Owner’s rep gives us the 411 on the Harte & Co. factory
Eye on Real Estate: Apartment complex planned on the site of the Greenpoint industrial icon
At least a piece of this fine façade will survive the wrecking ball, possibly.
That’s the word from the development consultant for the new owners of the handsome — and polluted — former Harte & Co. factory.
The golden-brick Arte Moderne industrial building at 280 Franklin St. is one of the most eye-catching old buildings still standing (for the moment) on the Greenpoint waterfront.
The 1930s-vintage factory, which has a distinctive curved corner made of glass bricks, is part of a multi-building development site that was sold last year. Investors plan to build an apartment complex at the site, as we previously reported. They include Bo Jin Zhu, who signed a $25 million mortgage for the property as an authorized signatory of the purchasing LLC, city Department of Finance records indicate.
“I have been discussing with architects how they could conserve elements of the Arte Moderne building’s curved corner,” the owner’s rep, Yi Han, told Eye on Real Estate in a recent sit-down in Greenpoint. “There are very few places in New York that have that.
“It’s like a witness to the transformation of the neighborhood,” she said.
The owner’s rep, who likes to be referred to by her first name, Yi, is the president of Experta Group, an Elmhurst, Queens-based design-build development consulting company. She has been working with investors as a development consultant since the 2008 market crash, advising them on land purchases, zoning analysis and building design.
Though admired by preservationists, the architecturally distinctive Harte & Co. factory was never made into a city landmark. So the city Landmarks Preservation Commission has no say in preventing its demolition.
A hotel, an organic supermarket and an indoor playground, perhaps
The first construction contemplated at the 280 Franklin site would be done on a portion of the property that uses the address 93 Dupont St. It’s a small lot that juts out from the eastern edge of the site.
The small lot, 93 Dupont St., is not part of the state Superfund site. It is pollution-free, Yi said. Also, it is zoned for purely residential use, unlike the rest of the property.
The apartment building planned for 93 Dupont would be five stories tall and have 26 units, city Buildings Department filings indicate.
As for the rest of the 280 Franklin site, the investors have not decided how many apartments will be built, Yi said. Last year, the broker involved in the sale of 280 Franklin told us that 400 apartments would be constructed at the site.
Yi said a complex with multiple buildings is contemplated, to let in light and air. They are looking to build multiple medium-rise residential towers on top of a three-story commercial and office base.
She envisions the medium-rise buildings as a transition between low-rise rowhouses that line neighboring streets and high-rise apartment towers planned for shoreline developments such as nearby Greenpoint Landing.
Yi would like to have an “affordable organic supermarket” similar to Trader Joe’s at the 280 Franklin site. She wants to build a medical and diagnostic center to look after aging neighborhood residents and have an indoor playground for kids.
Yi would like to include small affordable storefronts for shops, restaurants and galleries as well as second-floor space for studios, workshops and small offices. Other amenities would include a gym and a rooftop garden or park.
The investors may build a hotel on a small part of the site. The hotel brand would have to be one that would allow Yi to design the rooms to “reflect Greenpoint culture,” she said. She doesn’t want “a cookie-cutter hotel,” she explained.
“I want to bring more jobs to the neighborhood,” Yi said. “I believe in prosperity.”
Also, parking spaces need to be built, “maybe more than zoning requires,” she said. “Nobody has adequate parking in this neighborhood. I don’t want to jam the street with cars.”
Environmental cleanup is a top priority
But first, her top priority is a complete cleanup of the property, which has frontage on Clay and Dupont Streets. Half of it is a state Superfund site. The previous owner stored toxic chemicals underground in storage tanks that leaked into the soil and groundwater.
The chemicals are phthalates, which are used to soften and increase the flexibility of plastic and vinyl, she said.
“I want the environmental problem to be handled properly,” Yi said.
“What is the most effective solution that can permanently solve the problem? I do not want any quick patch to make some people feel good.
“Different cleanup plans have been studied. We are looking for the best solution. We are looking to be a true partner with the community,” she said.
Yi has hired a battalion of experts including environmental consultants, zoning consultants, a financial analyst and people to do traffic studies as well as geotechnical engineers to study the soil.
“It’s intensive,” she said.
Yi had studies done to find out how fast the toxic materials beneath 280 Franklin are moving. The studies indicate the velocity is close to zero, she said.
The studies also indicate that the underground toxic materials did not seep far enough to reach the playground on the opposite side of Franklin Street, or the site on the opposite corner of Franklin and Dupont Streets where a school will be built, she added.
The material is in a “smear zone” 11 feet underground. Work is being done on a plan to clean it up — while facing an underground water problem at the same time, she said.
Also, there are concerns that adjacent excavation and “dewatering” may cause the material to move again, Yi said.
‘This is my city’
During our interview, Yi shared some details about her life.
She was born in Hunan province in China but came to the United States with her family as a teen.
She graduated from DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx. Her teachers tutored her in English, and she got into Columbia University.
She was a science major at Columbia before transferring to the Fashion Institute of Technology. She studied interior design at FIT but left without completing a degree.
While working with developers, Yi discovered her talent for project management.
She feels lucky to be working on the development in Greenpoint, a neighborhood that has been on her radar screen since the 1990s.
“It is a neighborhood with culture and I would like to preserve it,” Yi said.
She considers herself a New Yorker, having lived here for 20 years.
“I really want to give back,” she said. “This is my city.”
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