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Empire warehouses could be home to concert hall

Empire warehouses could be home to concert hall
The Empire Stores warehouses in Empire–Fulton Ferry State Park in DUMBO.
The Broklyn Papers / Julie Roseberg

DUMBO’s long-vacant Empire Stores warehouse is being eyed for a new performing arts venue within the proposed condo-and-open-space development commonly referred to as “Brooklyn Bridge Park,” state officials said this week.

The concert hall, a small venue in very early planning phases, would share the wood-columned, Civil War-era warehouse with shops and restaurants.

The addition of a performing arts space is the latest twist in what has become a saga of stalled ambitions for the crumbling state-owned landmark, one of six waterfront commercial sites intended to generate revenue for ongoing maintenance.

The development will eventually stretch 1.3 miles along the shoreline from the Manhattan Bridge to the foot of Atlantic Avenue.

As reported in The Brooklyn Papers, the Empire State Development Corporation yanked the warehouse from Brooklyn land baron Shaya Boymelgreen after he let it languish for three years while moving forward with luxury condo projects in the neighborhood. Boymelgreen had planned to turn the building into high-end shopping mall modeled on Chelsea Market in Manhattan.

Earlier, local artists harbored dreamy visions of converting the former sugar and coffee warehouse into galleries.

Now the future of the stores has become tangled in a dispute between the ESDC and local elected officials who want luxury development within the proposed “Brooklyn Bridge Park” delayed until state officials release the underlying economics of the waterfront development.

“The state has not told the public what the revenue will be for the [condos] in the development — and until we know that, we can’t know how much development is necessary,” said Evan Thies, a spokesman for City Councilman David Yassky (D–Brooklyn Heights).

But the ESDC has said it will not delay the commercial elements of the $130-million project any longer.

“The construction of the park is scheduled to begin in the middle of January,” said ESDC spokesman Mark Weinberg.

Weinberg said it was too early to identify tenants for the proposed venue, but the DUMBO-based Arts at St. Ann’s, which is currently housed in a nearby warehouse, believes it has the best claim.

“At some point [warehouse owner David Walentas] is going to want to develop his site and we are going to have to leave the warehouse,” said Susan Feldman, artistic director. “If the right kind of space is created in the Empire Stores, it could be a fantastic place to go.”

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