One Willoughby Square opens its doors as Downtown Brooklyn’s tallest office building

Mayor Bill de Blasio cuts the ribbon at One Willoughby Square with developer Morris Bailey on June 15.
Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office

One Willoughby Square officially opened its doors on Tuesday, becoming the tallest office building in Downtown Brooklyn.

Mayor Bill de Blasio cut the ribbon on the building, located at Willoughby and Gold Streets, with a gigantic, gilded pair of scissors, together with the developers, architects, and officials with the city’s Economic Development Corporation on June 15.

The unveiling, he said, was representative of the city’s comeback from COVID-19.

“We got knocked down but we got back up,” de Blasio said. “Here we have proof positive that New York City is open for business … The timing could not have been more perfect.”

Mayor de Blasio speaks at the opening of One Willoughby Square Ben Brachfeld

The 495-foot-tall, 34-story tower — originally known as 420 Albee Square — was first proposed in 2014, and boasts 472,000 square feet of office space. Long in the making, the edifice has had nearly 30 floors and 200 feet shaved off of its originally intended stature.

The building was designed by FXCollaborative and developed by JEMB Realty. FXCollaborative announced that it would become the building’s first tenant, occupying three floors, at the ribbon cutting. The building will also include a 332-seat public elementary school, which will take up the building’s first six floors.

One Willoughby Square.Photo by Ben Brachfeld

The building, abbreviated as 1WSQ, is the first new “Class A” office building (a somewhat nebulous term that essentially means primo space) constructed in Downtown Brooklyn since the area was rezoned in 2004. The 2004 rezoning was intended to spur office space development in the area, but most of the new, large-scale buildings constructed since then have been residential.

“We are confident that it will add to the growth of Downtown Brooklyn,” said Morris Jerome, a principal at JEMB and the son of its president, Joseph Jerome. “As we are coming out of this pandemic, it is our sincere hope that the tenants of this building will help local small businesses emerge from the pandemic.”

The centerpiece of the 2004 rezoning, the Willoughby Square site, is located next door to the new office tower, and the building opens directly into the park. The park, recently renamed Abolitionist Place after the area’s history as an Underground Railroad stop, has had a long and rocky development process.

The city opened a “pop-up” park at the site in 2019, covering part of the acreage as development of the full plot remained in limbo. The park is expected to break ground this summer.

Looking south from the 29th floor of One Willoughby.Ben Brachfeld