Dancespace fever in Fort Greene • Brooklyn Paper

Dancespace fever in Fort Greene

The competition is heating up for the chance to develop the new home for the Manhattan-based Dancespace Project — and Brooklyn favorite Carlton Brown is back in the game.

The real estate that has developers salivating sits at the corner of Fulton Street and Ashland Place in Fort Greene, a neighborhood the city plans to transform into a hub of cultural activity that will rival only Manhattan’s Lincoln Center in cache.

The home-base for Dancespace — to be capped by at least 150 units of housing, many of them affordable, with a base of commercial retail space along Fulton Street — is the nucleus of the so-called BAM Cultural District.

As of Thursday, Brown, a developer who has lived in Fort Greene and Bedford-Stuyvesant for a quarter-century, was eliminated from the short-list.

The city had whittled down the competitors to just three: David Walentas, the real-estate mogul who built and branded DUMBO; the Dermott Group, which is converting the Williamsburgh Savings Bank building into luxury condos; and a mysterious European company called SEG.

But, possibly prompted by a local outcry, Brown got back in the mix, and is now tentatively partnering with the development firm from across the pond. And that’s good. Not only has Brown lived in the neighborhood longer than many of its residents have been alive, he has kept close tabs on the needs of local stakeholders.

Brown has incorporated into his proposal the desires of a group called the Concerned Citizens Coalition, which has frequently sparred with the city over a perceived lack of inclusion in the plans for the Cultural District, and has been partnering with the reputable Pratt Area Community Council, which advocates for affordable housing.

Brown’s firm, Full Spectrum, is developing the green Trenton Town Center in New Jersey, 1400 on Fifth in Harlem (which the firm claims is the largest affordable green condominium building in the country), and it co-developed the Solaire in Tribeca.

“Carlton Brown is still in play,” confirmed Councilwoman Letitia James (D–Fort Greene). “They are making some adjustments to his proposal, and I anticipate a favorable outcome,”

James supports Brown’s community-oriented ideas for the site. And, frankly, who wouldn’t? In a neighborhood whose skyrocketing real-estate prices have pushed out long-time residents and altered the area’s very nature (and sapped much of what has historically made the neighborhood special), the community’s involvement in this crucial stage of development is essential.

“We proposed taking the retail space and selling that to the Pratt Area Community Council at cost, so it could be used for a limited equity retail co-op,” said Brown. “We wanted businesses that are being squeezed out of the neighborhood by higher rents to have a place to stay. We wanted to make sure that stakeholders in the community maintained their status as stakeholders.

“But I am hopeful that whomever the city selects recognizes the community interests,” added Brown, graciously.

Neither Two Trees nor Dermott would comment. The city was similarly tight-lipped. But Seth Donlin, a spokesman for the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, did say the final decision would be announced in mid-September.

Dana Rubinstein, a staff reporter for The Brooklyn Paper, lives in Crown Heights.

The Kitchen Sink

Ever wonder what it was like to live here during the Great Depression and World War II? Just ask the Vincent Sisters (aka Margaret and Joan Vincent), who’ve lived in the ’hood since time immemorial and are opening themselves up to questions on Saturday at 2 pm at the Clinton Hill Art Gallery. Call (718) 852-0227 or (718) 857-0074. …

Lay off the doughnuts: Kids from the Ingersoll Houses trounced local police officers during a basketball game last Saturday at the Fleet Street basketball courts, beating the men and women in blue, 92–68. Congrats! …

Pratt Area Community Council has a new Web site — woo hoo! Now, finding that upcoming homebuyer workshop will be both a breeze and aesthetically pleasing. Check it out at www.prattarea.org. …

Who said politics isn’t fashionable? The impresarios at Fulton Street’s Courtney Washington Studios are holding a fundraiser on Sept. 16 for Rep. Yvette Clarke (D–Flatbush), who is raising money for re-election. Beware — tickets will cost at least $100. Check out www.clarkeforcongress2008.com.

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