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). DoBro Rocks Business and building are booming in now-thriving Downtown Brooklyn B Y C L A I R E W ILS O N D 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. 18 Oculus Fall 2015 ©Barkow Photo ©Claire Wilson ©Claire Wilson (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%
Tower Power
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
In Print
118-Year Watch
Last Words
Index to Advertisers

Oculus - Fall 2015