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OUT OF A 1930s WAREHOUSE on a commercial block between Cobble Hill and Boerum Hill, architect Ben Herzog and Brooklyn-based interior designer Kiki Dennis conjured a family home that’s both fun and functional.

The homeowners, a couple with three young kids, had lived in the 25-foot-wide, three-story building for years. However, the “functional lifestyle things were not working for them,” Dennis recalled. The answer was a total renovation. (more…)

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As any Brooklyn homeowner set on a major renovation knows, the City’s Department of Buildings permitting process is expensive, time consuming, and opaque. And it has only gotten worse in the last year or so, as we experience a building boom and the City has increased requirements for such things as sprinklers, according to what we hear from readers on the Forum and elsewhere.

Last month the City’s Department of Buildings announced a major reform initiative. This followed 50 arrests in a massive bribery scandal that erupted earlier this year.

Reform strategies include spending $120 million, eliminating in-person visits with an entirely virtual process, hiring an additional 320 employees over four years, a new fee structure, and creating one building code to speed up the permitting process. (more…)

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Developer Cayuga Capital has removed the spire from the 19th-century church at 626 Bushwick Avenue it is converting into apartments, we noticed on several trips over the past few months. “The steeple had to be brought down for safety reasons and zoning does not allow it to exceed 70 feet,” Cayuga’s Jamie Wiseman told us when we inquired. “It was very old and unstable.”

However, the developer does intend to reconstruct a portion of it, and “we have a surprise in store to ensure the clocktower remains iconic,” he said. (more…)

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This little wood frame house at 1091 Madison Street in Bushwick has had a major overhaul! It now sports a Tetris mural on a stucco facade.

In March, the house was draped in scaffolding. Before that, it was covered in white vinyl siding. Click through to see lots of before and after photos.

Photos by Steve Sherman; “before” photos by Chritopher Bride for PropertyShark (more…)

WELCOME TO THE INSIDER, Brownstoner’s weekly in-depth look at a notable interior design or renovation project, written and produced by journalist/blogger Cara Greenberg. Find it here every Thursday at 11 am.

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SOMETIMES A GUT JOB is the only answer, as was the case with this 15-by-44-foot four-story row house in Bed Stuy. It had been ripped apart by a developer and then abandoned during the recession, even becoming home to squatters for a time.

“It was a total wreck. There was nothing at all worth saving,” says Gitta Robinson of Brooklyn-based Robinson + Grisaru Architecture, the firm hired by new owners to transform a shell into a home.

Brick party walls and wood joists were practically all that remained. At least the joists were in decent shape.

The architects decided to keep them uncovered on the two lower floors, to add ceiling height, and painted them white. Exposed brick was likewise kept exposed.

“There was a debate on whether it would stay natural or be painted white,” Robinson recalls. Natural won.

Where a chimney breast was removed in the dining area at the rear of the parlor floor, above, the void was patched in with mortar. The homeowners — he is a graphic designer and she a landscape designer — loved the effect and kept it, even matching the mortar treatment on the rear wall of the parlor floor.

In a bold design stroke, the architects removed 2.5 feet of flooring at the rear of the parlor level, creating an open two-story slot that connects the garden and parlor floor acoustically and lets in extra light. Ideally, the architects and homeowners would have liked to replace the whole back wall on the two lower stories with glass, but a tight budget prevented it. (more…)

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We were interested to see this renovation in progress at 66 South 3rd Street in Williamsburg when we passed by a few weeks ago. The Italianate row house has been peeled and stripped back to its elemental parts, revealing layers and the structure underneath.

There is brick (which looks like it might be missing some mortar), brownstone details around the windows, and a carved wood door surround. An addition with a setback is rising on the roof.

Most interesting of all, the back wall was completely gone when we stopped by. You could see straight through the house from the front windows to the yard behind. (more…)

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Aufgang Architects is known for its adaptive reuse of landmark buildings as well as affordable housing (the latter is 40 percent of its practice). The firm is based in Suffern, N.Y., and works primarily in New York City. Aufgang Architects is converting the landmarked former Brillo factory at 200 Water Street in Dumbo into 15 luxury condos and, as part of the same project, is designing a new 12-story, 105-unit mixed-use rental building on the same lot at 181 Front Street. (Renderings for the two buildings are pictured above and below.) We spoke to principal Ariel Aufgang about adapting historic properties for contemporary use and the firm’s projects in Brooklyn.

Brownstoner: How do you approach adaptive reuse?

Ariel Aufgang: We ask how can we adapt a building to enhance the occupants’ experience of it, whether it’s a condo, hotel or office space. As architects, we’re very cognizant of the effect the building environment has on people’s daily lives. Also, the mix of historic character and modern amenities has a positive impact on commercial value.

BS: Tell us a little bit about your design for the former Brillo Manufacturing Co.’s 1950 “daylight factory” in Dumbo. 

AA: The former Brillo Factory building, 200 Water Street, is on a great block with a cobblestone street. As a purpose-built factory structure, its window sill heights are different on almost every floor to accommodate different size manufacturing equipment. One window sill is at five feet, and others at eight feet. As a landmarked building, the challenge was to find a way to convert the building to multi-unit residential while keeping the design. Our design involves removing 30 feet off the back of the building, which brings more daylight into the apartments. The original rear facade was painted concrete block with steel flashing on each floor plate. It wasn’t an esthetically conceived or pleasing design, just utilitarian. So we specified a precast concrete wall in a modular pattern that emulates the concrete blocks. The precast concrete wall gives the texture and feeling of the old concrete block wall, but in a fine finish with a smooth texture. In place of the original and unattractive steel flashing we changed the coursing size to a thinner piece, to indicate something was there. We added back the square footage we removed with a roof top addition. It’s a four-story building. Also, we aligned the new elements with the old features, literally and figuratively. For example, we designed an all-glass extension, about three feet out from the wall, which is pushed back from the street.

BS: What were some of the goals and challenges with this project? (more…)

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We were excited to see the long-crumbling porch on one of Stuy Heights’ most important houses is getting a redo when we passed by recently. The landmarked house at 339 MacDonough Street stands out in many ways.

It is one of three big, standalone wood-frame houses on huge lots on the block — a rarity in these parts, although not on this special block. (more…)

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A long-empty storefront at 327 Stuyvesant Avenue is being renovated, we saw when we passed by Saturday. The property sits on a well-trafficked corner in Stuyvesant Heights not far from the express stop at Utica.

Many empty retail spaces in the area have found new commercial tenants recently or are being spruced up in the hopes of attracting them. (more…)

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Another revamped retail space in a landmarked building in Stuy Heights is ready for a tenant. The second retail space at 616 Halsey Street, in the rear of the building at the corner of Malcolm X, had been closed up for decades.

Developer Weissman Equities opened it up again and renovated the interior and exterior, with Landmarks approval. The liquor store on the corner is staying, and the vintage-style exterior lights outside the apartment entrance are new. (more…)

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Big news: The original cement facade of the Coignet Building, not been seen in decades, is now visible at the corner of 3rd Avenue and 3rd Street. The uppermost story of netting that has shrouded the landmark at 360 3rd Avenue in Gowanus for about a year as it undergoes restoration came down sometime in the last few days. We snapped these photos yesterday as we were passing through the area.

The red brick veneer applied sometime in the mid-20th century has been removed, per the restoration plans. It looks to us as though the restorers are planning to add a top coat of cement to finish and seal the exterior. Perhaps this explains why some of the netting has been removed.

The historic restoration of this landmark is certainly not finished, as more photos below reveal. The front stoop has greatly deteriorated in the last year, since the scaffolding went up — perhaps a result of this unusually snowy winter.

Whole Foods, which is handling the restoration as part of a deal to build its adjacent store, is also stabilizing the interior. Click through to see behind the fence.

Coignet Building Coverage [Brownstoner]

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