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Harvey’s neighbors: Condos Developer has no plans for a hotel at Ft. Greene site • Brooklyn Paper

Harvey’s neighbors: Condos Developer has no plans for a hotel at Ft. Greene site

A developer that paid $12 million for four lots next to the Brooklyn Academy
of Music’s Harvey Theater in Fort Greene plans to build a large-scale
luxury condominium complex, a spokeswoman for the developer said.

The representative of Manhattan-based The Clarett Group contacted The
Brooklyn Papers after the newspaper reported last
week
that the company had quietly bought up and cleared of tenants
the properties next to the performance space on Fulton Street at Ashland
Place.

Despite rumors that Clarett would seek to build a hotel on the site, a
use allowed under the current commercial zoning, the source said the developer
would instead build condominiums there, which they can do as-of-right
by including ground-floor commercial space.

The site could support a 30-story residential tower.

Fort Greene Councilwoman Letitia James, who dealt with Clarett on behalf
of some of the evicted tenants who lived and worked in the low-rise buildings
at 655 through 671 Fulton St., called the company’s plans “underhanded.”

“I spoke to their attorney earlier on because they were trying to
evict one of the tenants,” said James, referring to Ruth West, owner
of Ruthie’s Restaurant, a soul food eatery on DeKalb Avenue that
had signed a long-term lease for one of the commercial spaces before Clarett
bought it.

“She’d applied to open a restaurant, she got the permits issued,
and then they sold the building right out from under her,” said James.

Not yet ready to go public with their plans, Clarett has alluded to the
project on its Web site only as the “Brooklyn Project.” The
company source said they wanted to wait until the project was closer to
realization, but confirmed demolition was intended for the existing buildings.

“We’re trying to reach out to them, and I’ve been trying
to schedule a meeting with them to no avail,” said James. “They’re
trying to do this in secrecy.”

Whether the demolition would affect the BAM Harvey Theater, a BAM spokeswoman
wouldn’t say.

“We have no official comment at this time,” said spokeswoman
Sandy Sowatka.

The project, which lies just outside the planned BAM Cultural District,
would benefit from the anticipated new streetscapes, landscaping and other
initiatives being planned a block to the south.

BAM Local Development Corporation spokesman Lee Silberstein said it wouldn’t
change the LDC’s mission.

“It’s not one of their development sites so I don’t think
it will affect the [BAM LDC] development,” said Silberstein, referring
to various sites in the BAM Cultural District planned for artistic, commercial
and housing development.

Melissa Lee, a spokeswoman for the Pratt Area Community Council (PACC),
a longstanding non-profit organization that helps small business and housing
development thrive in the Fort Greene-Clinton Hill area, decried the loss
of those businesses from 655-671 Fulton St.

“I think the businesses will definitely be missed,” said Lee.

“There was a hot yoga studio, which had been there for a number of
years,” she said, referring to Yoga People’s Hot Yoga, at 659
Fulton St. “It was very accommodating, and had a huge following.
They certainly will be missed.”

The studio has one other facility, on Remsen Street in Brooklyn Heights.

“We also lost a restaurant that never moved in,” she said, retelling
West’s story.

“We needed another sit-down restaurant,” Lee said. “Most
of the businesses don’t open on that street until evening; this place
would have had a steady lunchtime menu.

“I’m not quite sure what the intention is for the condominium
project, we haven’t had much contact with the owners, and haven’t
been privy to the plans for the project. We’ve gotten very little
information on it.”

To build as of right, businesses would need to “anchor” the
lower floors of the building, said Lee, and could be similar to what was
there, “Depending on what their motives are, which is probably to
serve their potential buyers,” she said. “It’s a great
question.”

Community Board 2, which would have input and review of any proposed changes
of the zoning map or variances to override zoning, hasn’t yet heard
from the developer.

“We’ve talked to various people,” said Robert Perris, the
board’s district manager. “What I keep hearing is that the project’s
going to be as of right. If it is, we generally don’t get a chance
to review it.”

He added that CB2 has invited Clarett officials to the September board
meeting to talk about their project.

Department of City Planning spokeswoman Rachaele Raynoff said as long
as the building included ground-floor retail, set-backs on the street-walls,
and 70 percent of the lot frontage, the property could be developed residentially
as-of-right.

“In Brooklyn, we know that many of the areas have a requirement for
continuous retail and transparency to make it more of a lively and engaging
district” said Raynoff, explaining why such a massive apartment structure
could fit in a low-rise commercial and brownstone district.

“When you have the residential component you have the foot traffic
at all hours, it creates more than an office environment that shuts down
at 5,” she said.

Since 2003, The Clarett Group has developed four tower-style residential
properties in various upscale Manhattan neighborhoods.

This will be their first Brooklyn project.

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