhattan, is teaming up with Angelo Gordon and Belvedere Capital to purchase the sprawling 6.5 million-square-foot Industry City site. The developers hope to turn the 17 buildings on the property into a mix of office, studio, and warehouse space to accommodate a variety of uses including local manufacturing, media, and film and television. A 50,000-square-foot space in Industry City is already home to Makerbot, the company that manufactures 3-D printers. Jamestown has hired Andrew Kimball, who recently stepped down from his post as CEO and President of the Navy Yard, to run the new Industry City complex when it is complete. Kimball has been instrumental in reviving the 300-acre, city owned shipyard into a flexible workspace for for urban manufacturing, media, and the arts. Several of the buildings were damaged from Hurricane Sandy and will require substantial repairs. Michael Philips, Chief Operating Officer of Jamestown, said that they might need to spend hundreds of millions to rehabilitate the buildings on the property.
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Proposals galore! Brooklyn Bridge Park (BBP) is moving full speed ahead with its plans to develop parcels of its 1.3-mile waterfront expanse. In September, the Park released a Request for Proposals seeking a developer to restore and makeover the crumbling Empire Stores warehouses into a lively mixed-use development consisting of office, commercial, and retail space, while also preserving the integrity of the massive historic structure. Ten prominent developers submitted proposals to overhaul the brick and timber building made up of seven connecting warehouses. And now Crain's has revealed about half the list of developers vying for this project with heavy hitters such as: Jamestown Properties (behind Chelsea Market and Milk Studio), Two Trees (run by the Walentas family who has transformed DUMBO and is redeveloping the mega Domino Sugar Refinery site), Acumen Capital Partners, Robert A. Levine (of colossal residential building, One Brooklyn Bridge Park), and Midtown Equities (Crain's reported that their proposal is the current front-runner). The proposals envision a variety of uses for the Empire Stores buildings from cultural and artisan office space to a rooftop urban farm and terraces. Regina Myer, president of Brooklyn Bridge Park, is hoping to grant the winning proposal a 99-year lease. This development, like the Rogers Marvel-designed Pierhouse residential and hotel complex, will generate money for the maintenance and operation of the park.
In spite of angry protests from neighborhood advocates and preservation groups, New York City Council unanimously approved plans Tuesday afternoon to upzone Chelsea Market. The developer, Jamestown Properties, intends on building 300,000-square-feet of office space designed by Studios Architecture that will sit right on top of current Chelsea Market. To move things along in their favor, Jamestown had agreed to give around $12 million to the High Line and $5 million to a fund to build affordable housing, in addition to another $1 million to help launch an internship program at the nearby Fulton Houses. Jamestown called this decision a win for the city’s economy: “As approved today by the New York City Council, the expansion of Chelsea Market will provide an important economic boost to New York City, creating more than 1,200 long-term jobs and 600 construction jobs.” Several local organizations, however, are upset with the outcome. In an email sent to Chelsea Now, Andrew Berman, Executive Director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, released this statement: “It’s deeply disappointing that they are allowing a beloved New York City landmark to be disfigured and one of the city’s most congested neighborhoods to be further overdeveloped. In spite of the pleas of the vast majority of this neighborhood’s residents, once again the interests of real estate developers have won out.”
In a unanimous vote today, the New York City Planning Commission approved Jamsestown Properties' plans for expansion at Chelsea Market with few modifications. The building was rezoned to be included in the Special West Chelsea District, thereby allowing developers to increase density after a significant contribution is made to the High Line. Much to the quite literal relief of High Line visitors, this likely means bathrooms will finally find their way to the southern section of the park. The latest designs by Studios Architecture set the massing of the Tenth Avenue addition back away from the park, which Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden expressed concern about during a review session. Jamestown Properties has also agreed provide funds and space for park amenities, like bathrooms, as well funds for affordable housing in Community Board 4 district. "While affordable housing bonuses are not normally associated with commercial buildings, there are special features of the West Chelsea district regulations which make this possible,"said Burden. "I believe this will be a great addition to the West Chelsea neighborhood," she continued. "The additional office space will serve what has become a destination for creative and technology industries, and this new development will provide critical amenities to the High Line." Nevertheless, community activists remain concerned about traffic and congestion from the park and resulting building boom. This was no secret to those attending CB4 meetings, but the controversy roared into the open with Jeremiah Moses' oped piece in Sunday's New York Times under the head, "Disney on the Hudson," which claimed "the park is destroying neighborhoods as it grows." The sound-off got a swift response from the many, including Friends of the High Line founders Joshua David and Mark Hammond who found Moses' claims "an unfortunate simplification of our past and current reality." The current reality for parks is a public/private financing model, thus David and Hammond's support for the Jamestown project and the resulting park amenities it provides. "This is clearly a deal between the Friends, City Planning, and Jamestown," said Save Chelsea's David Holowka. He noted that the majority of the massing will gravitate toward the park rather than the Ninth Avenue. Regardless of where the bulk will land, some will never be appeased with further expansion. "The amenities are cold comfort," said Andrew Berman of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation. "The development will increase traffic and congestion to an area that’s already busting at the seams." Berman added that the West Chelsea Special District already allows for substantial growth for many years to come. The measure will now go before City Council and speaker Christine Quinn, whose district includes the Chelsea Market. The expansion is considered by some to be a litmus test of where the mayoral candidate's loyalties lie, with the NIMBYs or the development community.
Seems the bad news is about to get worse for Jamestown Properties. The developer's plans to add 330,000 square feet to New York's Chelsea Market met with resistance from the Community Board 4 and Borough President Scott Stringer, both of whom gave conditional nays to the proposal designed by Studios Architecture. Now with City Planning's public hearing set for this Wednesday, Commissioner Amanda Burden has clearly indicated that she is not pleased with the an addition proposed to hover over the High Line along Tenth Avenue. "I remain concerned about the massing and how it effects the High Line experience," Burden said a pre-hearing review session today. The two additions to the market include 90,000 square feet addition on Ninth Avenue and a 240,000 square foot addition along Tenth Avenue. As much of the building's mid-block remains excluded from Jamestown's plan, it seems likely that area will come in to play. "They do have a whole block," the commissioner said. Though not exactly in line with BP Stringer's suggestion to move all of the massing to Ninth Avenue, it does mean that High Line view planes fundamental to the Special West Chelsea District remain a concern for the commissioners. Jamestown has already indicated that it is willing to decrease the height of the Ninth Avenue addition from 150 feet high to 130 feet. The addition along Tenth Avenue dropped from 230 feet to 184 feet. Exposed steel trusses at Tenth were redesigned to be clad in a "contextual" terracotta and a wide cantilevered gap has been cosmetically anchored back to the original building with corner posts, despite the fact that the engineering for the cantilever remain in place. Now with the suggestion of moving the building back toward the middle of the block, we'll see what other design tricks the architects at Studios can pull off as the restraints tighten.
Last night Community Board 4 voted not to support Jamestown Properties proposal to add 330,000 feet to the Chelsea Market building. The design morphed significantly from the initial multi-volume glass box approach introduced in 2010, to a steel-trussed cantilever form fronting Tenth Avenue shown late last year, to its current terracotta clad contextual approach. Throughout, Studios Architecture principal David Burns has presented plans before a resistant community who cherish the market and are suddenly overrun with High Line tourists. The much-maligned ULURP process that brought the proposal to CB4 has foes on both sides of the development fence. Community activists feel that their advisory role doesn’t have sharp enough teeth, while architects and developers feel it’s a bloated process that waters down planning and design. The extreme metamorphosis of the Chelsea project seems to be a poster child for the give and take approach. “The original purpose was to relate by contrast, as a foil, and now they’re not even doing that,” said architect and Save Chelsea board member David Holowka. The architect was referring to the Tenth Avenue section, where a cantilevered form jutted out over the old structure, with a large void separating the old market from the new addition on top. The exposed trussed structure formed a box that sat within a brise-soleil clad box facing the east. Though the trussed structural solution remains, Burns said that to address the community’s desire for further contextualization, the trusses will now be clad in terracotta, to cooperate with a warehouse building across Tenth Avenue. The intentionally disjointed gap between the two structures will now be enclosed in glass and brick detailing in an effort to ground the building, thus hiding engineering that allows the addition to metaphorically float free from the past. “We want to make sure there’s not false sense historicism,” said Burns. The use of terracotta would bring the color into coordination with the variegated brick below, without adding too much weight. Along Ninth Avenue, the composition remains much the same though a reduction in height allows widows of the new addition to align with those in the older building. But Holowka still found the efforts lacking. “No amount of design massaging will change what a zoning atrocity this is,” he said. As the High Line runs through Chelsea Market, the architect also called into question the zoning change will allow Jamestown to build within the footprint of the park. Even with the recent elimination of the hotel component, many voiced concern that the added pedestrian traffic will devastate an already congested area. Despite a strong turnout from Jamestown's tenants who testified that the company was a landlord who nurtured their small business, many in the community smelled something fishy. One noted that the new agreement would transfer the ground floor from 80 percent food vendors to 50 percent, the community board wants 60 percent. The board also wants offsite affordable housing to be provided within CB4 district. Still others thought the whole thing was a real estate sham. "Jamestown buys, builds, sells, leaves; that’s what they do," said resident Stephen Jobes. Caitlin Cahill, a professor of environmental psychology and urban studies at CUNY Grad Center was even more blunt. "It's so shady and so corrupt, it's not even subtle," she said. She urged to board to flat out halt the project--to no avail.
After a tumultuous first round, Jamestown Properties presented new plans for Chelsea Market by STUDIOS Architecture. Initial proposals took a beating in the local press and at community board meetings, sending the developer and architect back to regroup and redesign. Jamestown exec Michael Phillips told Chelsea Now that the team went on something of a listening tour with interested parties before finalizing the latest proposal. STUDIOS principal David Burns told AN that the "community feed back helped shape the design and we’re the better for it." Burns said that much of the new design focused on reconfiguring the massing with cues taken from nearby structures, like the old Nabisco building (now the market) as well as the High Line. Along Ninth Avenue, the new building wraps around the north side of the old building with blond brick facade and punched horizontal window openings, not unlike those found next door. The architecture holds its cards close, until Tenth Avenue where an impressive cantilevered form juts out over the old structure, with the huge negative gap separating the market from the new tower. "The space between the two buildings create a clean datum that breaks the old and the new, this openness celebrates this," said Burns. The gap also presents an opportunity for the surface beneath the new building, represented in the renderings with a grid of lights. The large exposed trusses hint at a complex tripod-like design where the elevator core acts as an anchor. Besides the trusses, the green-roofed set backs refer the High Line just below. The ULURP process will begin in earnest in January, with the building needing special zoning to be included in the West Chelsea Special District, which was created in 2005 to spur growth near the then-unrealized High Line. The developer hopes to persuade the community that the area can withstand another mixed-use hotel/office development and the traffic that comes with it. Some in the neighborhood feel the area is already at a traffic tipping point. "Nobody could have foreseen in 2005 the massive redevelopment that would take place," said Leslie Doyle of Save Chelsea. "We think the Chelsea Market was already redeveloped beautifully. It's a wonderful example of adaptive reuse, it doesn’t need to be redeveloped again."