Downtown

Community Board 2’s Land Use Committee says no to development plan for 141 Willoughby St. in Downtown Brooklyn

May 19, 2016 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
This drawing, shown at a Community Board 2 hearing, depicts the bottom floors of a development proposed for 141 Willoughby St. Renderings by Morris Adjmi Architects

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A 49-story luxury-apartment tower with affordable units that developer Savanna wants to build at 141 Willoughby St. would be bigger and taller than previously planned.

Community Board 2’s Land Use Committee — upset about increasingly overburdened infrastructure in Downtown Brooklyn due to a slew of residential development — gave Savanna’s proposed project a thumbs-down on Wednesday night.

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After a public hearing, the committee voted not to approve zoning changes that Savanna needs in order to increase the amount of space it would be allowed to build at the site.

“We’re seeing additional stress on our infrastructure,” committee member Bill Flounoy said at the hearing, which was held at NYU Tandon School of Engineering’s Dibner Building.

Community Board members were displeased to discover that the development plan for 141 Willoughby doesn’t include any improvements for Downtown Brooklyn’s infrastructure, or a school.

Mark Spector, a city Economic Development Corp. rep, said at the hearing that the floor plates of the proposed building would be too small to be suitable for a public school.

Community Boards advise city agencies on a wide range of civic issues but do not have actual veto power over development projects.

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As the Brooklyn Eagle previously reported, Savanna bought 141 Willoughby for $28 million in January 2014. The site is currently occupied by a small building that houses the Institute of Design and Construction. It’s across the street from City Point, a mammoth mixed-use development.

At the public hearing, Greenberg Traurig attorney Jay Segal, who represents Savanna, gave the dimensions of 141 Willoughby’s proposed design:

* It would be 49 stories tall and nearly 420,000 gross square feet in size.

* There would be apartments on the top 40 floors of the building.

* There would be 270 apartments — and 81 of them (30 percent of the total) would be affordable units.

* Beneath the apartments, there would be seven floors of office space.

* Retailers would use the first two floors of the building and the cellar.

Air rights from a city-owned property

Chris Schlank, a founder and managing partner of Savanna, said at the hearing that all 270 apartments would be rentals, not condos.  

He said that the property’s seller, the Institute of Design and Construction, “had basically decided to go out of business.”

Since the sale of 141 Willoughby, the school has been allowed to stay in the existing building rent-free  while “unwinding business in an orderly fashion,” Schlank said.

Morris Adjmi is the project architect. At the hearing, he showed renderings of the bottom floors of 141 Willoughby, clad in glass and graced with terraces on the second and ninth floors.

By the way, Morris Adjmi Architects is the firm that designed the condo project that will be constructed on the site of the now-closed Brooklyn Heights Cinema at 70 Henry St.

One of the zoning changes Savanna is seeking would make it feasible for the developer to buy a tiny park at Gold Street and Flatbush Avenue Extension that belongs to the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development. This property, which is next to 141 Willoughby, has 47,718 square feet of air rights that would be used to increase the size of the development.

Segal, the developer’s lawyer, said at the hearing that Savanna plans to pay the city $4.8 million, and a deed restriction will require the land to be maintained as a park.

A rep from the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership read a statement expressing “strong support” for the Willoughby Street project for several reasons, including a shortage of available office space in the neighborhood.

The hearing was a step in a city Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), which the 141 Willoughby development plan must undergo because zoning changes are being sought.

 


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