Monday, March 4, 2013

On The Waterfront: Domino Factory Gets $1.5 Billion Makeover

Construction and development projects in NYC always involve a fair share of drama, and the Domino Sugar development is no exception. Now, the shuttered factory is coming back to life with a massive makeover planned for the Brooklyn waterfront. The new owner, Two Trees Management, revealed its $1.5 billion-dollar vision for the Williamsburg site, calling for massively tall and architecturally bold skyscrapers that would redefine Brooklyn’s skyline. The iconic landmark of Brooklyn’s industrial past will be the centerpiece of an 11-acre mega project, creating a new neighborhood with 2,284 apartments, a public school and 630,000 sq ft of offices. Construction is expected to begin early next year, bringing 3,500 jobs to the area.

The Domino site is possibly the most prominent piece of real estate in Brooklyn. It sits at the dead center of the Manhattan facing waterfront, and it is what drivers on the FDR Drive see. This has the opportunity to be what new Brooklyn says to the world.

Eye-popping apartment buildings 55 stories and higher designed by SHoP Architects are planned — including one shaped like a giant donut and a pair of needle-thin towers connected by a three-story sky bridge.

With one mega-development, Two Trees Management owner, Jed Walentas plans do to the sleepy section of industrial waterfront what his father did in DUMBO one building at a time: construct a bustling neighborhood where people will want to live, work, and play. Instead of refurbishing old warehouses in piecemeal fashion like his dad David, or sticking to Domino’s original monolithic development blueprint, Walentas wants to build a “family” of post-modern towers clustered around the landmarked refinery.

When Two Trees plunked down $185 million to buy the Domino Sugar Factory development site last summer, the already-approved plans for four-towers and 2,200 apartments were universally hated. The hulking buildings were bland and boxy, so Two Trees went to SHoP Architects and asked them to make it better.

The new high-rises dreamt up by the architects of Barclays Center are far taller, and undoubtedly more eye-catching than the original Domino design. One tower is shaped like a giant zero, another balances apartments atop offices with a hole in the middle, a third features terraced residences stacked along Kent Avenue, and the southernmost edifice is a pair of pencil-thin towers connected by a bridge that could become Brooklyn’s tallest structure at 598 feet and 60 stories.

The century-old factory will retain its signature 40-foot high Domino Sugar sign. Mom-and-pop stores will fill retail spaces in the mini-neighborhood: “No Duane Reades and no Starbucks,” Walentas said.

Two Trees plans five acres of parks with fun features like a floating swimming pool in the East River, a removable winter ice-skating rink like in Bryant Park, a waterfront beer garden and a kayak and canoe launch.

To create easier access to the waterfront, River Street, will be extended through the middle of the property.

Astonishing apartment buildings 55 stories tall or higher designed by SHoP Architects are also planned — including one shaped like a giant donut and a pair of needle-thin towers connected by a three-story sky bridge.

Of the 2,284 rental apartments, 660 units have been set aside as affordable housing - the same number the site’s previous owners promised community groups and elected officials after fierce debate. Thirty percent of the apartments on the site would be set aside for low- and moderate-income families.

The 3.3 million-square-foot mega-project, which will take 10 years to build, requires City Council approval.

Two Trees expects to get permission to proceed by year’s end and start construction early next year, with the first building opening in 2016 - an apartment house with 300 of its 600 units set aside as affordable.

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