Developer’s promise: No banks, cell phone stores or fast food at Bklyn Municipal Bldg

June 6, 2012 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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Landmarks will soon take action on building’s proposed retail changes

By Linda Collins

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

MANHATTAN — Albert Laboz, the developer who is converting the first two floors of the Brooklyn Municipal Building, promised members of the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) yesterday that there will be no banks, no cell phone stores, no pharmacies and no fast food tenants in the building.

A representative of the  NYC Economic Development Corporation commented that preference will be given to a full-service restaurant and a home-goods-type store.

As the Eagle has reported, the building, at 210 Joralemon St., across from Brooklyn Borough Hall in Downtown Brooklyn and part of the new Borough Hall Skyscraper Historic District, will have its first two floors — at the Court Street corner and all along its Court Street length — converted to retail use.

Laboz and his firm, United American Land, were selected as the developer and ownership was transferred from the city to him earlier this year; PKSB architects is designing the retail conversion.

In his presentation to the commission, Laboz noted that he has been active in Downtown Brooklyn as chair of the Fulton Street Mall Improvement Association and other organizations and has been a life-long Brooklyn resident.

He also said he was honored to be selected, he supported the designation of the new historic district, he believes retail in this building will be an asset to the district — “bringing life to Court Street between Joralemon and Atlantic Avenue,” which is currently “littered with schlocky stores” — and he accepts the challenge to convince more upscale retail to come to Downtown Brooklyn.

In her presentation to the commission, a spokesperson for PKSB Architects said the development team had been primarily charged with creating new entrances and windows, in addition to a signage plan.

“We went for a more conservative approach with the windows, and only removed a very limited amount of architectural and historical detail,” she said, adding that the windows were not original and had been replaced years ago.

Speakers at the public hearing were also generally in favor of the proposed changes. These included representatives of Borough President Marty Markowitz, Council Member Steve Levin, the Fulton Mall Improvement Association, the Brooklyn Heights Association (BHA), the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, the Historic Districts Council and the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce.

All concurred that retail at this location would build on the resurgence of the nearby Fulton Mall and Adams Street improvements, as well as create a retail corridor from Court Street to Flatbush Avenue and activate the east side of Court Street.

Most said the changes respect the building and the historic district.

Several, however, disagreed: The HDC favors more restraint in the signage plan; the BHA objects to the amount of limestone to be cut away.

The PKSB spokesperson commented that the team had gone early to the BHA and had incorporated some of their suggestions.

“The removal of historic elements are very strategic and limited. We believe it remains a strong building,” she said.

The LPC took no action  on the proposed changes, but will do so in the near future because the commissioners were not far apart in their opinions, according to Robert Tierney, LPC chairman.

Regarding the signage, Tierney said it will be discussed and refined.

“There are details to be reviewed. Our staff will work with the development team and will take action in the very near future,” he said.

Tierney  also noted that Community Board 2’s Land Use Committee approved all the proposed changes in a 12-1 vote, which was then ratified by the community board’s executive committee.

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