Skip to main content

Near BAM, new towers with arts spaces to rise; first building to contain 120 subsidized two-bedroom units, vs. 36 for first Atlantic Yards tower

While Brooklynites were wondering about the 181 affordable housing units in the planned first Atlantic Yards, which begins construction later this month, on 11/28/12, a mayoral press release announced a new building nearby with 300 subsidized units, and far more larger units, though construction won't start until later next year.

The press release: MAYOR BLOOMBERG ANNOUNCES THREE MAJOR MILESTONES IN THE REVITILIZATION [sic] OF THE DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN CULTURAL DISTRICT Announces Plans to Begin Construction of 600 New Units of Housing; 50 Percent to Be Affordable Public Review Begins on New Mixed-Use Development to Create Approximately 50,000 Square Feet of New Cultural and Community Space, and a New Iconic Public Plaza RFP Issued For the Last Development Parcel in District with Plans for New Cultural and Commercial Space.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today announced three major milestones in the development of the last city-owned parcels in the Downtown Brooklyn Cultural District. First, the Gotham Organization and DT Salazar, Inc will develop 600 units of housing, 300 of which will be affordable, as well as new cultural, community and commercial space on a site bounded by Fulton Street, Rockwell Place and Ashland Place. Second, an ambitious, multi-faceted proposal by Two Trees Management Company to develop 50,000 square feet of new creative, cultural and community space, along with a dynamic new public plaza, has begun the public review and approval process. Finally, the City Department of Housing Preservation and Development released a Request for Proposals for the last development parcel in the district.
Where is all of this? The 600-unit building apparently will be at the wedge-shaped orange parcel below Fulton, marked North Tower 1.

The Two Trees project would be on the green parcel marked South Site, below Lafayette Avenue, and may extend to the triangle below, marked South Tower.

The last development parcel is catercorner to the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM). at Lafayette and Ashland, and next to the Mark Morris Dance Center.

Here's coverage in Brownstoner.

Affordable housing in the first tower

The press release states:
The City has been committed to bringing much-needed affordable housing to the neighborhood as it has continued to grow. HPD has finalized plans with developers The Gotham Organization Inc. and DT Salazar, Inc. to build 600 units of new housing, 50 percent of which will be affordable to low- , moderate- , and middle-income New Yorkers. This commitment of approximately 300 affordable units doubled the amount of affordable housing originally projected for Cultural District Site I and exceeds the City’s plan for the entire north block. In addition, 40 percent of these affordable units will be two-bedrooms. The building will be designed to complement the cultural district and will help enliven the district by adding foot traffic to the Arts Plaza and locating active retail uses along Fulton Street.
When completed, the approximately 515,000-square-foot building will also contain 20,000-square-feet of cultural and related office space and 20,000-square-feet of retail space HPD and the NYC Housing Development Corporation (HDC) expect to close on financing with the development team late next year and to see construction begin shortly thereafter.
That's apparently the same ratio in terms of units and distribution as B2 in the Atlantic Yards project, a 340,000 square foot building, except in the latter, only 20% of affordable units would be two bedrooms, not 40%. The difference: 36 units vs. 120 two-bedroom units.

The Wall Street Journal reported, in Liftoff on Fort Greene Project:
The city first sought developers to build on a city-owned parking lot at Fulton Street, Rockwell Place and Ashland Place in 2007, but the economic crash slowed progress.
"In 2008, 2009, 2010 things weren't happening. Luckily the market's come back," said Melissa Pianko, executive vice president for development of Gotham Organization, which together with DT Salazar Inc. is building the tower.
The site also took time to design because it was an opportunity to create community and open space, as Downtown Brooklyn has developed as a thriving residential neighborhood, but is still struggling to create appealing retail and green space and a cohesive neighborhood feel.
...Downtown Brooklyn is slated for several large, primarily rental towers, including a 590-foot-high building at 388 Bridge St. by Stahl Real Estate and a 720-unit tower by the Steiner family at Schermerhorn and Flatbush avenues.
But Ms. Pianko said she is confident there is demand to fill all those units. "We think it's an expanding market [that] can endure all the rental development that's planned there," she said.
So too believes the Atlantic Yards developer.

The second tower

According to the press release:
Via Mayor's Office and Brownstoner
On November 26, Two Trees, which agreed to purchase the district’s South Site parcel from the City’s Economic Development Corporation in 2009, began the City’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure to gain approval to build a new mixed-use development on the Flatbush Avenue site. The approximately 47,000-square-foot lot, which is bounded by Flatbush Avenue, Lafayette Avenue and Ashland Place, is currently a parking lot owned and operated by EDC. Once the ULURP process is complete, and approvals have been granted, Two Trees can begin constructing a new state-of-the-art, 32-story mixed-use facility designed by Enrique Norten of Ten Arquitectos including approximately 50,000-square-feet of creative and cultural space that will be shared by BAM, 651 ARTS and the Brooklyn Public Library. In addition, the tower will include approximately 23,000-square-feet of ground-level retail, as well as approximately 300 to 400 apartments, 20 percent of which will be affordable.
This sounds like an 80/20 building, with 20% affordable housing for low-income households, in contrast with the 50/30/20 first tower, and the Atlantic Yards towers, which include moderate- and middle-income housing.

At right is a 2008 rendering of this tower from Ten Arquitectos.

It looks quite similar. The blurb:

The mixed use building will occupy the south portion of a triangular site at the intersection of Flatbush, Ashland, and Lafayette Avenues in downtown Brooklyn. Together with the grand plaza, located immediately to the north, the proposed building defines the gateway to BAM and the new cultural district. The tower is articulated as three volumes: a central circulation spine and two flanking volumes, where the apartments are located. The tower and the building base are unified by a continuous folding skin. The base of the building contains retail (at the southern tip); a movie theater complex, which will be an extension of the adjacent BAM facility; a branch library; gallery; and dance rehearsal spaces. The residential lobby is located off Ashland.
Note that this seems a cousin of the 2002 proposal, from the same architects, for a Visual and Per
forming Arts Library at this site.

The plaza and arts

For the second building, the press release states:
Plans also include a 16,000-square-foot public plaza to provide desired open space for community residents, local artists and visitors. The plaza is designed to allow a variety of outdoor programming, including dance and theater performances, film presentations, open air markets and crafts fairs, and other community uses.
“The growth of the Downtown Brooklyn Cultural District is another example of the City's commitment to improving and enhancing neighborhoods by increasing opportunities for arts and culture," said Cultural Affairs Commissioner Kate D. Levin. “The City supports dozens of cultural organizations in Fort Greene, and the South Site development is one more step toward creating affordable workspace for artists and arts groups, expanding public amenities, and making Downtown Brooklyn an even more vibrant destination for residents and audiences.”
The city will control 50,000-square-feet of cultural space and a portion of the public plaza, including 17,400-square-feet of space for the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and 16,500 square feet for a newBrooklyn Public Library branch, including "an innovative cultural partnership" with BAM.

It also will include a studio and rehearsal center of some 12,500 square feet, to be occupied by 651 ARTS, an acclaimed performing arts presenter dedicated to artists of the African Diaspora, and managed for use by local performing artists and arts organizations at affordable rates

The last parcel

According to the press release:
On Tuesday, HPD released a Request for Proposals (RFP) for Cultural District Site II, the last development parcel in the district. Located at the intersection of Ashland Place and Lafayette Avenue, Site II is the key remaining piece of the multi-site plan to bring affordable housing, new commercial space, and space for cultural activities to this growing community. The RFP calls for approximately 100,000-square-feet of floor area and may include residential, community and/or commercial space, with a requirement to include a minimum of 15,000-square-feet dedicated to cultural space and the arts. If affordable housing is proposed it must serve low-income New Yorkers. As this site is complimentary of the City’s overall plans to support the established and emerging arts organizations in the area, designs should reflect excellence and creativity in architecture and be a defining component of the heart of the Cultural District. Proposals must be submitted by February 1, 2013. For more information and to download the RFP, visit
Spinning the rezoning

The press release states:
Downtown Brooklyn was rezoned in 2004 in part to help facilitate the growth of the new cultural district centered in the Fort Greene neighborhood and its legacy of cultural activity. Since then, the City has committed over $100 million in capital funding to further enliven an already vibrant neighborhood of arts organizations and support the development of the Downtown Brooklyn area as a whole. This includes the Mark Morris Dance Center, the James E. Davis 80 Arts Building, the newly opened BAM Fisher Building, the BRIC Arts | Media House and the UrbanGlass Renewal project currently in construction, and construction of a new home for Theatre for a New Audience which is also underway.
In addition, after the rezoning other cultural, residential and commercial projects involving a cross-section of the surrounding community have been planned or built in Downtown Brooklyn. These new projects, along with other City investments, have improved the street-level experience in the district while serving to further integrate cultural organizations, residents and businesses in Downtown Brooklyn.
“It's difficult to put into perspective how impactful today's announcement will be on the future of Downtown Brooklyn,” said Tucker Reed, the President of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership. "Active uses on these vacant sites will provide critical connections between our commercial and residential assets and world class cultural and entertainment attractions, fostering a cohesive and attractive Downtown experience. These sites were a critical missing piece.”
OK, but the main reason for the rezoning was to facilitate new office space, which, it turned out, wasn't needed.

The summary headline on the Department of City Planning's Downtown Brooklyn plan: "NYC Jobs at Risk as Result of Lack of Affordable Office Space."