Last week, when Domino Sugar Refinery owner Jed Walentas made his first community meeting appearance after announcing SHoP Architect’s revamped plan for the site, he was greeted by—as The Brooklyn Paper put it—”snark, derision, and anger” (otherwise known as the Williamsburg welcome).
“He comes across like Jesse Eisenberg with his tennis shoes and his hoodie,” said community activist Susan Pelligrino, presumably referring to Mark Zuckerberg, “but he’s a total capitalist.” (Last we checked, the multibillionaire Facebook founder is also a total capitalist.)
Two Trees has worked hard to soften that image, with promises of an accessible waterfront and over half a million square feet of office space, to be let at half the going rate of luxury housing in the neighborhood, and today they unveiled their first offering to the community: “interim community uses for Domino site E,” as their announcement so fondly put it.
Union Square too expensive for your tech start-up? DUMBO too full? Downtown Brooklyn too… Downtown Brooklyn? Jed Walentas has a new suggestion: how about the Williamsburg waterfront?
Two Trees is looking to return to its commercial roots at the old Domino Sugar factory site, The Wall Street Journal reports. Jed wants to convert the 11-acre site’s signature structure into office space and throw up a new office building, for a total of 630,000 square feet. If successful, that would be nearly twice Williamsburg’s paltry existing stock of 350,000 square feet of large-block space.
Exactly two years ago tomorrow, the City Council approved a sweeping $1.4 billion redevelopment plan for the Domino Sugar refinery on the Williamsburg waterfront. One of the biggest concerns at the time (of which there were many) was that the grand promise made by developer CPC Resources to make 30 percent of the project’s 2,200 units would never be realized.
Nowhere in the zoning resolution was this mandated, even though it was the marquee feature of the 11-acre development, along with promises of waterfront access, top-notch open space and a school. The developer could build no affordable housing, though this would mean a smaller project, or use the city’s inclusionary housing program to gain a bonus for bigger buildings in exchange for a promise to make 20 percent of any units affordable. Anything beyond that was a promise, one even CPC Resources did not have to keep. The firm had signed a memorandum of understanding saying it would follow through on this promise, but in no why was it legally binding.
That is why when it was announced last week that Jed Walentas and his Two Trees development company is in contract the Domino site for about $180 million (three-times what CPC had paid for it in 2004, but also less an arduous and contentious public approval process), there were widespread concerns that Mr. Walentas would not live up to the promises of his predecessors. In a recent interview, the developer admitted as much.
“Basically, that analysis is correct,” Mr. Walentas told The Observer.