Two Trees’ Ambitious New Proposal for Domino

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Two Trees has revealed the full extent of its plan for the old Domino sugar refinery site: A SHoP Architects-designed rethink of the 11-acre site. The SHoP designs, which we got a peek at last week, are very simply a huge step forward architecturally and are a refreshing change from the same-old, same-old we’ve come to expect from new buildings in Brooklyn. If implemented, the new design will more than triple the amount of office space in the neighborhood, adding more than 600,000 square feet of commercial space,  and increase the overall square footage of the site by 10 percent.
Rendering Courtesy SHoP Architects and James Corner Field Operations

When Two Trees bought the Domino development in South Williamsburg from CPC Resources last in last July, the Dumbo-based developer inherited a set of plans that had made it through the city’s arduous land use review process (having been approved by City Planning in June 2010). The biggest reason to cheer about the design that CPC Resources had put in place, as far as we were concerned, was the preservation of the historic brick refinery building; the rest of the project, a series of predictable medium-height towers, were about what you would expect design-wise. When Two Trees took control of the site, Jed Walentas made it known that he and his team were going to do a complete rethink of the project (including soliciting community input); not that they would necessarily end up proposing a different plan, but they weren’t just going to accept that the CPC design was the optimal use for the site. This made some sense, since Two Trees was starting out with more leverage than CPC had five years earlier. “We can try and rezone this, and if it doesn’t work, we’ll just go back to what we’ve got,” he told The Observer. “It’s not like we’ve got the choice between something or nothing. We’ve got the choice between what has been proposed and what we might want to do.”

More recently, The Wall Street Journal reported from behind its firewall, Two Trees had decided that the project should include a substantial commercial component. Presumably taking a cue from the success of the mixed-use environment the developer had nurtured in Dumbo, Walentas told The Journal that “[solely residential complexes] don’t make great urban places, they don’t integrate into the neighborhoods. What we’re trying really, really hard to do here is to mix in enough commercial office space to give this neighborhood and this community a sense of that feeling of vitality.”

More details on the new design: Under the new plan, the old refinery building  will stay and will be completely given over to commercial. A second building at the north end of the site will also house office space. The amount of total residential square feet will actually decline from 2.4 million to less than 2.3 million (a developer voluntarily reducing residential square feet? a first?) though the maximum height of the tallest building would increase dramatically — from 340 feet to 598 feet. The last important change in the new plan is an overhaul of the public space, which will increase from around 140,000 square feet to more than 225,000 square feet and, in the process, create a much more usable, vibrant and engaging connection between the old neighborhood and the waterfront. Plans include a kayak launch, esplanade, floating pool and cold season ice-skating rink, according to The New York Post. The developer said in its press release that it was working with the city to include all 660 units of affordable housing originally envisioned for the project; to that end, 50 percent of the units in the first residential building will be affordable. Assuming the affordable component won’t end up being compromised, we think this new plan is probably the most exciting plan for new construction in Brooklyn we’ve ever seen. Check out the doughnut building! Let’s hope it can carry the day.

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Sweet Spot: New $1.5 Billion Plan for Brooklyn’s Domino Sugar Site
[NY Post]
Domino Factory to Get Office Makeover and 2,000-Plus Apartments [NY Daily News]

34 Comment

  • that donut building is pretty bad*ss

  • minard

    Build it and they will come.
    The best part is the waterfront park, which I assume will be maintained privately like Battery Park City Esplanade so it will be kept up even during a City Hall money crisis.

  • living only a few blocks from this site through the construction process is going to be kinda brutal, but this is such a massive improvement over the prior plans… hopes for a design and use overhaul like this one were why I cheered when two tree took over the site. maybe jed should consider buying a recently renovated townhouse nearby to oversee the process…

  • I would anticipate that this development may garner some criticism/scrutiny since it is right on the water. Will Hurricane Sandy impact future developments going forward?

  • This is pretty much guaranteed to be a success. A lot of people are going to want to live there. The street level view is sort of blowing my mind. I can’t even imagine Kent Street looking like that.

  • slopemope

    should attract the next wave of trust funders. Dumbo developed organically and naturally, this won’t be the same. It will be a “suburban” chia pet Dumbo. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, could still be great, just responding to Walentas comparing to Dumbo. An “A” for marketing though.

    East New York is right – the post above this one reads:

    “Insured Homeowners Still Have Not Received Sandy Claim”

    and here we have a massive development right on the water in Zone A. Parts of Dumbo did flood, battery park city was evacuated, and no one seems to care. It would seem to me that now – any tiny threat of a hurricane will prompt a Zone A evac. going forward for the next 20 years.

    To me that’s fine for businesses that take their own risks, but homeowners are of course a totally different ballgame. They expect to be bailed out and “someone should have done something about that” “someone should have known better but its OK that i am an idiot” for buying into a bad idea.

    But apparently they’re arriving fresh off the boat hourly to get a piece of billyburg from all parts of the bearded globe.

    Since everyone thinks bad things happen to other people and not them, i’m still trying to figure out who bad things happen to. AND – remember, this was just a tropical storm at high tide. Imagine a wide CAT 2 or 3 under varying tides would do.

    In fact, it almost now seems like the NY1 guy got a steal, its “close your eyes and buy” over there.

    Giddyup!

    Having said that i do like the renderings, just not the poor decision to do massive residential developments in Zone A.

  • I would be good to have more commercial in the mix. And the waterfront treatment looks good. But these building designs are a cheap gimmick and look cheesy as hell. Very appropriate that they spell “NO!”

  • and a big LOL to DUMBO developing organically.

  • ok, almost no one else would care about this, but there is some bizarre stuff happening in the main rendering… curbed has click-through’s to larger images where you can see ghost buildings that don’t conform at all to reality. for instance, there’s a heinous blue & gray building that shows up 3 times and on both sides of the bridge. it really does exist south of the bridge on broadway, but the rendering duplicates it due east of the site E building and again further south of the actual location. I think my favorite distortion is how the real gretsch building is dwarfed by the giant ghost gretsch a few blocks south. I know this project is going to take over a decade, but I doubt anyone has plans to build giant guitar factory replicas.

  • 1. Yes badass
    2. these aren’t the final designs, and will be designed by numerous architects and firms… these are to get approval for the site plan.
    3. so much better than the old plans which were just dreadful.
    4. does anyone know if the agreement with the hasid community to block retail and restaurants facing their neighborhood still stands?

    • #4 was never an issue at Domino. (I think there was something along those lines – not exactly maybe – at Certified Lumber/Rose Plaza, but that is half a mile south in the Hasidic neighborhood.)

  • and yes, it will flood some day, but if they design with that in mind the impact won’t be as bad…. the alternative is to never build on the waterfront in nyc again…

    • slopemope

      correct. that is the alternative. we are building in the water, in advance. i don’t pretend to be smarter than a 130 year old chart. well, ok most of the time i do. but not this time.

  • Wow – looks like yuppie hell to me. I wonder why people are seemingly so uncritical of architecture. There are ways to address context in a plan, smart people have been thinking about this stuff for a while…

  • Agree, these buildings do nothing for me. Sterile design.

    And yes, we are all going to ignore future flooding, let the taxpayers pay for it.

    The need for better thinking on waterfront development planning was clear long before Sandy. You can’t expect the developers to do it, they just want to make money. Governments have to make better planning rules, and, apparently, they don’t. Yes, developers likely control government sufficiently. Sad, really.

  • Are the buildings supposed to spell out “DOMINO,” or is that a weird coincidence? I can’t find the last “O,” but the other letters seem to be there, counterclockwise from the left to right.

  • minard

    In case of another Sandy-like flood, (a huge hurricane pulled westward by a huge low just at the moment of an astronomical high tide) the new buildings built on the waterfront will be the ones that will suffer the least.
    It’s the old construction that gets creamed. For example, the new towers in Battery Park City were high and dry but the art deco buildings on West Street were swamped and closed for months.

  • no-permits

    mr. b sounds like he busted a nut writing this.

  • This might have been a more appropriate place for rusty steel than at the Barclay’s Center but instead SHoP Architects gave us their take on the upper west side of manhattan. I like some of the changes including additional office space but the planning here is about as anti-urban as it gets.

  • I think the original CPC/Rafael Vinoly’s plan was truer to the potential of the site, by far. Much better urban feel, more fitting and appropriate skyscraper buildings; great water side use. Over all, a more honest cut at the vast project.
    But then, I confess, I don’t have any particular respect for Walentas and Son’s taste, values, and public sensitivities. As to the latter, what they’re really good at is throwing their weight around so caveat to the community: these can be a determined, stubborn and roughshod enemy once they get focused on their target.