Northern Brooklyn

Residential skyscraper to share BAM-area block with new Shakespearean theater

October 10, 2013 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Here’s the gleaming tower that will keep the Bard company.

Shakespeare’s new home in Downtown Brooklyn, the soon-to-open Theatre for a New Audience, will share its Ashland Place block with a 52-story skyscraper the Gotham Organization is constructing.

A first look at FXFOWLE Architects’ design for the glamorous BAM Cultural District rental-apartment building shows a slim, soaring tower with a crown on top and a broad two-floor “podium” on the bottom filled with stores, and offices for cultural institutions.

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The shops will liven up a public plaza that surrounds the Shakespeare-centric theater, where previews of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” directed by “Lion King” visionary Julie Taymor, are scheduled to start Oct. 19.

The building facade will get a liberal dose of masonry whose colors are “brownstone,” a warm rosy-brown sandstone hue, and cool gray “limestone.” These are “the primary colors of the neighborhood,” FXFOWLE senior partner Daniel Kaplan explained, inspired by Fort Greene brownstones, the Barclays Center arena and the iconic Brooklyn Academy of Music.

He and Gotham vice president of development Melissa Pianko revealed plans for the skyscraper, whose working address is 598 Fulton St., at a Community Board 2 general meeting Wednesday.

It’s one of several residential, hotel and cultural developments in the mini-neighborhood bounded by Flatbush Avenue, Fulton and South Oxford Streets and Hanson Place, which city officials refer to as the Downtown Brooklyn Cultural District.

The Gotham development will have 586 apartments, 281 of them affordable units, Pianko said. Sizes range from studios through three-bedroom flats. The affordable apartments, with rents set by the city, are for low- and middle-income residents.

They will be mixed in with market-rate apartments throughout the building, nearly to its top floor, she said – and affordable and market-rate renters will share a common building entrance and lobby. (There’s been controversy about New York City developers creating separate entryways for low-income residents in mixed-income buildings.)

Gotham, an 80-year-old Manhattan firm, has experience with mixed-income developments. Half the apartments at Gotham West, a 1,238-unit complex on W. 44th Street and 10th Avenue in Hell’s Kitchen, are affordable.

At the Fulton Street development, the 10,800 square feet of first-floor retail space can be rented to a single tenant or divided for multiple users, said Pianko – who pledged an “aggressive” plan to recruit retailers when an audience member said “retail has not been successful” on this section of Fulton Street. Offices for cultural institutions will be located in 8,000 square feet of space on the second floor.

There’s no room for a parking facility because the building is being constructed over a subway.

Construction is expected to begin late this year or early 2014 and take three years, she said.

“We’re very excited to see this come to fruition,” said Jack Hammer, director of Brooklyn planning for the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development. The skyscraper is being built on an HPD site now being used as a parking lot.

A shorter building wouldn’t be economically feasible, Pianko told an audience member who criticized the design as “so out of scale” and said, “It seems like a giant.”

Gotham is building the skyscraper “as of right,” she said, with no public input required at this point.

The site was subject to public and government scrutiny in a 2004 Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), Hammer noted. The review was done as part of the Downtown Brooklyn rezoning plan.


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