Brooklyn mega-developer Two Trees, which owns much of DUMBO, is poised to put down deeper roots on the Williamsburg Waterfront, where the big old Domino Sugar refinery awaits the developer's gentrifying magic touch. The Community Preservation Corporation (CPC), which tried and failed to transform the old refinery into a large mixed-use residential and retail development, has closed on a deal to sell the property to Two Trees for $185 million.
CPC's development partner, the Katan Group, had been trying to block sale, claiming the price, $185 million, was undervalued by tens of millions. (It's still three times what CPC and Katan paid in 2004.) But last week a judge dismissed a legal motion holding the sale back, and this morning CPC announced that the deal was done. "Two Trees has a track record in developing and revitalizing communities, and this deal is an excellent opportunity for Domino to become the vibrant, mixed-income waterfront community we envision it to be," CPC President Rafael E. Cestero said in a statement.
The original plans for the development were ambitious and somewhat controversial—some locals worried about another huge influx of Williamsburg residents overwhelming public transportation (the Bedford L stop is already a shitshow at rush hour). The mixed-use 2,200-unit development was supposed to have 660 units of affordable housing, but Two Trees owner Jed Walentas—who also owns The Wythe Hotel—has not committed to that ratio of affordable-to-obscenely expensive. In fact, Two Trees' plans for the property are still very much TBD.
CPC's promise of 30 percent affordable housing was never legally binding, but CPC would have taken advantage of the city's Inclusionary Housing Program, requiring it to set aside 20% of the units at "affordable" below-market rates. In an interview with the Observer in June, Walentas said, "Regardless of what the deal was with the previous people, it’s been several years and nothing’s gotten built. One of the biggest challenges is to make something happen. I do think affordable housing will be at the top of the list, but there’s a wide array of social benefits this project can offer, from schools to open space to community space.”
We asked a Two Trees spokesman today about the affordable housing, and the developer remains non-committal. By way of explanation, Two Trees issued this statement:
Over the coming months, Two Trees will be spending significant time in Williamsburg, listening to and learning from the local residents and community leaders who will be our new neighbors. This dialogue will help inform our decision whether to build the approved plan under the existing zoning, or to seek to improve upon it through a new public process. We are very excited about the tremendous potential to re-connect this long-dormant waterfront site to the rest of this vibrant neighborhood, bringing additional housing, jobs, open space and neighborhood amenities with it. Two Trees is committed to delivering on that promise.