Brooklyn Heights

1-story produce market to be demolished in Brooklyn Heights

New 4-story mixed-use development going up on Atlantic Avenue

March 28, 2023 Mary Frost
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ATLANTIC AVENUE — Atlantic Fruits & Vegetables, a popular produce market at 181 Atlantic Ave. in Brooklyn Heights (two storefronts west of Sahadi’s), recently shut its doors after almost two decades of selling fresh fruit, vegetables, herbs and packaged goods. 

The one-story brick building, owned by store proprietor Ki Yol Kim, will be demolished and replaced with a four-story mixed use development, with retail on the ground floor and six one- or two-bedroom apartments upstairs.

A proposal by Fang Architect, PC depicts masonry walls, cast stone lintels and sills, and a dark grey metal cornice which lines up with a neighboring four-story building. Community Board 2 approved the development in 2019 and Landmarks issued a Certificate of Appropriateness in 2021.

This rendering by Fang Architect, PC, depicts what the new building at 181 Atlantic Ave. will look like after construction. (181 is the center building.) Rendering courtesy of Fang Architect, PC

In reviewing the proposal, Landmarks noted that while the existing building was originally constructed in the late 19th- to early 20th-century, it had experienced several alterations prior to Landmark designation, and was further altered in the 1990s. 

A 1940s-era photo included as part of the filing displayed a building with a plain storefront, flat roof and half awning. A photo from the 1960s showed the facade had been entirely rebuilt in brick and included an arched false front (its current state). 

Since the proposed design and its materials would be harmonious with other buildings along Atlantic Avenue and throughout the district, Landmarks decided that the new building would “enhance the special architectural character of the Brooklyn Heights Historic District.”

The one-story 181 Atlantic in the 1940s. Photo courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives Collection via Fang Architect, PC

While the address had been the site of a shop resembling a deli or bodega in the 1940s, it served as an “express” business in the late 1800s. The 1873 Brooklyn City Business Directory described the occupant of 181 Atlantic Ave. as “Simonsons Brooklyn & New York Express. Connects with all R.R. and Steamboats and forwards goods to all parts of the world. F. H. Simonson, Proprietor.”

According to Carriers and Locals Society website, express companies were private companies that transmitted mail in competition with the government post office. (Such as the “Pony Express.”) 

Reviewers on Yelp mourned the produce market’s passing. 

George S. said, “I’ve been shopping here about once a week for 18 years, buying most of my family’s produce for the week. Atlantic Fruit & Vegetable sets basically the gold standard for produce shops, in my opinion.”

There will still be places to buy produce, however.  Key Food and Trader Joe’s are both a stone’s throw away, and Atlantic Fruit & Vegetable owner Kim owns another shop, K&Y Fruit and Vegetables, at 291 Court Street near Douglass Street.

The one-story 181 Atlantic in the 1960s, to the right of the Spanish-American Luncheonette. Photo courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives Collection via Fang Architect, PC

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