Greenlight Bookstore Renovation Blog: Week 1

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    Today we kick off a new weekly renovation blog series. We’ll let the blog’s author tell you about it...Last September, I came across a New York Times article about the Jessica Stockton Bagnulo and Rebecca Fitting, two entrepreneurial Brooklynites with a plan to open an independent bookstore in Fort Greene. Their passion for the project and the amount of enthusiasm from the community was infectious and I sent them a note of congratulations and support. As an architect who lives in Park Slope, I was excited about a new retail store in the area especially at a time when so many storefronts seemed to be going vacant and I offered the services of my office, deFT Projects LLC.

    Like many young practices in New York, most of our work is residential or smaller commercial spaces. Last summer, we designed the Bend and Bloom Yoga Studio on Sackett Street in Park Slope and the prospect of another commercial project of a similar scale was exciting. For the Greenlight Bookstore project, we are also working with Jarrett Pelletier, a former co-worker of mine and fellow architect who lives in Clinton Hill. I’ve been a longtime reader of Brownstoner and a fan of the renovation blogs (especially the “3rd and Bond” and “Bird” blogs.) Jessica already writes a blog about Greenlight Bookstore and she also writes about the literary life of Ft. Greene for the NYTimes blog, The Local. But it seemed that Brownstoner would be the ideal place to host a series dedicated specifically to the design and construction of the store. Compared to the other renovation blogs, this series will be relatively short — we’re thinking 10-12 weekly posts that will take us from the beginning of construction to the opening. For the first week, we’ll discuss the location, the demolition work, and see the empty space that we’re left with.

    Here we go…

    When we first visited the storefront at 686 Fulton Street, it was straight out of Office Space — a dropped acoustic tile ceiling, fluorescent box lights, industrial carpet, textured peach wallpaper and plastic desk cubicles.

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    Until recently…

    …it was home to Nationwide Insurance, and before that, it was an office for the Black Veterans for Social Justice. It’s a bizarrely jagged shape that results from the diagonal intersection of Fulton and South Portland and the various lobby entrances to the apartments above. A friend described it as having “the profile of a stealth bomber.” The plan below is what we got from the landlord and shows how Nationwide had divided it up into a series of offices and conference rooms. The white space on the right is the bakery Marquet.

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    Despite the existing condition of the interior, there were a lot of incredible assets for the space. The corner of Fulton Street and South Portland is a pretty major intersection in Ft. Greene and the Greenlight Bookstore will be catty corner to Habana Outpost. The variety of commercial spaces along that stretch and the proximity to BAM ensures that the street is well-trafficked.

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    Especially exciting for us is the expanse of glass storefront at such a prime location. The storefront including the entrance is 44 feet wide — pretty amazing for a 2,000 sf store. And once Nationwide’s awning was removed, we could see the translucent glass lights at the top of the arched windows.

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    Demolition has begun and here are a couple of panorama images in mid-demo — excuse the dusty haze. When the acoustic tile ceiling was removed, we found a dropped sheet rock ceiling and when that came out we found the existing original gypsum ceiling above that! The good news is that even after accounting for mechanical, electrical and lighting spaces that we are including in the ceiling plenum, the ceiling height should be close to 10′-6″ — pretty generous. The upper panorama is taken as you step into the store. You can see the existing light/air shaft in the middle of the space. The lower panorama is in the space looking back towards the entrance and storefront. Now that the partitions have been removed, it’s nice to be able to see the continuous storefront from the interior. Standing up close to the storefront almost feels like standing on the sidewalk!

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    Coming up next week… our proposals for the space!

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