After a couple of weeks of required paper shuffling following a key committee vote, the full City Council today gave final approval for the contentious Domino Sugar development planned for the Williamsburg waterfront, the subject of a long public/political fight that resulted in, well, nothing all that different.
The big change was the lowering of the tallest two apartment towers in the development by six floors to 34 stories. This, however, does not actually make the development any smaller: the number of units, 2,200, remains the same as when the development was first unveiled to the public in 2007. The result is a bulkier development.
In retrospect, this was something of a major victory for the developer, CPC Resources, which endured what has become the well-choreographed dance that is the city’s rezoning process. In most cases of large, controversial projects, the developer at the last minute almost always reduces the density to appease the community (and, if the developer’s smart, it starts the process with a healthy cushion of density).
In Domino, despite pleas to the contrary by the politicians who had sway on the issue (local Councilman Steve Levin, chiefly), CPC Resources was able to successfully make the argument that fewer units would compromise the feasibility.
The final approval also lacked any real mechanism to guarantee that the project ends up with the 30 percent below-market rate housing that the developer has long pledged. While the developer may indeed strongly desire and have a financial incentive to do 30 percent, there is nothing written in stone requiring that anyone that builds on the now-upzoned site (which is far more valuable than it was yesterday given the added density/change in use) actually set aside 30 percent of the apartments for low- and moderate-income families. (There is a density incentive that would bring it up to 20 percent, and CPC signed a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding with the city to do 30 percent.)
-With Esther Zuckerman
(And here’s a look at the original plan, compared with the current, in which the tallest towers have shrunk.)