New Owners Expand Quaint Stores That Housed Beloved Cobble Hill Bookstore BookCourt

Book Court in December. Photo by Susan De Vries

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The two quaint 19th century buildings that housed BookCourt, on Court Street in Cobble Hill, will be getting a makeover. Architect Charles Mallea filed applications for building permits in December, which were disapproved.

Last week, a neighbor spotted geotechnical consultants doing soil borings through the sidewalk in front of the buildings, located at at 161 and 163 Court Street. Soil borings, which test the composition and bearing capacity of the soil, are usually a precursor to putting up a new building.

In this case, it’s more likely a test for the foundations for rear additions.

Photo by Susan De Vries

Photo by Susan De Vries

In business since 1981, beloved and iconic literary hub BookCourt closed in December, after the owners decided to retire and sell the buildings to developer Eastern Capital for $13.6 million.

The attractive historic facades of the buildings — one appears to be a pre-Civil War Greek Revival wood frame in remarkably good condition — could be affected by the plans. The facade of the taller building, 161 Court Street, is unlikely to change because the building is getting only an interior renovation and rear extension, according to the permit application. The total square feet will increase from 5,762 to 7,600.

Photo by Susan De Vries

Photo by Susan De Vries

But the shorter building, at 163 Court Street, will get a vertical addition as well as a rear one, nearly doubling the height of the existing building. Since the buildings are outside the historic district, the shorter one might soon sport a contemporary facade.

The architect, Charles Mallea, has emerged as a fairly prolific designer of mid-size apartment buildings in Brooklyn. Most of the firm’s designs are traditional but a few are more contemporary, with jagged cracks and mirrors. Among the latter is a highly controversial design for 410 Tompkins in Bed Stuy commenters dubbed the “Bulgarian Neo-Goth Supervillian Crack Lair.”

Rendering of 410 Tompkins by architect Charles Mallea

Rendering of 410 Tompkins by architect Charles Mallea

The neighbor told Brownstoner he hopes the two buildings will remain intact. “Although they’re just outside the Cobble Hill historic district, they’re quite old, quite well maintained, and retain their historic character,” he said.

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