Oculus - Fall 2015 - (Page 18)
one block over
(far left) The 42-story 66 Rockwell by Ismael Leyva Architects
(left) is one of the new residential buildings towering over the
landmarked 1929 Williamsburgh Savings Bank building (right),
once Brooklyn's tallest.
(left) Flatbush Avenue Extension looking toward the Brooklyn
Bridge, with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill's 38-story Toren
residential tower (center).
Business and building are booming in now-thriving
B Y C L A I R E W ILS O N
owntown Brooklyn is having a moment. There is a building boom going
on and, in what seems like a New York minute, the area has gone from
feeling like a deserted, dangerous, and "daytime-only" destination to a vibrant
urban-planning success story.
"It is what the city was aiming for: a dense, transit-oriented downtown,"
says William Stein, FAIA, principal, Dattner Architects, which has designed the
three-building Myrtle Avenue Development Master Plan. "It is a bit overwhelming, but it is a positive thing. Too much of a good thing? That may be, too."
Historians and sociologists will decide that down the road, but right now
there is no debating that the change has been astonishing. The civic center of
what was known as "the borough of churches," whose one skyscraper was the
37-story, 1875 Williamsburgh Savings Bank building, Downtown Brooklyn is
now crammed with higher and higher towers, most of them residential.
If you'd used the bank as a compass when you ventured down there, good
luck with that. It has been completely eclipsed by new construction and
dwarfed in height by such buildings as the 58-story Ava DoBro, designed by
SLCE Architects. That will likely be overshadowed by the not-yet-designed
third City Point tower, which might rise to 60 stories. COOKFOX is the architect of Phases 1 and 2 of City Point but, as of press time, no architect has been
named for Phase 3 [see pg. 26].
According to Alan Washington, director of real estate and planning for the
Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, some 5,900 apartment units have been completed since 2004, when an ambitious Bloomberg-era rezoning took place. The
recession around 2008 slowed construction markedly, but things have since
picked up. Currently 5,100 units are under construction, with an additional
8,400 in the pipeline, of which 20% will be affordable, Washington says. It's all
in response to a population explosion that continues apace. In 2004 the area
had only 5,700 residents; now it has 18,000.
Oculus Fall 2015
(below) A portion of 14+9 Townhouses on State Street,
designed by Marvel Architects.
The boundaries of the designated area take in
Court Street, the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges,
the BQE, Ashland Place, the BAM Cultural District, the Barclays Center, and Atlantic Avenue. A
thriving visitor population supports 50 cultural
and arts groups, 60,000 college students, and a
boom in new hotels: the area will have 2,000 rooms
in the next 18 months, Washington says.
Office construction could use a boost. The
vacancy rate is a mere 3.3% - the lowest in the
city. New businesses coming in at City Point are in
retail and entertainment, such as Century 21, City
Target, and the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema.
And there's a Shake Shack. But one tony burger
joint does not tip any neighborhood over the edge
of gentrification. Though the vast swaths of parking lots are gone, much of the downtown remains
kind of crummy. It's going to take a while and,
when it does, the historians and sociologists will
have a field day.
According to Jonathan Marvel, FAIA, principal
of Marvel Architects, the rezoning and resultant
development are already a success. The architect
of 14+9 Townhouses on State Street, he credits
Bloomberg and his international view of the world
for making it all happen. "He was looking at London
and Hong Kong and, by contrast, New York looked
provincial, a little frayed around the edges," Marvel
says. "He found a way to get New York to compete."
Claire Wilson is a New York-based freelance writer.
Home Game: Winning with Housing
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Oculus - Fall 2015
First Words Letter From the President
Letter From the Editor
Center for Architecture
One Block Over
Opener: Affordability: Many Paths to a Solution
Housing for the 99%
An Active Market for Passive
Ahead of the Class
It Takes a Village
Support System, Modular Style
From Learning to Living
The DIY Approach to Housing
Index to Advertisers
Oculus - Fall 2015