Last Summer, Two Trees bought the Domino Sugar Factory site in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn to be developed into a new mix-use master plan. The previously proposed scheme by Rafael Viñoly Architects (seen here) consisted of four large towers along the East River water front, but the design was largely disliked by the community, and as a result Two Trees hired SHoP Architects along with James Corner Field Operations to have a go at the design. The result is a wildly different scheme, consisting of five towers with 60% more open space along the water front, 631,000 square feet of new office space (versus the previous 98,000 square feet), and over two-thousand new apartments. This marks a huge change for what could be considered as the most important waterfront real estate in Brooklyn, and potentially become the new image of Brooklyn for the whole world.
By moving the new building footprints back on the site and extending River Street through the site, the new one-quarter-mile long open park space created along the waterfront will rival the Nelson Rockefeller Park in Battery Park City in size, with multiple public uses (kayak launches, picnic areas, beer gardens, etc.) and a public plaza for larger events such as fairs, performances, or even graduation ceremonies. The park will also include a section dedicated to using salvaged pieces and materials of the Domino Sugar Factory itself, apparently reminiscent in concept to that of the High Line in Chelsea. This new water front space plan will result in greater connectivity throughout the entire neighborhood and hope to maintain current community flow.
Although more open space means taller buildings, the hope is for the new towers to create a new skyline for Brooklyn, ranging from 600-feet tall on the Southern end (relating to the adjacent Williamsburg Bridge) and scaling down as the plan develops North (relating to the current lower neighborhood fabric). Although taller, the new design still remains very open and porous so as not to deprive the old neighborhood of any light, air, or views. This results in skybridges and massive open spaces through the new, more slender towers, with varying (almost patchwork at times) compositions of facade inside and out. Despite the greater height of this design, Two Trees insists that the public officials who have seen SHoP’s design were all very happy with it because it means more open public space.
The only building currently set for adaptive reuse is the Domino refinery building, which is set to become technology & creative industry offices. The building will still essentially need to be gutted and recreated from the inside out, with a steel and glass addition to the top. Although the preservation of the refinery building will be expensive, every one on board seems to believe it is worth the investment. The towers are designed to meet the ground and interact in accordance with the current streetscape, complimenting the scene with new small-scale (only) retail development. Two Trees could break ground on the first phase as early as 2014, with SHoP to design two of the five towers while curating different architects for the other towers.