Residents ponder fates of prime Gowanus lots being sold to residential builder amid rezoning study

Residents ponder fates of prime Gowanus lots being sold to residential builder amid rezoning study
Photo by Caleb Caldwell

It’s a construction conundrum.

Locals’ minds are spinning over the fate of two adjacent Gowanus plots currently zoned for manufacturing that a borough-based developer is about to buy, because it’s anyone’s guess what the new owner — a firm the mayor recently tapped to build luxury towers on a nearby public-housing complex’s parking lot — might propose for the massive parcels.

Builder Two Trees’s pending purchase comes amid the city’s exploration of rezoning the longtime industrial neighborhood for more residential development, and though Mayor DeBlasio has previously committed to retaining its blue-collar feel, exactly what the real-estate powerhouse may erect there is a mystery, according to a local leader.

“We’re in the middle of a lot of unknowns with the city rezoning — that just makes this so much more interesting,” said Paul Basile. “It is our hope that the city continues to remain committed in helping us grow jobs here and keep the manufacturing community in Gowanus.”

The Dumbo-based developer is reportedly buying a lot on Second Avenue between 10th and 12th streets — now occupied by a Lowe’s Home Improvement store — from builder Forest City Ratner, and a neighboring parcel on 12th Street along the banks of the Gowanus Canal — home to the now-shuttered Pathmark supermarket — from current owner Town Slope LLC, according to Crain’s, which first reported the deals that together total more than $100 million.

A rep from Two Trees declined to comment on the purchases, however, and a Forest City rep said the company cannot comment on its sale until the last document finalizing the transaction is signed.

But even after the deals are done, the home-improvement retailer’s lease for its Gowanus space doesn’t expire until at least 2023, Crain’s reported, and its honchos have no intentions to pack up and leave, according to a spokesman.

“We have no plans to close this store and can’t speak to Two Trees’ intentions,” said Lowe’s rep Steve Salazar.

Both lots are within the Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Business Zone — an area that local entrepreneurs and activists hope will survive any possible rezoning after the city designated it in 2006 to protect Gowanus’s manufacturing roots and stimulate economic growth in the blue-collar hub.

And the imminent arrival of Two Trees — which is also constructing the megadevelopment on the old Domino Sugar factory campus in Williamsburg and donated significantly to DeBlasio’s campaign, according to a New York Daily News report — isn’t any more worrisome than the potential rezoning itself, according to Basile, who said a possible construction boom is not what the nabe needs amid the Feds’ slow-going, years-long scrub of the toxic Gowanus Canal.

“We’re no more concerned than we were before, we don’t know what [Two Trees’s] idea is,” he said. “But we know the canal will not be clean for many, many years, and if anyone is building in the middle of the cleanup, that further complicates it.”

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.