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).
Mayor Bill de Blasio has prevailed in his bid to wring more affordable housing from Two Trees’ redevelopment of the Domino Sugar site on the Williamsburg waterfront, with the developer agreeing to add 40 more units—an additional 110,000 square feet—of affordable housing to the project. Of the project’s 2,200 units, 700 will now be affordable, or roughly 31.8 percent.
The move, which was seen as an aggressive gambit on the part of the de Blasio administration, sets a favorable tone for the mayor’s ambitious goal of building or preserving 200,000 units of affordable housing. It also signals that Mr. de Blasio’s top housing chiefs—deputy mayor Alicia Glen and city planning chair Carl Weisbrod—will push for similarly big affordable housing concessions from other developers.
Burger chain phenom Danny Meyer is opening a second Shake Shack in the Grand Central area.
The burger joint will open in the 4,774-square-foot, ground- and lower-level spaces formerly occupied by Qdoba Mexican Grill at 600 Third Avenue, between 39th and 40th Streets, in a 15-year lease. The eatery is slated to open in the fall.
Two Trees meticulously crafted Brooklyn’s vibrant Dumbo neighborhood by personally selecting dozens of retailers and building scores of luxury apartments and more than 2 million square feet of office space—all without the help of national brands.
“We eschew the larger, national chains in favor of smaller, independent, neighborhood retail,” said Dave Lombino, director of special projects at the firm. Two Trees intends to implement the same independent-minded strategy at the SHoP Architects-designed, 11-acre Domino Sugar Factory site in Williamsburg by carefully selecting hip retail tenants and mixed-uses meant to bolster a vibrant, 24-hour community.
“Were building assets and willing to make decisions that sacrifice returns today in exchange for generating value over time,” he said. Below is a step-by-step guide to recreating the Dumbo aesthetic and philosophy, be it in Williamsburg or elsewhere.
Caroline Pardo knows a thing or two about selling square feet. Up until April, for 10 years, the Two Trees director of commercial leasing was largely responsible for shaping Dumbo’s unique retail mix in accordance with Walentas family preferences that their buildings be filled with diverse, interesting retailers.
“We want to maintain the character of the neighborhood by having mom-and-pop stores … as opposed to having a bank on every other corner or having too many national chains in the neighborhood,” Ms. Pardo told The Observer back in 2009.
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.
The City of New York, like many other large landowners, has been selling its land for centuries. However, these last few months have brought what many consider to be a disconcerting flurry of real estate transactions as the city, citing a cash crunch, moves to sell off a number of schools, libraries and municipal buildings.
The city and others have lauded the sell-off as a way to bring much-needed monies to institutions that are in dire need of help. Trading in valuable real estate, we are told, will keep the city’s civic institutions afloat. If only it didn’t have the vaguely desperate vibe of a pawn shop swap.
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.