Demo OK’d on 1919 Printing Plant to Make Way for 44-Story Tower in Downtown Brooklyn

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An early 20th century printing plant at 141 Willoughby Street may soon meet the wrecking ball to make way for a 44-story apartment tower as the Downtown Brooklyn building boom continues.

A demolition permit was issued on Monday, October 22. A visit to the site last week revealed a green construction fence and scaffolding have gone up around the building. An application for a new-building permit has not yet been filed.

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The building in 2017

Designed by architect Frank H. Quinby, the building at 141 Willoughby Street was constructed in 1919 as the printing plant of the American Law Book Company. The company made the move from Brooklyn to Manhattan for their new building.

The factory was constructed on a small plot of land created with the extension of Flatbush Avenue around 1906, according to a 1919 story about the then-new building in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

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A 1920 ad for the new building. Image via Brooklyn Daily Eagle

It was designed to have large commercial spaces for rent on the ground floor. William Raymond Burling, who was in charge of renting the spaces, told the Real Estate Record and Guide in 1919 that “the American Law Book Building is distinctive, because of the arranging of the grade floor entire, with large show windows and 14 foot ceiling, particularly adapting the floor for show-room purposes.”

The building had fairly restrained ornament with a prominent door hood above the entry for the publishing company and was topped with a balustrade with ornamental urns. Over the years it had lost much of its distinguishing detail, although the door hood remains, with the inscription “American Law Book Co. Building.”

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The door hood in 2017

The Institute of Design and Construction, founded in Brooklyn in the late 1940s by Vito P. Battista, bought the building from the American Law Book Company in 1968. The technical school operated out of the building until 2015 and disbanded the same year. After successfully fighting off a plan by the city to seize the property via eminent domain to improve the sight lines on Flatbush Avenue as part of its 2004 rezoning of Downtown Brooklyn, the school turned around and sold the property for $28 million 10 years later, in 2014, to 385 Gold Property Investors LLC.

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Rendering via Savanna Fund

The new owner, developer Savanna Partners, released renderings in 2014 by architect Morris Adjmi for the new building, a proposed 49-story glass tower that would require a zoning variance.

The City Council voted to rezone the site but with modifications. They allowed a FAR of 15, rather than the 18 requested, enough to create a roughly 44-story mixed-use building. The Real Deal reported at the time that the building will include 203 apartments with 61 at below-market rates to comply with the mayor’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing program.

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Construction signage was present on site but had not yet been posted

The new building plans are part of the construction boom around this section of Downtown Brooklyn. Across the street, at 138 Willoughby, the 68-story Brooklyn Point is underway. Down the street is the 28-story 436 Albee Square. Brooklyn’s supertall at 9 Dekalb will add 73 stories to the skyline when complete. Work on the long-planned green respite to all this development, Willoughby Park, has yet to begin.

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[Photos by Susan De Vries except when noted otherwise]

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