Progress Marches West on Atlantic

A new 114,319-square-foot, eight-story residential development on the corner of at 253 Atlantic Avenue (corner of Boerum Place) got the green light from the Board of Standards and Appeals last week. Currently the site of a Mobil gas station, the 64-unit development will finally fill in the squalid gap between downtown Brooklyn and Cobble Hill/Carroll Gardens on the Atlantic Avenue strip.

The B.S.A. had to sign off on variances for floor-area ratio, lot coverage and building height requirements.

Views from this building, when completed, will include the lovely, but now defunct, Brooklyn House of Detention right across the street.

This stretch of Atlantic Avenue is booming: the Courthouse, Two Trees’ giant newly opened luxe development, is a block away; the Board of Education condo conversion is nearby; and Two Trees’ other currently stalled condo project will be atop and adjacent the Independence Bank one block west.

And another Two Trees venture was kicked at and scratched by Brooklyn Community Board 6 last week, but wasn’t bitten. The board’s land-use and landmarks committee recommended denying Two Trees’ application for a rooftop extension on a factory and loft building at 164-168 Atlantic Avenue between Clinton and Court streets. The Italianate-style building was constructed in 1859-1864 and is noted for its stone quoins and bracketed roof cornices.

The property is currently already in the middle of a renovation into an 18-unit, 22,340-square-foot residence. Although Two Trees’ has the necessary permits to convert the property, a larger bulkhead, according to board members at the meeting, is necessary because of the switch from commercial use to residential (showers, toilets, etc. take up more hot water, so more mechanicals are necessary on the rooftop).

Despite assurances from Two Trees representative Laura Cheng and attorney J.H. Beyer–who said that the “primary goal is restoration,” the bulkhead would be “unobtrusive as possible” and “the spirit of the project is still intact”–the committee was not happy with the changes. Board members called the new bulkhead “distinctly jarring with the antique building,” and some suggested “something screwy is going on”–perhaps not pleased that the original plans, already approved by the board, are being changed so drastically. The full board still has to vote on this before it goes back to the Landmarks Preservation Commission for a final decision.

Interestingly, the Historic Districts Council testified before the L.P.C. in 2003 that it had concerns regarding the proposed bulkhead design; it explicitly stated that a historically accurate design be used. Two years later and it’s the same old problem.

– Matthew Grace Progress Marches West on Atlantic