Sunday, December 18, 2011

New towers coming to Downtown Brooklyn would top Williamsburgh bank building and Brooklyner; WSJ forgets that Downtown Brooklyn rezoning was to geared toward offices

In a 12/12/11 article headlined Developers Launch Battle Of Brooklyn, the Wall Street Journal reported:
The battle to build Brooklyn's tallest tower is about to begin with two developers planning to break ground next year on residential buildings that will loom nearly 100 feet over any of their predecessors.

At the beginning of next year, Stahl Real Estate, a company with 60-year roots in the borough, will break ground on a 590-foot tower at 388 Bridge St. That would make it the borough's new tallest tower.

But its reign could be short-lived. By late next year AvalonBay Communities Inc. plans to begin building its new Willoughby West project just down the street, which will rise 57 stories and 596 feet, adding 861 new rental units to the market.

The developments will continue a shift for brownstone-dotted Brooklyn, which has been seeing a steady growth in the number of luxury apartment towers.
(Emphasis added)

The Downtown Brooklyn rezoning

Actually, as the Journal's map shows, the developments are located in rezoned Downtown Brooklyn, which is not "brownstone-dotted."

The newspaper pointed out that the towers are enabled by the 2004 Downtown Brooklyn rezoning, but not that the rezoning was mainly geared toward enabling new office towers (jobs), not new housing.

The Journal reports:
But it remains to be seen if Brooklyn can support the current development boom, as it's poised to add hundreds of rental units in the next couple of years downtown and on the waterfront. The boom is thanks in part to a decision by the Bloomberg administration to rezone Downtown Brooklyn and the Williamsburg and Greenpoint waterfronts in 2004 and 2005 respectively to allow for more high-rise development.
That raises questions as to whether similar development at the Atlantic Yards site will meet market demand. The answer, so far, from Forest City Ratner is: only if construction costs can be cut.

The Williamsburgh Bank tower

The Journal points out that the pre-Depression Williamsburgh Savings Bank Tower, at 512 feet tall, was the tallest building in the borough until the bland, boxy Brooklyner residential tower topped it in 2010 by a couple of feet.

I'd add that the bank building, which for most of its life contained offices, was recently converted to luxury condos.

The Atlantic Yards tower

And I'd add that the flagship tower at the Atlantic Yards site, dubbed by architect Frank Gehry as "Miss Brooklyn," was originally supposed to be 620 feet, then, in 2006, reduced to 511 feet-though it would still block the clock of the bank tower, despite Forest City Ratner's promises.

That tower, now called Building 1, is on indefinite hold, since there's no market yet for office space.

The issue of esthetics

The Journal raised questions of whether the new towers would bring:
a bland suburban skyline that fails to capture its avant garde identity.

"We have big buildings popping up and they could be anywhere. They don't really inspire a profile that's interesting," said Timothy Johnson, an architect and chairman of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat.
(Here are some comments on Brownstoner. And note that some people like the Toren on Flatbush.

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