Whole Foods is really moving fast now. The roof gardens are almost complete, there is signage at the entrance, and a covered parking lot is taking shape. Thanks to a reader for sending in this fantastic photo. There is a plaza overlooking the Gowanus that can be accessed without entering the parking lot, he said.
Tonight, filmmaker Max Kutner is screening his documentary on the landmarked Coignet building in Gowanus, “At the Corner of Third and Third.” He examines the mysterious building’s 130-year-history and significance, as well as the Whole Foods being built next door, through “archival materials and interviews with historians, activists, artists, photographers, and local residents to show how a community looks to the future while fighting to preserve the past.” The 20-minute film shows at 6 pm at the NewFilmmakers New York series at the Courthouse Theater at 32 2nd Avenue in Manhattan.
Yeah, they make the trip to the Park Slope Food Co-op to ask the folks there about what they think of Whole Foods coming to 3rd Street and 3rd Avenue. Also, one neighborhood activist quoted at the end who is against the grocer says she believes Whole Foods has some unspecified “hoops to go through” before they can actually build. Will Whole Foods Destroy Brooklyn? [Reason.TV/YouTube]
Well, we really thought we’d settled the drawn-out business of Whole Foods getting approval to build a store at 3rd Street and 3rd Avenue inn Gowanus after the Board of Standards and Appeals approved a variance request last month, but, according to a story in the Journal, the City Council still needs to vote to approve the reduction of the lot size of the landmark building sitting on the grocer’s site. The LPC already approved the lot reduction of the Coignet Stone Company Building in January, so the Council vote is probably 100% pro forma, but the article gives a nice primer on the history of the landmark as well as why some preservationists aren’t pleased about the Whole Foods store wrapping around the building very tightly. The article talks about how the building was constructed in 1872, landmarked in 2006, and how the “elegant Italianite mansion provided office space for Coignet and subsequent companies, including its longest-running tenant, the Brooklyn Improvement Co., from which Coignet leased the land for its stone works.” We’re going to block quote more about the building’s history, since it’s so interesting:
Designed by William Field & Son, the curious building was a showcase for Beton Coignet, a new concrete developed in France by François Coignet in the 1850s. The Brooklyn mansion was built of the very material it championed and displayed various architectural features and ornament cast from molds, showing that concrete could replicate the stone-and-chisel method of old. ‘It was definitely an advertisement [for the company]. They put it on the most visible position on the lot,’ said Matthew Postal, a landmarks commission researcher who studied the Coignet building, ‘This is a building that was testing a new technology; it would be an engineering landmark.’ Noteworthy commissions using the new building material included portions of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Cleft Ridge Span in Prospect Park, the oldest such arch in the country. Coignet also supplied concrete for new residential developments, simultaneously rising to prominence with the Brooklyn Improvement Co., founded by Edwin Clark Litchfield.
Today the New York Post reports that Brooklyn’s second Whole Foods—or perhaps its first, depending on how long the Gowanus build takes—will come Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg. The exact address is 242 Bedford, by North 4th Street, the site of building that has been a stalled eyesore for years. (The rendering above, by the way, is quite old, and perhaps no longer accurate.) The building will also have a New York Sports Club and luxury apartments above the gym and grocery. A bit more on how it’s all going to work: “Other sources say the Whole Foods will have a 9,000-square-foot entrance on the ground floor with the remaining 30,000 square feet underground. Retail asking rents are $150 a square foot on the ground, with much less for the upstairs and downstairs portions. Similarly, the New York Sports Club starts out with 700 square feet on the ground and takes up a portion of the second floor for a total of about 15,000 square feet.” Rumors about Whole Foods setting up shop in WIlliamsburg have been around for ages (though they’re never as popular as the Starbucks-is-coming rumors) but this time around it’s sounding like it’s definitely happening. Along with the Gowanus store, that means Brooklyn should have two Whole Foods within the next few years. Now where’s our Apple Store? Whole Foods in Billyburg [NY Post] GMAP
With a decision looming from the Board of Standards and Appeals’ on the variance Whole Foods Market applied for to build a store larger than zoning allows at 3rd Street and 3rd Avenue, neighborhood think tank the Gowanus Institute released an “alternative development plan” for the site. The blog Gowanus Your Face Off dissected the plan, which calls for building a couple large new buildings that would offer “vocational training, business incubation and support services for entrepreneurs in the culinary and creative industries.” As the blog notes, the space “would be like a Foodie version of the Old Can Factory combined with the Brooklyn Creative league and the 3rd Ward.” Meanwhile, Whole Foods would get 75,000 square feet of space to have a food production space and a storefront, and the little brick landmark on 3rd Avenue would be turned into a “‘Museum of Industry’ to highlight industrial innovation.” Of course, Whole Foods Market owns the site and might not be all that keen on adopting these plans. The Whole Foods War: Alternative Building Proposal [Gowanus Your Face Off]
Crain’s has a story about the opposition to Whole Foods’ plans to build a supermarket at 3rd Street and 3rd Avenue that covers the by-now-familiar criticisms from some in the neighborhood that the store would harm area artists and small businesses. An example: “Some residents and small businesses would like to keep the vacant lot, nestled between Carroll Gardens and Park Slope, zoned for small- and medium-scale manufacturing—a dwindling asset they want to protect. A recent report by the Gowanus Institute claims the site could be developed to create three times the 300 retail jobs Whole Foods promises.” There’s also a quote from someone who says that if the Board of Standards and Appeals decides to grant Whole Foods a variance to build a store on the property larger than zoning allows—the BSA is supposed to announce its decision before the month is out—it could open “the floodgates” to other “retail and residential developers looking to take bites out of the industrial neighborhood.” OK, but what do you think?
Yesterday the Landmarks Preservation Commission held a hearing regarding the application to reduce the lot size of the landmark Coignet Stone Company Building on 3rd Street and 3rd Avenue. The proposal is to reduce the size of the lot from approximately 125 feet to 55 feet on the 3rd Avenue side, and from 55 feet to 40 feet on the 3rd Street side, a measure that would allow more room for the construction of the planned Whole Foods. Seven people testified about the proposal, and all of them opposed the reduction of the lot. Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus (FROGG), the Pratt Institute for Gowanus Studio, and the HDC also submitted written opposition. HDC’s testimony was representative: “It is troublesome that after years of planning by Whole Foods, the company is now only dealing with the fact that it owns a designated site and is asking the landmark to bear the brunt of the project. As shown in renderings, plans and elevations… the Coignet Building would be engulfed by new structures, while the other half of the block would be a parking lot.” Meanwhile, Marty Markowitz submitted the only testimony that wasn’t completely opposed to the plans: “From the outset, I found it acceptable for the Whole Foods Market to abut the Coignet Building. However, should LPC find it appropriate to retain some of the existing yards as nominal side yards to serve as a buffer between the two properties, I certainly would not have a concern with designating such space… so long as this would not compromise construction of the Whole Foods site.” The LPC did not take a final vote on the proposal. It hasn’t been a great few weeks for Whole Foods: There was no resolution in the BSA hearing last week concerning the grocer’s application to build a bigger store than zoning allows. LPC Hearing on Reduction of Gowanus Building’s Lot [Brownstoner] GMAP
Yesterday was the first Board of Standards and Appeals hearing over Whole Foods’ variance request to build a bigger store than zoning allows at 3rd Street and 3rd Avenue, and the board ultimately decided to continue the hearing next month. According to BSA staffers, there was significant turnout from community members opposed to Whole Foods, particularly tenants of the Can Factory across the street, many of whom spoke out against the market because they said it could drive small business out of the area. More than 20 people testified, and most of them were against the retailer building on the site. The board asked the Whole Foods reps to provide them with additional details about several aspects of the project for the next hearing: clarification on how much piles would cost; a more fine-tuned analysis of how their site is unique from others on the Gowanus Canal; an analysis of whether manufacturing uses could theoretically work at the site, rather than just the warehouse and retail uses that Whole Foods analyzed; and further information about how the supermarket is expected to affect traffic and parking in the area. The next hearing will be on January 24th. Whole Foods Saga Drags on as BSA Blessing is Sought [Brownstoner]
Way back in early June Community Board 6 supported Whole Foods’ plans to build bigger than zoning allows on 3rd Street and 3rd Avenue, and, as Pardon Me for Asking reported, the grocer will have its day before the powers that be at the Board of Standards and Appeals on Tuesday, December 13th. The BSA hearing will consider Whole Foods’ variance request for a 56,000-square-foot store in a spot where the company would typically only be allowed to build a 10,000-square-foot structure. It wouldn’t be unheard of for the BSA to continue this hearing over several sessions, so—assuming the variance is eventually granted—who knows when construction will actually begin. Gowanus Whole Foods Calendared [Pardon Me for Asking] CB6 Committee OKs Whole Foods Build [Brownstoner]
Last night Community Board 6 voted in favor of the variance request Whole Foods has filed with the city in order to build a supermarket in Gowanus. The board also voted to approve a liquor license request for Players, the somewhat controversial bar opening up near the Barclays Center on Pacific Street. The Whole Foods vote follows one by the board’s Land Use Committee last week in which the variance request was approved conditionally. The committee asked that another traffic study be conducted a year after the store is built and also requested that the store close at 10 p.m., not 11 p.m. A second motion was approved to request a letter from the EPA about whether the project could negatively impact the Superfund cleanup. Last night the motions were approved by the full board as well, though some people expressed concern over the traffic problems and possible environmental hazards during construction. Pardon Me For Asking has a post arguing that the board did not discuss the validity of Whole Foods’ claim that the site’s unique physical conditions create financial hardship, thus giving it the right to be granted the necessary variance. She writes: “Had the Board seriously debated the validity of Whole Foods’ assertions, they would have had to agree that the company created its own hardship,” considering Whole Foods willingly purchased a polluted site that isn’t zoned for a supermarket as big as the one the company intends to build. Click through to read about the board’s discussion of two bars near the Barclays Center… (more…)