LPC Approves Revised Design for Fort Greene Tower With Expanded Brooklyn Music School

Rendering by FXCollaborative via NY Landmarks Commission

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A 23-story residential tower has been green-lighted for a low-rise brownstone block in the Brooklyn Academy of Music Historic District. The Landmarks Preservation Commission Tuesday approved a revised design for the skyscraper, which will replace a parking lot and rub shoulders with the iconic Williamsburg Savings Bank Tower.

Located at 130 St. Felix St. in Fort Greene, on a lot that goes all the way through the block, the building will contain an extension of its next-door neighbor, the venerable Brooklyn Music School, as well as affordable housing.

Some locals oppose the proposed tower due to its size, and the LPC received more than 70 letters in opposition to, compared to 11 in favor of, the project, according to officials.

At a virtual hearing Tuesday, the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to award developers Gotham Development a certificate of appropriateness to erect the tall glass structure, after architects with FXCollaborative returned with a slightly shorter and more set-back version of the building. Viewed from street level on St. Felix Place, the front of the building mimics the proportions of the brownstones that surround it.

“I think what [the applicants] have come back with is a much improved proposal. It’s much more contextual and fits much better in with all the existing buildings,” said Commissioner Anne Holford-Smith.

The 11-member panel sent the developer and the designers back to the drawing board at a June 23 hearing, citing concerns from some commissioners that the building’s glass facade was too imposing on the mostly low-rise brownstone block between Hanson Place and Lafayette Avenue and that its height made it look like an extension of the iconic Williamsburg Savings Bank Tower.

The 1929 Art Deco clocktower, for decades the tallest building in the borough, is not nestled among the brownstones but is located on the other side of the block overlooking Flatbush Avenue, on the corner of Hanson Place and Ashland Place.

130 st felix

The current conditions at the site on the Ashland Place side of the block

130 st felix

The concept presented in June, showing the Ashland Place side of the block

The architects came back with plans that reduced the height from 24 stories to 23, or from 285 feet to 265 feet, making it visibly lower than the main shoulder of the 42-story Art Deco clocktower. The designers also moved the bulk of the structure back 30 feet from St. Felix Street to Ashland Place on the far side of the property and made its proposed ombre color brighter to better match the creamy shade of the 1929 tower.

The new building will house a 20,000-square-foot expansion of the Brooklyn Music School in its cellar and on its first two floors with some 120 residential units above — roughly 30 percent of which will be priced at below market rate under the city’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing program.

The project benefits from $6 million in public funding city officials previously allocated to the enlargement of the music school, which is bursting at the seams hosting some 2,100 students in four connected townhouses adjacent to the site.

130 st felix

The approved plan

The developers, who required the LPC certificate to build in the Brooklyn Academy of Music Historic District, will still need to get their scheme through the city’s lengthy Uniform Land Use Review Process, which they expect to start some time in 2021.

Most commissioners praised the applicants for heeding their requests, but some still voiced concerns with the two ground-level sections of the building on St. Felix Street and Ashland Place, asking that the designers make them smaller and more in line with their neighboring structures.

130 St Felix

Rendering showing the approved design as seen from Flatbush Avenue

Those objections were echoed by Commissioner John Gustafsson, who cast the lone vote against the proposal, saying he remained steadfastly against the building because it was too big and bulky for the district and that it “ruined” the adjacent tower that has been a staple of the Kings County skyline since the Depression.

“This building is alien to the district, because of that height and massing. It ruins the memory of the architectural drama of the Williamsburg Savings Bank and it’s shoe-horned into what is not a skyscraper district,” Gustafsson said. “It is rare, I think, that a single building means so much to a neighborhood and a borough.”

130 St felix

The school building at 126 St. Felix Street in 2015. Photo by Christopher Bride for PropertyShark

[Renderings by FX Collaborative via NY Landmarks Commission]

Editor’s note: A version of this story originally ran on Brownstoner sister pub Brooklyn Paper. Click here to see the original story.

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