The beauty of stormy weather in Domino Park
Eye on Real Estate: It’s raining, it’s pouring, but the views are iconic anyway.
When you want to watch the weather put on a show, Domino Park is the place to go.
There’s a quarter-mile stretch of shoreline in the waterfront Williamsburg recreation area. It affords a front-row seat for observing summer storm clouds as they gather above Manhattan’s skyscrapers and advance across the East River towards Brooklyn.
Even when the clouds grow darker and the not-so-distant air turns gray with rain, Domino Park visitors are reluctant to abandon the six-acre park’s esplanade, or its wooden lounge chairs that face the Empire State Building, or the spots they staked out with blankets on the green lawns.
I was there the other day when a tempest blew in.
I too found it impossible to leave the park — though I could see the downpour was nearby, and logic dictated it was headed in our direction. The purple clouds boiling over Manhattan were hard to turn away from.
Before I enthuse further about the visual drama of rain sweeping over the mighty river, I need to say, emphatically, that you should not stay in the park if you think there’s lightning in the oncoming clouds.
The park’s got towering gantry cranes, salvaged from the site’s long years as a sugar refinery. There are mammoth metal tanks in which syrup was stored. And 21 metal columns from Domino’s Raw Sugar Warehouse form the framework of an elevated walkway.
These beautiful historic artifacts could turn into gigantic lightning rods.
James Corner Field Operations was the park’s designer
The reason I went to Williamsburg on that stormy day was to check out the progress Two Trees Management is making on construction at the 11-acre Domino Sugar Refinery development.
The park opened in June 2018. It takes up six of the site’s 11 acres.
James Corner Field Operations designed the park, which cost $50 million to build. This landscape architecture firm was the project lead for the popular High Line, which runs through the Meatpacking District and Chelsea.
Mark Reigelman designed the park’s playground equipment, which looks like miniature sugar factory buildings.
Two Trees Management, the Walentas family’s company, is constructing new buildings with about 2,800 apartments on the Domino site. Twenty percent of the apartments will be affordable units.
Shelter from the storm
The Domino building I most wanted to see on my rainy-day visit is One South First, aka 260 Kent Ave., whose construction is ongoing.
It’s shaping up nicely. Its bright-white precast concrete facade and windows are in place. Designer COOKFOX Architects has said that sugar crystals inspired its facade design.
The building is composed of two towers that connect at their tops and have a void between them.
I rode the NYC Ferry to North Williamsburg to get to Domino Park because the middle of the East River affords the best vantage point for seeing One South First’s towers and the donut hole between them.
When my ferry boat passed Domino Park and One South First, the skies were blue. By the time I walked down from North Williamsburg’s ferry landing to Domino Park’s Grand Street entrance, dark clouds had formed a shelf over the Lower East Side and Lower Manhattan.
I kept strolling around the park, snapping photos, as the rain got closer and closer and closer.
All of a sudden, gusts of wind whipped in and tossed a torrent of precipitation at all of us who hadn’t left the park. The rain felt cold as snow.
Everybody ran for a sidewalk shed attached to the landmarked Domino Sugar Refinery buildings. I was sorry I’d stopped doing wind-sprint workouts years ago.
An apartment building designed by SHoP Architects
A few details about One South First’s design: The shorter tower is 22 stories tall and will contain 150,000 square feet of office space. The taller, 42-story building will have 330 rental apartments, 66 of them affordable units.
There will also be 15,000 square feet of retail space. High-profile Bushwick pizzeria Roberta’s is opening a second restaurant in about 2,300 square feet of that space, Grub Street recently reported.
When I checked One South First’s website the other day, listings included studios with asking rents of $3,356 or $3,373 per month and one-bedroom units for $4,084 or $4,120 per month.
As for the rain, it poured down so hard that some of it came through the top of the sidewalk shed where we took refuge. After a while I dashed (meaning my slow-motion version of dashed) across the street to Mekelburg’s, a specialty food store/craft beer bar at 325 Kent Ave.
SHoP Architects designed this new apartment building at the Domino complex. It has a zinc and copper facade and is shaped like a squared-off donut.
The 16-story building has 522 rental apartments, 104 of them affordable units.
Asking rents for available market-rate apartments recently posted on 325 Kent Ave.’s website range from $3,185 per month for a studio to $5,289 per month for a two-bedroom unit.
A factory with a glass building inside
For a good long while, it seemed like the downpour was going to last forever. Then it was abruptly over.
Some people took their kids back to Domino Park’s fountain to splash around in its 88 water jets.
Other park-goers settled onto a turf field near the Havemeyers & Elder Filter, Pan & Finishing House. That’s the refinery’s formal name. Its address is 292-314 Kent Ave.
Two Trees Management plans to create office space inside the 1880s refinery by demolishing its roof and constructing a glass-walled building inside the brick factory walls.
The city Landmarks Preservation Commission approved this design in November 2017.
The architecture firm that designed the refinery’s makeover plan, PAU, returned to the Landmarks Preservation Commission on Aug. 13 to ask for permission to tweak the plan. It was granted.
Follow reporter Lore Croghan on Twitter.
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