The City Planning Commission this week tossed a controversial zoning amendment that would have paved the way for tall office buildings along the Williamsburg waterfront, and chipped away at the neighborhood's dwindling stock of warehouses and small factories. But a significant exception was made Tuesday for the developers of 25 Kent Avenue, a massive, eight-story office building with public plazas planned for the entire block between North 12th and 13th streets. That project will likely move forward with special permitting.
25 Kent developers Toby Moskovits and Rubenstein Partners co-sponsored the zone-wide amendment earlier this year, which would have allowed new developments from North 9th Street to North 15th Street between Kent and Wythe avenues to comprise mostly commercial space, so long as they set aside some square footage for "light" manufacturing—5,000 square feet of industrial space for, say, ceramics, in exchange for 12,500 square feet of commercial space for offices. Developments that included public plazas would also be able to build 135 feet high, or eight stories.
Under current zoning, almost half of any development project must be set aside for community uses, like a school, nonprofit, or medical or religious facility. Most developments in Williamsburg and Greenpoint are also capped at 80 feet in height (though some waterfront properties can hit 350 feet).
Designed by architecture firms Gensler and HWKN, 25 Kent will likely have a landscaped pedestrian walkway running from Kent to Wythe, anchored on both ends by cobbled pedestrian plazas with cafés and seating. Plans call for 10% ground floor retail, 17% industrial space for manufacturing items like clothing, musical instruments, and ceramics, and 70% office space.
"Basically you're building an office building in the IBZ [Industrial Business Zone]," Brooklyn CB1 member Trina McKeever said at a February meeting about the proposal.
The Association for Neighborhood And Housing Development (ANHD) said this week that the Commission's decision does not alleviate their concerns, since 25 Kent will likely move forward with only 17% industrial space. The group stated that the special zoning "falls short of creating the space or opportunities necessary for industrial and manufacturing businesses to grow and create the middle class jobs that New Yorkers need."
Crain's reports that the Commission will approve 25 Kent's special zoning later this month, ahead of final City Council approval.
If approved, the mega-office will join a landscape that has already shifted considerably away from its industrial and manufacturing roots. Bloomberg's 2005 Williamsburg-Greenpoint waterfront rezoning allowed for widespread residential and commercial development in the area, and has led to an upswell of venues and hotels—Brooklyn Bowl, the Wythe Hotel. A recent Pratt Center for Community Development report found that since that earlier rezoning, the number of manufacturing businesses in the rezoned area has dropped from 32 to 8.