Landmarks approves revised Brooklyn Music School tower in Fort Greene

FXCollaborative_130 St Felix_01
The revised proposal for 130 Saint Felix St.
Courtesy of FXCollaborative

City landmarks gurus on Tuesday approved revised designs for a 23-story residential tower with an extension of the Brooklyn Music School at its base at 130 St. Felix St. in Fort Greene.

At a virtual hearing on Aug. 4, the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to award developers Gotham Development a certificate of appropriateness to erect the tall glass structure, after architects with FXCollaborative returned with a slightly shorter and more set-back version of the building.

“I think what [the applicants] have come back with is a much improved proposal. It’s much more contextual and fits much better in with all the existing buildings,” said Commissioner Anne Holford-Smith.

The 11-member panel sent the developer and the designers back to the drawing board at a June 23 hearing, citing concerns from some commissioners that the building’s glass facade was too imposing on the mostly low-rise brownstone block between Hanson Place and Lafayette Avenue and that its height made it look like an extension of the iconic Williamsburg Savings Bank Tower.

The old proposal for 130 St. Felix St.Courtesy of FXCollaborative

The architects came back with plans that reduced the height from 24 stories to 23, or from 285 feet to 265 feet, making it visibly lower than the main shoulder of the 42-story Art Deco clocktower. The designers also moved the bulk of the structure back 30 feet from St. Felix Street to Ashland Place on the far side of the property and made its proposed ombre color brighter to better match the creamy shade of the 1929 tower.

The new building will house a 20,000 square-foot expansion of the Brooklyn Music School in its cellar and on its first two floors with some 120 residential units above — roughly 30 percent of which will be priced at below market rate under the city’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing program.

The original scheme had more bulk toward St. Felix Street.Screenshot

The project benefits from $6 million in public funding city officials previously allocated to the enlargement of the music school, which its leaders maintain is bursting at the seams hosting some 2,100 students in four connected townhouses adjacent to the site.

The developers, who required the LPC certificate to build in the Brooklyn Academy of Music Historic District, will still need to get their scheme through the city’s lengthy Uniform Land Use Review Process, which they expect to start some time in 2021.

Designers pushed the bulk of the building back by 30 feet from St. Felix Street to Ashland Place.Screenshot

Most commissioners praised the applicants for heeding their requests, but some still voiced concerns with the two ground-level sections of the building on St. Felix Street and Ashland Place, asking that the designers make them smaller and more in line with their neighboring structures. 

A rendering of the proposed new Brooklyn Music School entrance at 130 St. Felix St.Courtesy of FXCollaborative

Some locals have been opposed to the building due to its size, and LPC received more than 70 letters in opposition, compared to 11 in favor, of the project, according to officials.

Those objections were echoed by Commissioner John Gustafsson, who cast the lone vote against the proposal, saying he remained steadfastly against the building because it was too big and bulky for the district and that it “ruined” the adjacent tower that has been a staple of the Kings County skyline since the Depression.

“This building is alien to the district, because of that height and massing. It ruins the memory of the architectural drama of the Williamsburg Savings Bank and it’s shoe-horned into what is not a skyscraper district,” Gustafsson said. “It is rare, I think, that a single building means so much to a neighborhood and a borough.”