Proposed transformation of long vacant Crown Heights lot might be model for mixed-use development
CROWN HEIGHTS — In the midst of the city’s ongoing housing crisis, a long-underutilized stretch of the area surrounding Atlantic Avenue could witness a compelling case study in how to create an inclusive, mixed-use district that helps to spur both new affordable housing and jobs at the same time. The several block-long stretch crossing through Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant has long been talked about as a potential area for a City-sponsored rezoning, dating back to findings from the 2018 M-Crown initiative aimed at creating new housing and manufacturing uses, and the more recent Atlantic Avenue Mixed-Use Plan (AAMUP), a collaboration between Council Member Crystal Hudson and the Department of City Planning. While the planning process continues, some members of the community are pointing to a new proposal within the target area as a potential early win that embodies many of the AAMUP objectives.
Plans submitted for a 33,000-square-foot lot at 962 Pacific Street call for new affordable housing, featuring family-sized apartments, as well as a sizable amount of space for light manufacturing uses and an early childhood education center. The team behind the project – HSN Realty Corporation (HSN) – is a woman-owned and run business that has been part of the Crown Heights community since the 1940s. HSN’s proposed development would include 150 residential units, of which a significant amount will be affordable.
Michelle de la Uz, Executive Director of the Fifth Avenue Committee, a Brooklyn-based housing non-profit, emphasized the importance of a project like 962 Pacific: “Fifth Avenue Committee and other advocates have long called for all communities to do their fair share in addressing the deepening affordable housing crisis, providing opportunities for families hoping to live — or remain — in the communities they love. The community needs additional affordable housing and thriving commercial, light industrial, and residential uses that reflect and support the community’s vision and needs.”
Nadine Oelsner, President of HSN and owner of the 962 Pacific Street lot, has been part of the 10+ year M-Crown initiative and the recent AAMUP discussions, and points to the opportunity also to create an unprecedented amount of job-generating manufacturing space in the area. “Through our involvement in the M-Crown planning process since its inception and in our recent participation in AAMUP, we understand the imperative that any new housing development also balances the need for preserving industrial and manufacturing uses in the area,” said Oelsner. “We see the potential for 962 Pacific Street to achieve these major objectives prioritized by the community – creating affordable housing and preserving space for manufacturing uses.”
As such, the proposal would create much-needed space for economic development – more than 19,000 square feet of light manufacturing space, as well as 8,750 square feet for retail, which would allow small businesses, like a bookstore or a café, to set up shop on the ground floor and provide more spots for the community to gather.
“A truly mixed-use neighborhood will be enhanced by creating truly mixed-use buildings,” said Leah Archibald, Executive Director of the Evergreen Exchange, an industrial advocacy organization that is working with HSN to help advise on the manufacturing uses in the project. “Through the M-Crown initiative and the AAMUP planning process, it is clear that the community has prioritized mixed industrial and commercial uses, including the prospect for residential buildings to cross-subsidize light manufacturing and create good paying, high quality jobs. It’s encouraging to see a project like 962 Pacific that proposes such complementary uses at the outset. We are hopeful that this project can serve as a model for other innovative mixed-use developments.”
Finally, as a response to calls from local leaders for dedicated community space in new buildings, 962 Pacific also offers 10,750 square feet that would feature an early childhood educational center. This center will be available to the local community, who have indicated the long-standing need for more childcare spots in the area as a major priority.
Oelsner cites her longstanding ties to the Crown Heights community as her motivation for the proposed development. “In the heart of Crown Heights, 962 Pacific continues to remain vacant – a situation that beckons change in the midst of the housing crisis. This project is an opportunity to create a true community resource that brings affordable housing, manufacturing jobs, and meaningful community space to the residents of Crown Heights. I want to extend my gratitude to the many members of the community and Community Board 8 for their encouragement, feedback, and productive dialogue.
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