The iconic Domino Sugar Refinery on the Williamsburg waterfront is nearly ready to open to the public for the first time in decades as Two Trees Management puts the finishing touches on what will soon be a huge, sunny office building.
On an April afternoon, cranes hoisted 17 30-foot-tall trees over the refinery’s brick walls and into the “vertical garden” inside. The soon-to-be-finished 46,000-square-foot space is a “building within a building” — the office space is set inside a glass sleeve about 15 feet away from the historic brick walls, with the lush indoor garden filling the space between.
The renovation is expected to be finished this fall, when a huge glass dome will enclose the top floors of the 141-year-old building, operated as a sugar factory until 2004. The ground floor of the Refinery will be used for publicly-accessible retail stores and public restrooms for nearby Domino Park.
“It’s going to be a spectacular building,” said Dave Lombino, managing director at Two Trees. “We’re focused on leasing now, we’ll be able to bring people into the building starting in the fall, which is really exciting.”
Two Trees is currently searching for an anchor tenant to lease out a large chunk of the office space, Lombino said.
While office-heavy downtown areas are struggling to regain their livelihoods as more and more people work from home, the company is optimistic about the future of the Refinery — in part because Two Trees was able to successfully lease out the office space at another office building, 10 Grand Street, right next door.
“It’s such a unique building in such a unique location,” Lombino said. “There’s demand for people to work closer to where they live. We’re hopeful that there will be a company that wants to have a Brooklyn location to serve the talented workforce in and around Williamsburg.”
Two Trees initially planned to redevelop the former sugar factory as condominiums, Lombino said, but changed course to “bring workers back into a building that had been a very dense employment center for 100 years.”
The population in Williamsburg has grown and gentrified significantly over the last few decades as the nabe became more popular — and Two Trees, best known for building out DUMBO under the guidance of founder David Walentas, is building up a formerly-neglected stretch of waterfront alongside the Refinery.
So far, the Domino development includes two residential apartment buildings, 325 Kent Avenue and 1 South 1st; the office building on Water Street, and Domino Park. Next summer, Two Trees will finish a six-story residential apartment building next to the Refinery. A few months later, it will open “Domino Square,” a one-acre extension of Domino Park that can be used for everything from ice skating in the winter to concerts in the summer.
Two additional huge projects are looming in the future: a yet-to-be-developed 1.2-million-square-foot building on the same parcel of land and River Ring, a massive mixed-use development including apartments, retail, and a waterfront park.
But first, the Refinery. The iconic Domino Sugar sign was reattached to the building and illuminated late last year, bringing some light back to the waterfront. Two Trees is searching for retail tenants and courting companies searching for office space with massive windows, natural light, and the always-accessible green space inside the factory walls.
The indoor trees and landscaping will help the building feel “seamless” with Domino Park, Lombino said, drawing people into the publicly-accessible ground floor.
“[We are] opening it up to the public for the first time in 100 years,” he said. “It’s pretty exciting.”