Brooklyn Bridge Park warehouse redevelopment will bring offices, retail, and even new park space

The city expects that Brooklyn Bridge Park will complete its redevelopment of the Empire Stores by 2015. The building will include a public rooftop terrace.
City of New York

The abandoned Empire Stores and Tobacco Warehouse buildings in Dumbo are officially on the road to redevelopment, the city announced on Wednesday.

The Brooklyn Bridge Park Board of Directors selected Midtown Equities to transform the buildings into a massive complex with space for restaurants, events, stores, and offices, the city announced, saying that the project will preserve history and help fund the park’s upkeep indefinitely.

“This is an historic moment for Brooklyn Bridge Park,” said Regina Myer, president of the Brooklyn Bridge Park board, in a statement. “In addition to securing the park’s financial stability, these long vacant warehouses allow us to recognize the important part our park plays in the history of the Brooklyn waterfront.”

The board also confirmed that Saint Ann’s Warehouse, a local theater company, would lead the redevelopment of the Tobacco Warehouse into a theater, as The Brooklyn Paper previously reported. Construction will begin in early 2014 and end in fall 2015, the city said.

The seven Empire Store warehouses, each four to five stories high, were originally built between 1869 and 1885 and have been abandoned since the 1960s. Now, Midtown Equities is entering a 96-year lease of the buildings.

The city predicts that the new facilities will provide at least $60 million dollars to fund the park over the next century.

The new development will also include a small addition to the parkland at Washington Street, replacing a parking lot and industrial buildings. The Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation said that it plans to include a larger lawn, an improved dog run, a rock climbing wall, and an indoor educational space.

This pleased even park activists who have long fought the takeover of the park for private use. Longtime park board critic Tony Manheim welcomed the new park space and shrugged at the redevelopment plan.

“We were not expecting the Empire Stores to be torn down and turned into parkland,” he said. “The redevelopment doesn’t seem terribly offensive to me personally as long as it aids park uses.”

The announcement comes six years after state officials deemed the buildings decrepit and dangerous and 11 years after authorities wrestled control of the site away from Dumbo developer David Walentas and gave it to rival Shaya Boymelgreen, who wanted to construct a Chelsea Market-style shopping mall but never did.

Reach reporter Jaime Lutz at jlutz@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow her on Twitter @jaime_lutz.

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