Today the Whole Foods in Gowanus opened with considerable fanfare—vinyl records! Brooklyn-made treats! A rooftop beer garden!—attracting a stampede of hungry Brooklynites and apparently, a few Park Slope Co-op defectors (hey, in our experience, Whole Foods’ management of lines is very impressive). But the decrepit Coignet Building, the 140-year-old concrete mansion located just five feet from the gleaming new grocery store, is not sharing in all the bonhomie.
Though Whole Foods seemed like it might be a boon for the landmarked building—when the building’s owner, Richard Kowalski sold Whole Foods the lot in 2005 he extracted a promise from the bougie retailer to restore its exterior. But while Whole Foods has provided a new roof, the structure is otherwise worse for the wear, according to Brownstoner, having apparently sustained serious injuries during the grocery store’s construction.
The Coignet building—a classical structure executed in concrete at 360 Third Avenue in Gowanus—has had a strange allure since the day it was completed in 1873. An elegant mansion in the midst of an industrial zone, it served as both an office building and an advertisement for the material being manufactured in the factory complex behind it, deftly melding disparate elements in a fashion that passerby have long found beguiling.
But the building has languished, empty and deteriorating, for decades. Located on the edge of a vast lot that will soon be occupied by a Whole Foods, it is the lone remnant of the industrial landscape it once anchored. Now, there is a possibility that it may finally be restored and occupied, presiding not just over the neighborhood’s past, but playing a role in its future as well. The building’s owner—Richard Kowalski—has put the mansion on the market with Massey Knakal (a development first spotted by the blog Pardon Me for Asking).