When the city announced last week its plans to sell two prime library sites, one at Pacific Street and Fourth Avenue and the other at Cadman Plaza and Clinton Street, to developers, there was no mention of how big the replacement buildings could end up being. On his blog Noticing New York this weekend, Michael D. D. White takes a stab at getting his arms around just how tall the Cadman development could end up being. As White notes, the site is zoned C6-4, which means a developer can erect a building with 10 times the floor area of the 25,000-square-foot lot. So there’s 250,000 square feet to start. Then there are additional rights that can come with doing things like providing public outdoor space and room for community facilities (like a library). Add to that the potential to transfer development rights from nearby landmarked buildings and White thinks you could be looking at a largely residential tower well in excess of the 14-story Federal court house across Cadman Plaza. In fact, White reports that a library spokesman has told some people off the record that the tower could end up being as much as 40 stories tall, which is almost twice as tall as the office building at 26 Court Street another hundred feet or so taller than the 30-story residential building just north of Clark Street (shown in the background of the photo above)
White’s piece has plenty of conspiracy theories about how this is all a big set-up for another land grab by Forest City Ratner, including shutting down more of Pacific Street to connect the Fourth Avenue site to the Atlantic Yards complex. We’ll let you judge those for yourself. We’ll only say that we hope that there ends up being a transparent, open bidding process for both sites. And if we’re going to end up with a giant tower on Cadman Plaza, let’s use it as an opportunity for Brooklyn to do some first-class new construction. Too much (as in, almost all) of the architecture that got built in the last boom was mediocre. This is an iconic location and the real estate values nearby are certainly high enough to underwrite a project that could put Brooklyn design on the international map alongside its art, food and culture. Maybe Brooklyn’s even ready for its first truly Class A office building.