The steel skeleton of the new glass building to be slotted inside the landmarked walls of the Domino Sugar Refinery appears to be in place, its barrel-vaulted crown peeking over the top of 19th century brick.
A recent visit to the site at 292 Kent Avenue revealed progress on Practice for Architecture and Urbanism’s and Two Trees’ project to remake the more than 130-year-old factory into an office building with a controversial design aimed at amplifying natural light.
PAU’s plan for the adaptive reuse of the refinery was approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission in November 2017 after an earlier LPC approved design by Beyer Blinder Belle Architects was scrapped, reportedly due to the developer struggling to find tenants.
The post-COVID environment, with its uncertainties concerning the viability of commercial real estate, could also pose challenges in finding long-term tenants for the 460,000 square-foot commercial building. According to a July report in the New York Post, Two Trees is actively seeking tenants to fill the “mostly column-free floors of 27,269 to 33,257 square feet with ceiling heights of up to 14 feet.”
The Post says the building will include a “greenscape of hanging vines, plantings and 30-feet-tall sweetgum trees,” a gym, stores on the ground floor and three-story lobby. Most intriguingly, the windows will actually open — “almost unheard of in a modern building,” the Post pointed out.
Rents, the report says, are expected to range from $55 to $85 per square foot and a rep for the leasing team told NYP there will be a tax benefit for companies moving from Manhattan — something that will likely work in the company’s favor with the trend of companies moving to Brooklyn post-pandemic.
In addition to the landmarked factory building, the Two Trees’ Domino redevelopment includes the popular Domino Park and the completed residential developments 325 Kent Avenue Apartments and 1 South 1st Street. It will also include residential buildings at 280 Kent Avenue, right next door to 1 South 1st Street, and one at 346 Kent Avenue, taking the place of North Brooklyn Farms, which closed down in December 2018. On a recent visit to the area by Brooklyn Paper’s sister publication Brownstoner, there was little evidence of work happening at either of the sites.
Since the Domino plan was put in motion, Two Trees has added to its ever-growing expansion along the Williamsburg waterfront with its River Ring development. The project will bring two enormous mixed-use towers with more than 1,050 new apartments, office and retail space, and a publicly accessible plaza and large public waterfront park to the area just north of the Domino redevelopment.
The changing face of the Williamsburg waterfront, coupled with the introduction of luxury stores in the neighborhood, makes it hard to argue the Soho-ization of the neighborhood isn’t already well under way. The high-rises that will end cap Grand Street make the quaint pre-Civil War structures on the block look increasingly under threat.
This story first appeared on Brownstoner.