Kind of blue-collar: This office tower could transform industrial Williamsburg

Kind of blue-collar: This office tower could transform industrial Williamsburg

Talk about manufacturing consent.

A Williamsburg developer wants the city’s okay to build a huge office complex in the neighborhood’s industrial area, in exchange for constructing a small amount of manufacturing space. And local pols say it is so rare to see any new blue-collar space in the nabe, officials would be mad to say no.

“For the first time, someone is proposing a commercial development with manufacturing in this neighborhood, and that is something to seriously consider,” Councilman Steve Levin (D–Greenpoint) said at a Community Board 1 meeting on Wednesday, where real-estate firms Heritage Equity Partners and Rubenstein Partners pitched their plans to locals.

The developers need special permission to dedicate almost all of their proposed eight-story building at Kent Street and West Avenue to office space — instead of having to set aside half for mandatory “community facilities,” which typically end up as medical offices.

The exception would also let them to build up to six stories higher than the zoning currently allows, and nix parking spaces and loading docks they’d otherwise have to include.

In return, they’re offering to set aside around 17 percent of the building for light manufacturing uses — such as microbreweries and metalworking studios.

The developer and proponents say the project could serve as a model for bringing business hubs back to the neighborhood’s so-called industrial business zone — land the city has earmarked specifically for manufacturing, but has become a de facto entertainment district because hotels and nightclubs are snapping up much of the space.

“This will foster manufacturing uses,” said Ray Levin (no relation to the councilman), a lawyer for the developers. “It will foster producers and goods to be produced in the IBZ, which hasn’t happened in certainly more than a decade.”

But some locals said 17 percent of the building was a pretty crummy commitment, and opening the door to a rash of similar developments would essentially just turn the neighborhood into an office district.

“You would think that in an industrial siness zone, that it would be a higher percentage than that,” said housing activist Armando Chapelliquen.

Others insisted the city create a way to make sure the developer — and any future ones copying the same model — don’t weasel out of the industrial allocations once the buildings are complete.

“This is big deal,” said Leah Archibald of business advocacy group Evergreen. “It’s going to be written to be mapped in other industrial zones around the city.”

A handful of local business owners and manufacturers showed up to voice their tentative support for the project and exemption, but said they wish they had the clout and know-how to score the same kind of special consideration.

“We’ve always wanted to build up,” said Lucky Lee of beloved neighborhood staple Lucky’s Real Tomatoes. “We’ve always wanted the opportunity to grow and provide more jobs in Brooklyn, but it’s not feasible.”

The developers’ presentation to locals was the first step in the arduous seven-month process of securing the city’s approval for the special permit. The community board’s land use committee will vote on the plan on Feb. 22, and Borough Hall will also host a public hearing on March 21. But ultimately, the decision will come down to a Council vote.

If the city does approve the plan, construction should kick off later this year and wrap up by the end of 2017.

Reach reporter Allegra Hobbs at ahobb[email protected]local.com or by calling (718) 260–8312.
Room to grow: The 25 Kent Avenue development would include ground-floor retail space and a sprawling public plaza.