Just two days after Two Trees buckled under pressure from the De Blasio administration to beef up the affordable housing component of the Domino Sugar Refinery redevelopment project, the City Planning Commission has unanimously approved the developer’s plans.
Two Trees had already agreed to go well beyond the 440 required units of affordable housing and build 660 units (out of the 2,300-unit total) at the site, but on Monday it sweetened the deal by raising that number to 700 (an additional 110,000 square feet).
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.
Planes Trains & Automobiles
As Vishaan Chakrabarti, a principal at SHoP Architects, was unveiling the Southside Williamsburg master plan they designed for Two Trees, he evoked the image of Manhattan’s skyline. “Just like in the dead center of New York,” he told the assembled group of reporters, “we have this parabolic moment—there’s this moment of exuberance that happens” as Read More
In the midst of yesterday’s frenzy of Domino Sugar Refinery-themed press coverage, squished L train riders could be forgiven for asking: how much more development can Williamsburg handle? With only two tracks in a largely quad-tracked system, the L is not as well-endowed as some lines—so how much more Williamsburg can the L really take?
As it turns out, quite a bit.
When Two Trees Management bought the old Domino Sugar site from CPC Resources and a reluctant Katan Group, a local developer told The Observer that Jed Walentas would be “crazy to go back to ULURP” for a rezoning of the site, which had already been approved for thousands of high-rise apartments.
But going back to to everyone’s favorite acronym (to pronounce, at least) is exactly what Mr. Walentas intends to do. He and SHoP, the New York-based architecture firm that Bruce Ratner tapped to design the Barclays Center and Atlantic Yards after Frank Gehry proved too expensive, called a group of reporters to SHoP’s offices near City Hall on Friday to show off their plans for the site.
The first thing Mr. Walentas spoke about was Two Trees’ desire to expand the amount of parkland included in the project—adding two new acres—and to make it more accessible to the public.
He criticized the open space in the old site plan as something that “felt very much like a privatized front lawn for people who lived there,” and spoke about his desire to pull the buildings back inland to make more space for the quarter-mile-long waterfront park, as well as add a new public street between his buildings and the waterfront.
on the waterfront
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.
So much for those other bidders.
Two Trees has indeed taken over the sprawling Domino Sugar site in South Williamsburg, a deal said to be worth $160 million. CPC Resources, the for-profit arm of non-profit builders CPC that had been developing the site since 2006, announced the deal closed this evening.
“CPCR’s goal for Domino Sugar has always been to bring to the project a well established, reputable real estate company that knows New York and is committed to building neighborhoods and creating communities,” CPC’s President & CEO Rafael Cestero said in a release. “Two Trees is just that, and this deal is a great opportunity to realize our vision for Domino as a vibrant, mixed-income, mixed-use waterfront community and to maximize the economic benefit to CPCR and our partners.”
The transformation of the massive Domino sugar refinery into an even bigger condo development has passed its last hurdle–besides finding financing, of course–as a New York Supreme Court judge dismissed a suit seeking to stop the project.
Even with 30 percent of the 2,200 units set aside as affordable housing, the project came under Read More
After a couple of weeks of required paper shuffling following a key committee vote, the full City Council today gave final approval for the
The Post‘s Rich Calder has a piece following up on the Domino Sugar deal in Brooklyn, in which developer CPC Resources won the approval to build 2,200 apartments by the Williamsburg waterfront, promising at the time to build 30 percent of them at below-market rates. This promise was absolutely integral to the City Council’s Read More