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Downtown construction going up

Reach for the sky: The borough’s newest and tallest skyscraper is open for business.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

Downtown is definitely on the up and up.

The neighborhood has been one of the fastest-growing in Brooklyn over the past decade, thanks in large part to a 2004 rezoning that green-lighted skyscraper construction in the area. Fifty-three development projects have been completed since 2006, and another 62 are on the way, according to a market report by the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership.

Nearly half of the completed and planned buildings are residential, meaning there will be 18,701 new units of housing in the area when all is said and done. Only 9.9 percent of the apartments already completed are priced at below-market rates, but the fraction of so-called “affordable” apartments in the pipeline is 43.5 percent, the report says.

If the planned buildings fill up, already-crowded schools would be packed to the gills, and there is no public school in the works to lighten the load. The only educational construction project currently slated for the area is a New York City College of Technology building on Jay Street.

Housing is also driving up the heights of Brooklyn buildings. At 37 stories, the Williamsburgh Savings Bank tower was the borough’s tallest structure for 85 years, but now ranks behind the Brooklyner and 388 Bridge Street, both luxury residential high-rises. The bank, now also residential, will drop even further in the rankings when the 57-story Avalon Willoughby West opens this year, as it is scheduled to. A 70-story tower next to Junior’s Restaurant on Flatbush Avenue Extension is also under construction, along with a 52-story building at Fulton Street and Ashland Place.

The rezoning was pitched as a way to spur the growth of office development in the neighborhood, but only four commercial projects have been completed so far. The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership puts vacancy rates for office space at 3.4 percent, which means the coming eight office projects should fill up quickly. The Kushner Companies project called Dumbo Heights, in the old Watchtower complex, accounts for most of the space being created, and the massive commercial, retail, and residential project City Point development is set to contain much of the rest.

Developers have also invested heavily in hotel rooms in recent years, with five projects already complete, and six more under construction or being planned. It is unclear how many of those 1,730 rooms would be ready for a 2016 Democratic National Convention if Brooklyn is chosen as its host, but nearly half are on track for that.

The Partnership’s report is available for purchase online here.

The Brooklyn Paper is using the report as a jumping-off point to try and pick apart the building boom. In the coming weeks, we will be focusing on specific blocks and sectors of Downtown development to help understand the neighborhood’s transformation. Stay tuned.

Reach reporter Matthew Perlman at (718) 260–8310. E-mail him at mperl‌man@c‌ngloc‌al.com. Follow him on Twitter @matthewjperlman.

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