Landmarks Commission approves creative glass wall building-within-brick in Domino Sugar facade

Two Trees Management will turn Williamsburg factory into an office building

November 28, 2017 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Two Trees Management will turn the Domino Sugar Refinery into an office building. Here's what it will look like. Rendering by PAU courtesy of Two Trees Management
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How sweet it is!

Tuesday was a red-letter day for Two Trees Management.

The developer won the city Landmarks Preservation Commission’s approval for a new redesign plan for the Domino Sugar Refinery in Williamsburg.

In a vote held at its Lower Manhattan headquarters, the commission approved architecture firm PAU’s office-conversion plan for the shoreline Williamsburg factory at 292-314 Kent Ave. There was one “no” vote.

The design by architecture firm PAU calls for the construction of a glass-walled building with a barrel-vaulted ceiling inside the historic refinery’s brick facade.

The roof of the Havemeyers & Elder Filter, Pan & Finishing House will be removed and the inside of its brick walls will be exposed to snow, frost and rain.  

A 10-to-12-foot gap between the historic brick facade and the new glass building will bring light and air into the new structure’s interior, PAU’s founder, Vishaan Chakrabarti, said in a presentation before the commission’s vote.

Prior to the vote, Commission Chairwoman Meenakshi Srinivasan called PAU’s design “a very fascinating and really creative approach” that will “breathe new life” into the “functionally obsolete” refinery.

Domino Sugar Corp. occupied the American round-arch-style refinery until 2004. It was constructed in 1881 to 1884.

Commissioner Jeanne Lutfy said before the vote that the glass building-within-a-building’s design “embraces the future by embracing the sky.”


‘Epicenter’ of 11-acre development project

At a Landmarks Preservation Commission hearing in late October, Two Trees Management CEO Jed Walentas called the refinery the “epicenter” of the company’s redevelopment of an 11-acre waterfront Williamsburg site that Domino Sugar Corp. formerly owned.

In addition to converting the refinery into an office building with ground-floor retail space and public access, Two Trees Management is constructing about 2,300 apartments, including more than 700 affordable units, at the site and creating six acres of parkland.

The mega-project’s estimated completion date is 2024.

PAU’s new design for the Domino Sugar Refinery’s makeover replaces one that architecture firm Beyer Blinder Belle did for Two Trees Management.   

The Landmarks Preservation Commission approved Beyer Blinder Belle’s design in 2014.

Commissioner Michael Devonshire, who voted against PAU’s refinery redesign plan, said it “destroys a viable building and turns it into a ruin.”  

He said he was troubled that tests done in 2015 on the landmark’s brick facade did not include a test for absorbency — which would indicate whether the bricks would be vulnerable to damage by frost action.

Commissioner Michael Goldblum said that when the absorbency test is done, if the results are “bad,” PAU needs to have “a Plan B” design that would protect the bricks from exposure to the weather.  


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