The NEW Carlton Mews Revealed

Last month we told you that the news that Carlton Mews had sold at the end of October for $4,100,000, almost 30 percent less than it had gone for in January. At the time of our report, it was unknown what the new buyer planned to do with the site, which includes three parcels—the church, the townhouse at 237 Carlton, and the empty plot of land. Now we know: The plan is to build five two-family townhouses on the empty lot. This rendering of the proposal was presented to CB2’s Land Use Committee last night and was greeted with unanimous support. Each home will be 4,200 square feet, 20 feet wide and 40 feet high. This is significantly scaled back from the previous project plans and the architect told us they’ve already been working with the LPC on the design and it’s been pretty smooth sailing. It is a very tasteful and non-confrontational design choice, though the devil’s always in the details. Do you like?
Carlton Mews Sells Again [Brownstoner]

46 Comment

  • They should get an award. Benson won’t like it though. Maybe it’lll even bring Polemicist out. But it looks grreat.

  • I like it too – it reminds me of Celebration in Florida.

  • I absolutely love it !!

  • Wonder where they got the idea?

  • ” Benson won’t like it though.”

    Right you are, DIBS. Typical new construction in a historic district. Timid “aping” of the surrounding buildings. “Bold” is not a word that comes to mind, is it?

    If an adult Disneyland is what folks want, that’s what they are going to get.

  • i love rowhouses, but those are boring looking as shit


  • Unimaginative, but probably a smart move.

    The design should sail through approvals and be quick to construct, reducing the risk to the developers.

  • “By BoerumHillScott on December 16, 2010 10:19 AM

    Unimaginative, but probably a smart move.

    The design should sail through approvals and be quick to construct, reducing the risk to the developers.”


    There once was a poster (Architect66, I believe) who had first-hand experience with this type of project, and he stated exactly what you write. The operative directive from the developer to the architect is “Get it through the LPC as fast as possible”, which nearly always results in unimaginative results like this.

  • benson, what would you rather see here??? A fedders????

  • DIBS;

    Ask me a serious question. Is that really the choice we are faced with? This is a gentrifying area, and I think developers will build something of a higher caliber. Much as it may come as a shock to some folks here, developers do consider their target market.

  • what is happening with the church/adelphi side? these will be on carlton i assume? and is the existing townhouse on carlton staying?

  • What’s not to like?

  • benson, it is a serious question. How do you know that these are not “of a higher calibre?” Why is a galss/curtain wall building of any higher calibre than a brick one with an historic perspective??

    You can’t judge calibre by this facade, only aesthetics.

  • DIBS;

    All of my statements above were with respect to the caliber of the aesthetics. Obviously I can’t make a statement on the caliber of the construction.

    It is a sad state of affairs. Basically folks are throwing in the towel. We have no new idioms that can work in this context.

  • So you just don’t like the Federal look then??? That’s just taste, nothing to debate or argue about. You’ve got bad taste but that’s your right. The world is full of bad taste.

    There’s no right or wrong here. This is a site called brownstoner, largely focused on historic structures so you’ll just likely be outnumbered. But it’s still your right to have taste that does not mesh with these historic structures.

  • the renderings look nice.

  • These look fine. Philosophically, I would much prefer something that isn’t pretending to be 150 years old, but LPC accepts both new and old. We live in the 21st century, and we can design perfectly nice buildings of our own time (LPC accepts historicist infill, but this probably wouldn’t meet Federal preservation guidelines). The new building on Cumberland just off Lafayette is a good example of a contemporary but contextual new building, and a much better (in my opinion) way of infilling in a historic district.

    As Brownstoner said, the devil will be in the details on these – most historicist buildings like this don’t look that good when built, because the details just don’t come out right.

    How are they able to get away with no ADA access? Because they are separate two-family buildings?

  • As usual, dibs is being wilfully obtuse (and I find myself defending benson!!)

    It’s not an either-or, Fedders or this, which is *boring* and slavishly aping 150-yr buildings, federal charms or otherwise. There are plenty of new takes on rowhouses:

    Here’s just some, and don’t focus on the extreme ones:,18168,28041&sugexp=ldymls&xhr=t&q=modern+row+house&cp=9&um=1&ie=UTF-8&source=univ&ei=QzoKTeHmE4b4sAOp_6ztCg&sa=X&oi=image_result_group&ct=title&resnum=1&sqi=2&ved=0CCIQsAQwAA&biw=988&bih=549

  • I don’t like the new takes. it’s as simple as that, nothing obtuse about it. Especially if it’s landmarked.

  • The modern take on ods is quite interesting on cumberland and lafayette. Also those townhomes on State in Boreum Hill. These are fine looking, won’t win an awards, but no excess of ugly stick either.

  • “This is a gentrifying area, and I think developers will build something of a higher caliber.”

    Think of 4th Avenue on the Park Slope / Gowanus border. That’s a gentrifying area. Are the new buildings there of a higher caliber?

  • Wow! Props from Benson! I’ll take it, and a joyful holiday season to you all!

    I just want to say that this is CARLTON AVENUE we are talking about, people. Anything less than perfect conformity would be….unthinkable!

  • The new thread “Adventures In Ridiculous Architecture” has your name all over it benson. You too, cmu.

  • LPC rarely approves new or bold. the building on cumberland is an exception. it is the only non- “historic” new building in either the fort greene or clinton hill historic districts that i am aware of.

    personally i think we should be looking for ways other than historic aping to build in historic districts.

  • I’m totally with benson on this one. The design is far, far too conservative. Modern doesn’t have to mean ugly or fedders. Not at all. We should look to Europe for great, innovative, high density, row-house urban design. Even the the houses built a few years ago on State St (in Boerum Hill/downtown Brooklyn) by Time Equities have more visual excitement than these renderings. New can co-exist with old. Furthermore, when it’s done well, it can inject real energy into the streetscape. Grade this, “Disappointed. Could do better.”

  • The design is fine, remember it is a landmarked block and there really isn’t much that they can do. What I want to know, is how much they will cost!

  • They’ll sell for $2MM-plus apiece, I bet.

    I think.

  • Barc – LPC very often approves new and bold design. There was a whole exhibit at the AIA this past year on such buildings. If there aren’t any in Ft. Greene/Clinton Hill, it’s not because LPC issn’t approving them – it’s because people aren’t bringing them to LPC.

    Good design and proper scale will win at LPC – regardless of whether it’s “old” or “new”.

  • So we all got ripped off. We desperately need high density housing in this area, and we got low-density housing.

    We need to build bigger to house the growing population. Instead, Landmarks/Land Use dictates sub-socially-optimal use of the land.

    Reform Landmarks Now!

  • Are these one-family homes? 4,200 square feet?

  • I like this approach better than the over-wrought prior scheme. I’m happy they did not build it.
    These houses will of course fit right in; a no-brainer. However some of the LPC commissioners may prefer more contemporary architecture. Something that “makes a statement of our times”. They sometimes do not approve traditional style buildings.
    I hope they do in this case, it is the right thing.

  • “We should look to Europe for great, innovative, high density, row-house urban design.”

    barf! Why do some people always want Americans to copycat the Europeans? Europeans can be idiots too. I like being different from Europe. Vive la diference!

  • OK then, “We should look to Williamsburg and Bushwick for fugly, energy-inefficient, low density row-house urban design.” Is that better?

    Hinestly, if there were more local examples of great new design in this category I’d be the first to point them out.

    And I need at least mention the State St houses.

  • If you want innovative urban design, go for it yourself, and do it outside the LPC boundary, just like they did (and thoeretically are doing) on State Street. Or that house that just sold on Butler at Hoyt.

    And LPC does not dictate low (or medium) density — the R6B and FAR of 2.0 dictates that.

    The plan as it is looks fine as long as the street wall is not seriously thrown askew and they use quality building materials for the facades.

    (Also, this is not a gentrifying area. It is a gentrified area.)

  • (Also, this is not a gentrifying area. It is a gentrified area.)

    -I’m not so sure about that. I think it still has a ways to go.

  • A ways to go to get to what? Fancy restaurants? Yes. Bohemian clothing or furniture stores? Not as many as Boerum Hill, but there is a little bit of that too. Plus the hip beacon according to all NY media — the Flea.

    I would grant that the “gentrifying” term could be used to describe the north side of Willoughby and esp. Myrtle, but that just may be my impression from less beautiful housing stock. From Willoughby to Greene, Ft. Greene is full of well-to-do people. There are some lower-income people primarily in larger buildings that are subject to rent control or rent stabilization, but that is true in the Upper East Side.

  • Oh I like these. Depends how they actually turn out. They could be complete replica Italianate rowhouses, though I feel something fedderish may be the end result.

    There’s nothing wrong with mimicking a historic architectural style. Sure, even I would want these houses to be a little more vibrant and ornate, but it’s a big step up from the usual condo-crap that’s scarring the rest of the borough.

  • The notion that thousands of years of architectural history and development has to bifurcated into the era prior to the Bauhaus and the era after the Bauhaus is a ridiculous conceit perpetrated by an out of touch architectural priesthood. There is no sin in copying historic styles. In fact some of the best and most liked contemporary work does just that.

  • “There is no sin in copying historic styles”

    Hi Minard;

    I am not arguing that something new has to be a radical departure from the past. Indeed, as terms such as “neo-xxxx” imply, sometimes a style will draw from the past. I have no issues with that.

    As I think you know (but will not admit here, lest you agree with me), that is not what we are talking about here. We are talking about a simple “aping” of a style to achieve conformity, as Architect66 put it so well, and a rapid approval by the LPC..

  • Yes Minard – I know some of those architect/priest people, and they tend to be rather two dimensional characters made of straw. I know their cousins, the knee-jerk preservationists, GSAPP vintage, who staff the LPC. Both extremely scary groups of people – halloween scary. (Come to think of it, I should get my Walter Gropius costume ready for next year.)

    I can’t fault a developer for not wishing to risk a lengthy approval process with the LPC, replete with arguments over window size, the type of mortar joint specified, and the style of a selected light fixture. (Oh, yes, I forgot about the third group of straw-cousins, the rapacious, profit seeking, cheepo developers). While hardly a brave development, this one on Carlton would seem to conform perfectly well to the expectations of straw preservationists. I’d hope for better, but what owner wants to get hammered down and set back by the LPC?

  • @thwackamole1 the absolute LAST thing we need in this section of Fort Greene is high density housing. It’s an historic district for a reason which is precisely to keep some ugly tower from rising out of the middle of these beautiful brownstones and ruining the aesthetic. Between all the new towers on the western border of this neighborhood the place is already becoming frustratingly crowded and several planned and recently completed higher density buildings are coming on line to further overwhelm the area. The only saving grace is that there still is no reliable subway line nearby so it has kept out many klingons.

    That being said, IMHO these new additions could do much worse than to “ape” the existing beautiful stock of row houses here.

  • Looks like a Hopper painting.

  • Did the renaissance architects ape the style of the ancient architects? They definitely took the vocabulary of the ancient builders, the orders, the love of symmetry, ideal proportions based on mathematical progressions, and details that the ancient Romans took from the even more ancient Greeks. They took these things and built new buildings, some even using salvaged materials from antiquity. Fast forward to someone like Montrose Morris. He borrowed the arches and corbeling details of the Romanesque period (circa 1100 AD) and designed new churches and rowhouses in Brooklyn 780 years later. The whole idea behind architecture is the borrowing of forms and relationships that have worked in the past and can work again. Even “pure” modernists architects like Meier borrow from the past, from long-dead architects such as Le Corbusier and Mies.

  • There is a difference between borrowing from the past and copying it word for word.

    If these were being built 75 years ago, they would be an Art Moderne apartment building. 90 years ago, Tudor Revival rowhouses. 110 years ago, they would be a line of Beaux-Arts townhouses. If it was being built 125 years ago, Romanesque Revival. 130 years ago, neo-Grec.

    All styles that borrow from the past, but that speak to their time.

    So why in 2010 are we building ersatz Italianate like its 1859?

  • Just wondering how traditional these will be in the inside? The devil is in the details.

    Also, what’s happening with the church on the Adelphi side of the lot? Are they still planning to build a parking lot under the new construction?

  • I agree with walester that “the devil is in the details.” Personally, I prefer the contextual design to the monstrous stuff going up on 4th Avenue. I too, am very concerned about the destiny of the church. The structure must be saved. Parking under the church is unobjectionable, and probably good for the neighborhood where parking is scarce.