Mayor Bloomberg today announced three major milestones in the development of the last city-owned parcels in the Downtown Brooklyn Cultural District. First, the Gotham Organization and DT Salazar, Inc will develop 600 units of housing, 300 of which will be affordable, as well as new cultural, community and commercial space on a site bounded by Fulton Street, Rockwell Place and Ashland Place.
Second, an ambitious, multi-faceted proposal by Two Trees Management Company to develop 50,000 square feet of new creative, cultural and community space, along with a dynamic new public plaza, has begun the public review and approval process. Finally, the City Department of Housing Preservation and Development released a Request for Proposals for the last development parcel in the district.
“Downtown Brooklyn has very quickly become one of the City’s most vibrant cultural destinations and an exciting place to live,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “These projects – which will bring more affordable housing and community space to the neighborhood – are more proof of the confidence that the real estate industry has in New York City and in downtown Brooklyn.”
“Downtown Brooklyn is one of the most exciting and dynamic neighborhoods in New York City or anywhere in the world, and today’s announcements are further confirmation of Downtown Brooklyn’s momentum,” Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert K. Steel said. “These new development initiatives are also a powerful reminder that cultural institutions like BAM are major economic growth engines throughout New York City.”
“Bravo to Mayor Bloomberg, EDC President and new dad Seth Pinsky and HPD Commissioner Mathew Wambua on today’s announcement, which further proves Brooklyn’s status as a cultural hub and cements our reputation as the ‘heart of art’ in the ‘city of stages,’” said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. “I look forward to reviewing the ULURP proposal for the continued expansion of the Downtown Brooklyn Cultural District and am especially excited to see allocations made for affordable housing. I have been a strong advocate for increasing the availability of affordable housing throughout Brooklyn, and this development will provide much needed access to reasonably priced homes while expanding the reach of the cultural corridor in Downtown Brooklyn to its new residents.”
“Fort Greene has historically been home to countless artists who are in need of affordable housing,” said Council Member Letitia James. “This plan will provide additional arts space for those creative forces in this community, and affordable housing to address the demand. It is a mix that reflects the needs of a creative and diverse district.”
Downtown Brooklyn is currently home to more than 40 non-profit visual, performing and media arts organizations, including the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), the Mark Morris Dance Center, and the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA), and together, these new projects will add to this dynamic neighborhood’s emergence as an unparalleled center for arts and culture in New York City.
The City has been committed to bringing much-needed affordable housing to the neighborhood as it has continued to grow. HPD has finalized plans with developers The Gotham Organization Inc. and DT Salazar, Inc. to build 600 units of new housing, 50 percent of which will be affordable to low- , moderate- , and middle-income New Yorkers. This commitment of approximately 300 affordable units doubled the amount of affordable housing originally projected for Cultural District Site I and exceeds the City’s plan for the entire north block. In addition, 40 percent of these affordable units will be two-bedrooms. The building will be designed to complement the cultural district and will help enliven the district by adding foot traffic to the Arts Plaza and locating active retail uses along Fulton Street.
When completed, the approximately 515,000-square-foot building will also contain 20,000-square-feet of cultural and related office space and 20,000-square-feet of retail space HPD and the NYC Housing Development Corporation (HDC) expect to close on financing with the development team late next year and to see construction begin shortly thereafter.
“The development of the Downtown Brooklyn Cultural District is moving forward with great arts, cultural and community space, and the housing – both affordable and market-rate – will transform this collection of buildings and vacant lots that surround BAM into a real community,” said HPD Commissioner Mathew M. Wambua. “It speaks to the dedication of this Administration and that of our development partners that we were able to double the commitment to affordable housing at Site I. And as we move forward with the RFP for Site II, I look forward to watching this neighborhood grow and to celebrating the richness of its cultural institutions and the diversity of its housing.”
“We are thrilled to be collaborating with the City to enliven this cultural district with a rich combination of uses - retail, cultural, office, market and affordable housing,” said David Picket, President of Gotham Organization, Inc. Established in 1931, Gotham Organization, Inc. is a fourth-generation family-run business that develops, builds, owns and operates residential and retail real estate primarily in New York City. For more information visit www.gothamorganization.com or www.livinggotham.com.
On November 26, Two Trees, which agreed to purchase the district’s South Site parcel from the City’s Economic Development Corporation in 2009, began the City’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure to gain approval to build a new mixed-use development on the Flatbush Avenue site. The approximately 47,000-square-foot lot, which is bounded by Flatbush Avenue, Lafayette Avenue and Ashland Place, is currently a parking lot owned and operated by EDC. Once the ULURP process is complete, and approvals have been granted, Two Trees can begin constructing a new state-of-the-art, 32-story mixed-use facility designed by Enrique Norten of Ten Arquitectos including approximately 50,000-square-feet of creative and cultural space that will be shared by BAM, 651 ARTS and the Brooklyn Public Library. In addition, the tower will include approximately 23,000-square-feet of ground-level retail, as well as approximately 300 to 400 apartments, 20 percent of which will be affordable.
“The Downtown Brooklyn Cultural District is a premier global center for art and culture,” said New York City Economic Development Corporation President Seth W. Pinsky. “With today’s announcement, the City will continue to promote the growth of this vibrant district, creating not only additional space for arts organizations, but also additional affordable housing and open and commercial space—further integrating these cultural institutions into the fabric of the neighborhood and ensuring that world-class art and culture continue to flourish in Brooklyn. I would like to thank Borough President Markowitz, Council Member James, and all our partners who have allowed these important projects to come to life.”
Plans also include a 16,000-square-foot public plaza to provide desired open space for community residents, local artists and visitors. The plaza is designed to allow a variety of outdoor programming, including dance and theater performances, film presentations, open air markets and crafts fairs, and other community uses.
“The growth of the Downtown Brooklyn Cultural District is another example of the City's commitment to improving and enhancing neighborhoods by increasing opportunities for arts and culture," said Cultural Affairs Commissioner Kate D. Levin. “The City supports dozens of cultural organizations in Fort Greene, and the South Site development is one more step toward creating affordable workspace for artists and arts groups, expanding public amenities, and making Downtown Brooklyn an even more vibrant destination for residents and audiences.”
Once the facility is complete, the 50,000-square-feet of cultural space and a portion of the public plaza will be controlled by the City of New York. Approximately 17,400-square-feet of space will be occupied by BAM to allow the institution to meet the needs of its growing audiences. A component of this expansion will enable BAM to make its BAM Hamm Archives Center resources available to the public, providing researchers, artists, educational institutions, and students with access to materials and records documenting the oldest performing arts center in the country.
BAM President, Karen Brooks Hopkins, said, “BAM is thrilled to have the opportunity to broaden its artistic and institutional vision, further serving its audiences and community. We are grateful to BAM trustee and longtime archives supporter Charles Hamm and his wife Irene and to the City of New York for investing in the cultural life of one of the most vibrant and dynamic districts in New York.”
The Brooklyn Public Library will use approximately 16,500 square feet of the cultural space to open a new state-of-the-art branch at the South Site. The new branch will offer traditional library services as well as new technologies and programming that will benefit the local community. BPL is also working with BAM to develop an innovative cultural partnership at the new branch.
“This vibrant neighborhood and cultural district is a natural fit for Brooklyn Public Library as we adapt our vital services to meet the needs of a growing and changing Brooklyn,” said Brooklyn Public Library President and CEO Linda Johnson. “By partnering with the City, BAM and Two Trees, we'll be able to create a flexible, technology-rich new branch right in the heart of Brooklyn with programming designed specifically for the needs of this community.”
A studio and rehearsal center will comprise approximately 12,500 square feet, to be occupied by 651 ARTS, an acclaimed performing arts presenter dedicated to artists of the African Diaspora. 651 ARTS will manage the space for use by local performing artists and arts organizations. Rehearsal studio spaces will be available at affordable rates, and preference will be given to organizations in the Downtown Brooklyn Cultural District. The state-of-the-art studios will also be multi-purpose space for education programs, and will provide opportunities for live public performances, gatherings and salons for artists to cultivate their work.
“651 ARTS is excited for the opportunity to expand its presence in the Downtown Brooklyn Cultural District and to collaborate and support local cultural organizations with a space to create, develop and showcase new works,” said Shay Wafer, Executive Director of 651 ARTS.
“By partnering with the City and some of Brooklyn's most innovative cultural institutions, we'll be able to provide permanent community amenities and an iconic new public plaza that helps to connect Downtown Brooklyn to the new arena,” said Jed Walentas, a principal at Two Trees Management. “In addition, the creation of much-needed affordable housing will help to ensure that this growing cultural hub and dynamic neighborhood will continue to be accessible to all New Yorkers.”
On Tuesday, HPD released a Request for Proposals (RFP) for Cultural District Site II, the last development parcel in the district. Located at the intersection of Ashland Place and Lafayette Avenue, Site II is the key remaining piece of the multi-site plan to bring affordable housing, new commercial space, and space for cultural activities to this growing community. The RFP calls for approximately 100,000-square-feet of floor area and may include residential, community and/or commercial space, with a requirement to include a minimum of 15,000-square-feet dedicated to cultural space and the arts. If affordable housing is proposed it must serve low-income New Yorkers. As this site is complimentary of the City’s overall plans to support the established and emerging arts organizations in the area, designs should reflect excellence and creativity in architecture and be a defining component of the heart of the Cultural District. Proposals must be submitted by February 1, 2013. For more information and to download the RFP, visit www.nyc.gov/hpd.
Downtown Brooklyn was rezoned in 2004 in part to help facilitate the growth of the new cultural district centered in the Fort Greene neighborhood and its legacy of cultural activity. Since then, the City has committed over $100 million in capital funding to further enliven an already vibrant neighborhood of arts organizations and support the development of the Downtown Brooklyn area as a whole. This includes the Mark Morris Dance Center, the James E. Davis 80 Arts Building, the newly opened BAM Fisher Building, the BRIC Arts | Media House and the UrbanGlass Renewal project currently in construction, and construction of a new home for Theatre for a New Audience which is also underway.
In addition, after the rezoning other cultural, residential and commercial projects involving a cross-section of the surrounding community have been planned or built in Downtown Brooklyn. These new projects, along with other City investments, have improved the street-level experience in the district while serving to further integrate cultural organizations, residents and businesses in Downtown Brooklyn.
“It's difficult to put into perspective how impactful today's announcement will be on the future of Downtown Brooklyn,” said Tucker Reed, the President of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership. "Active uses on these vacant sites will provide critical connections between our commercial and residential assets and world class cultural and entertainment attractions, fostering a cohesive and attractive Downtown experience. These sites were a critical missing piece.”