Brooklyn Heights

Remsen Manor hotel cleared to open in historic Franklin Building

June 19, 2019 Lore Croghan
Here’s the revised design for 186 Remsen St., which will be turned into a hotel. Rendering by HOK via the Landmarks Preservation Commission

After sitting vacant since 1998, a landmarked Brooklyn Heights office building will be turned into a hotel.

The city Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve revised plans for the renovation and adaptive reuse of 1880s Romanesque Revival-style 186 Remsen St. 

Commission Chairperson Sarah Carroll called the project “a great opportunity for restoration and a new life for this building.”

The design of the terra-cotta panels on 186 Remsen St.’s addition will be modified. Rendering by HOK via the Landmarks Preservation Commission
The design of the terra-cotta panels on 186 Remsen St.’s addition will be modified. Rendering by HOK via the Landmarks Preservation Commission

The commission’s approval of the design of Remsen Manor — as the 37-room hotel will be called — comes with a caveat.

Architecture firm HOK must work with LPC staff members to modify the pale terra-cotta panels that will be used on the facade of an addition to the 19th-century landmark.

To people on street level, the terra-cotta panels might look like “precast concrete used in jails,” Commissioner Frederick Bland said before the vote. Other commissioners found the terra-cotta facade problematic as well.

The Remsen Street property is located in the Borough Hall Skyscraper Historic District in a promising site for a hotel — right next to St. Francis College and just down the street from Brooklyn Borough Hall.

Brick, brownstone and terra-cotta 186 Remsen St. was designed by the Parfitt Brothers, an important architecture firm of yesteryear. The property’s original tenant was Franklin Trust, so preservationists call the property the Franklin Building.

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It is currently six stories tall because its top two floors burned down in a 1950s fire. They will be reconstructed according to a historically appropriate design.

This recessed door is part of 186 Remsen St.’s revised design. Rendering by HOK via the Landmarks Preservation Commission
This recessed door is part of 186 Remsen St.’s revised design. Rendering by HOK via the Landmarks Preservation Commission

The property’s planned addition will be six stories tall and will be set back 52 feet from the street wall.

The developer of Remsen Manor Is Upventures LLC, founded by Tony Greenberg. The building belongs to a limited liability company in which Joseph P. Day’s head honcho Larry Wohl is involved.

Follow reporter Lore Croghan on Twitter.

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