Two Trees Management Co.’s new renderings for the Domino Sugar factory

FIRST LOOK: Renderings show the future of the Domino Sugar factory

The Brooklyn Paper
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The new owner of the Domino Sugar factory revealed its billion-dollar vision for the iconic Williamsburg site, calling for massively tall and architecturally bold skyscrapers that would redefine Brooklyn’s skyline.

With one mega-development, Two Trees Management Co. principal Jed Walentas plans do to the sleepy section of industrial waterfront what his father did to DUMBO one building at a time: construct a bustling neighborhood where people will want to live, work, and play.

But instead of refurbishing old warehouses in piecemeal fashion like his dad David, or sticking to Domino’s original monolithic development blueprint, Walentas wants to build a “family” of post-modern towers that evokes the skylines of Shanghai and Dubai clustered around the landmarked refinery.

The new high-rises dreamt up by Barclays Center builders SHoP Architects are far taller, and undoubtedly more eye-catching than the original Domino design — one tower is shaped like a giant zero, another balances apartments atop offices with a hole in the middle, a third features terraced residences stacked along Kent Avenue, and the southernmost edifice is a pair of pencil-thin towers connected by a bridge that could become Brooklyn’s tallest structure at 598 feet and 55 stories.

These dramatic alterations, including a request to build 20 stories taller than the previous owners Community Preservation Corporation Resources, will force Two Trees to take the project through the city’s approval process for a second time.

The initial public review of the now-scrapped plan was contentious — but Walentas said he had to ditch the shorter Community Preservation Corporation Resources design for something more innovative and iconic.

“We were very concerned about opening old wounds, but we knew there was room for improvement,” said Walentas, who snatched up the beleaguered Domino project for $185 million — more than three times the sum the previous owners shelled out in 2004. “If we’re going to spend the next 15 years of our lives with this being a major part of our day and invest a billion dollars or whatever it comes out to, I want it to be something that I’m really excited about.”

The aggressive architecture is new for Two Trees, but its game plan for Domino reads right out of the company’s DUMBO playbook.

The builders banked on office space in their bid to turn DUMBO upscale, using the neighborhood’s new nine-to-fivers to lure amenities such as cafes and restaurants, which have since helped make the community attractive to residential tenants.

At Domino, Walentas wants to boost the amount of office space in the project six-fold, converting the entire historic refinery building into a hub for businesses instead of residences, and filling the glassy leg of the northernmost tower with commercial tenants.

Office space will rent for less than residential space — about $25 per square foot instead of $55 — but Walentas believes workers will add value and character to the development, creating a vibrant atmosphere that’s alive at all times of day, eventually making the project more profitable.

“It’s necessary to accommodate the commercial-job creating opportunity without compromising too much else,” said Walentas.

“Our interest is creating the best place we can for the long term.”

The project looks vastly different than the original Domino proposal — but the residential plan is largely unchanged: Two Trees plan calls for 2,284 apartments, down from 2,400 under Community Preservation Corporation Resources.

Walentas claims he will not abandon a non-binding promise by the previous owner to offer 660 units of below-market-rate housing, and says the sizes and finishes of those more affordable units, which will be scattered throughout the development, will be will be indistinguishable from the higher-priced units.

The SHoP-designed buildings would be almost twice the height of the previous Rafael Vinoly-designed towers, but the new architects say their soaring structures would make far better neighbors thanks to the massive cut-outs in the cores of the structures.

“When you’re on the neighborhood side of the project over here on Wythe [Avenue], you can actually see light and air and every morning, the sun will rise on the community, and every evening, the sun will set on it,” said SHoP principal Vishaan Chakrabarti, whose company is so wedded to constructing things with prominent holes that it not only built the borough’s new arena oculus, but even distributes business cards where the “o” in SHoP has been cut out with a hole-punch.

Two Trees wants to use the buildings’ missing midsections to gain permission to construct taller towers with roughly the same population density as the initial design.

The higher, thinner skyscrapers would take up less of the site’s footprint, leaving more than six times as much open space, which could be used for recreation, farmers markets, and games such as volleyball, bocce, or horseshoes, the developers say.

The plan also calls for the construction of a community center and a school — similar to the firm’s educational offering at its controversial Dock Street development at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Walentas aims to get city planning and council approval by the end of the year, ensuring the project will pass through the city’s uniform land-use review procedure under a pro-development mayor. If it is approved, the entire plan could take up to 15 years to complete, said Walentas.

“Each building is a hundreds-of-millions-of-dollars project,” he said.

The new Domino plan is the latest proposal for a massive build on the Williamsburg waterfront, but Walentas and the crew at SHoP say their ambitious, holey skyscrapers don’t just one-up their homogenous neighbors such as Schaefer Landing, Northside Piers, and the Edge — they’re also a clear winner over the initial Domino design.

“The old plan was like the Edge four times over flanking the Domino refinery,” said Chakrabarti.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at or by calling (718) 260-2511. Follow her at
Updated 10:08 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Rufus Leaking from BH says:
March 3, 2013, 11:47 pm
jjm from ch says:
Give it a few yrs & watch this area become a slum. U might not think so now but trust me the new residential building will be called "the projects".
March 4, 2013, 1:08 am
diehipster from Hayden Hanger says:
Wait... Brooklyn hasn't reached its quota of smug nasally yups and hipsters yet??? Well in that case build these friggin buildings ASAP!
March 4, 2013, 6:46 am
Rob from Greenpoint says:
"Architecturally bold"? More like masturbatorally ugly. Why can't we build good looking, tasteful and human-friendly buildings anymore? Anything built after WWII basically looks like junk, and these buildings continue that tradition of lazy, cheap, ugliness.
March 4, 2013, 7:08 am
Town Square Inc. from Yuppie Fantasy Land says:
Mommy!!!! They took the land I was supposed to get for my hipster science museum! You promised I could have anything I want because I am special!!! Wahhhh! They get everything just because they can pay for stuff. It's not fair!
March 4, 2013, 8:16 am
Sad from SADVILLE says:
This makes me sad. Like the green and community space but it makes me sad. :(
March 4, 2013, 9:44 am
ty from pps says:
Why is everyone so whiny?

So, let's see... this new development that is replacing a decaying sh*thole is (a) where hipsters are born, (b) an architectural travesty, (c) cheap, (d) future slums/projects, and (e) great greenspace and community space... but somehow also the source of great sadness.

It's good to know that everyone that reads this paper starts with such a positive outlook on life.
March 4, 2013, 10:22 am
josh from williamsburg says:
thanks ty for injecting a tiny bit of sanity into this discussion.

the only solution to high rents is increasing the housing stock. like it or not, adding a couple of thousand apartments serves this goal.
March 4, 2013, 12:02 pm
Richard Grayson from Williamsburg says:
This new plan for Domino looks sweet!
March 4, 2013, 12:14 pm
K. from ArKady says:
In renderings two and three; where did all the brown and black people go?
March 4, 2013, 12:50 pm
"Interloper" from Kent Ave says:
They need to make sure they actually try to secure some commercial tenants as well. Much of the buildings on my block are still looking for retailers to fill those spaces. They might need to re-examine the square footage pricing.
March 4, 2013, 1:11 pm
Hefty from Morganville...not says:
As The Edge and other Williamsburg waterfront projects went through public vetting I always assumed that trash would be handled in some new way but as these projects were finished it amazed me that trash is just put curb side in mountains of black plastic bags often spilling every where. In their fancy renderings, I wish they would show how the building would look on trash day, or rush hour or during the next supper storm.
March 4, 2013, 2:19 pm
odd from PS says:
I find it odd that whoever this 'visionary' is, obviously is envisioning a place w/o any colored ( and I mean yellow, tan, light skinned, brown, dark, etc, ANYONE of color) people in the pictures above. For that I vote nay!
March 4, 2013, 2:33 pm
manhatposeur from brokelyn says:
Wow. good point Odd. It looks like Iowa or something. And 600 units for below market prices? It should be a 1000.
And besides the next hurricane, that could be swamp.
March 4, 2013, 2:50 pm
ty from pps says:
Awesome... let's add "racist" to the list of whining. Yes, because the architect intern is an idiot and didn't included some folks with darker complexions from the rendering templates, I'm sure that means the waterfront property will have a big "Whites Only" sign.

How may people are currently living in the Domino Sugar factory?
March 4, 2013, 2:50 pm
ty from pps says:
And if there were more black, hispanic, and asian people in these pictures, I'm sure we'd hear the whining from the "locals" about how they are displacing the Italians and Jews.

Anything else to whine about, folks?!

I'm sure there are other things we've missed... I mean, why look at redeveloping a decaying wasteland into a nice waterfront area as a positive thing? Obviously, this project will destroy Brooklyn and probably destroy America. Right?
March 4, 2013, 2:58 pm
jjm from ch says:
Even if they do build up all of this BS, they're gonna hit with all types of lawsuits for housing discrimination if they deny a certain group of people from renting a place.
March 4, 2013, 3:15 pm
jjm from ch says:
And plus out of 2,284 apt units, how the hell are they obly only gonna do 600 of them at below market rate? it should be about 1200 units the most but like i said before they are most definitely gonna be lawsuits coming at them for sure.
March 4, 2013, 3:21 pm
odd from PS says:
Ty - the problem is not "..more black, hispanic,...".

The problem is there isn't any, at least not that I can see in the pictures. If that is indeed the intention of the visionary, then it's not a place many would approve. Just saying... rela a bit, don't take it so extreme.
March 4, 2013, 3:38 pm
ty from pps says:
No, you're right. It's obviously a racist, probably neo-Nazi, utopia envisioned by the developer. I'm sure that's their intention.

"Don't take it so extreme." Really?

I think it is only you, Odd, that stated obviously is envisioning a place w/o any "colored people" -- What are you actually trying to say here?

jjm, Why, exactly, should over 50% of the units be below market rate?!

The comments on here are just nuts.
March 4, 2013, 3:46 pm
jjm from ch says:
Better yet they should have this thing blocked altogether just off the strength that there isnt enough affordable units
March 4, 2013, 3:47 pm
jjm from ch says:
@Ty 1200 units isnt 50 percent...its about 46-48 percent at the math
March 4, 2013, 3:51 pm
ty from pps says:
1,200 divided by 2,284 = 0.525

You can tell it's more than half because 1,200 doubled is 2,400. 2,400 is more than 2,284.

There's the math. It's not even hard math. The sort of math someone having an opinion about the economics of this development would be expected to have mastered.
March 4, 2013, 5:30 pm
Barry from Flatbush says:
Wonder what 20 feet of water will do the footings on those things? If they fall right we may get a new foot bridge out of it at least.
March 4, 2013, 5:46 pm
"Interloper" from Kent Ave says:
There are plenty of housing projects and low income housing developments in prime waterfront areas in the city already. There is absolutely no need to provide any more of that. People who can afford to pay more money for property shouldn't have to compete with people who are living on government's handouts and special programs. Why should somebody pay significantly less than somebody else for the exact same product just because they don't make as much money? That's like saying some bum gets to go to Peter Luger's and pay the price equivalent of a Big Mac meal at McDonald's and get the same steak that the businessman next to him is eating while the businessman is paying the full price on the menu.

This situation has nothing to do with race and discrimination so don't try and twist this into something that it is not. This is purely and economics issue. Some people work hard and make good money for a living and some don't. Some of you like to make jokes about the self-entitled hipsters and yuppies supposedly living off mommy and daddy. How is this situation any different if some people are getting subsidies from the govt and special housing status because they don't make enough money?
March 4, 2013, 5:56 pm
JAY from NYC says:
I like it, just wish it was not going to take 15 years to build, wish it could be done in 2 years.
March 4, 2013, 6:20 pm
whatever from greenpoint says:
Working hard has nothing to do with making "good money" Interloper - I'm so sick of this rational. There are plenty of extremely hard working people who get paid Sh$t and plenty of people who don't lift a finger ever and can fly on a personal jet anytime they want. It's called access to opportunities - and they people who have this access get paid more. So don't now cite the rare cases where someone started sweeping floors and now is a millionaire through commitment and hard work - that is like winning the lottery and not a reality.
March 4, 2013, 6:41 pm
Citra from Brooklyn says:
March 4, 2013, 9:03 pm
jjm from ch says:
@Reality ok so i miscalculated oops lol...but u get my drift
March 4, 2013, 9:21 pm
jjm from ch says:
And plus whats the big freakin if its by waterfront property? The east river is still the same ol' dirty east river. Its supposed to be higher rents all because u want a fukkin view of manhattan? Smh
March 4, 2013, 9:30 pm
jjm from ch says:
For those of us whose families have been here since 70s & 80s, we'll tell u 1st hand that we really dont give a dam about a view of the city. its just another reminder of how close we are but yet so far from it financialy. Only tourists who wanna live in ny care about stuff like that, not long-time ny'ers.
March 4, 2013, 9:41 pm
old time brooklyn from slope says:
people of color always raise property values
March 4, 2013, 10:50 pm
DS from Ditmas says:
One of the buildings needs to be peaked. Flat tops are played out.
March 5, 2013, 12:12 am
odd from ps says:
@Interloper - I don't understand why you would automatically connect people of any color with low income? What? you don't know any non-white people that is successful and well educated? No one here said there is no 'poor' colored peopled on gov't subsidies in the picture, simply there is no 'colored people' at all, rich, poor, whatever the economics of their being. Your comments are obviously full of ignorance and racism.
March 5, 2013, 9:03 am
"Interloper" from Kent Ave says:
odd & whatever - You're reaching for something that is not there. I said that this isn't a race issue, its an economic issue. People like you are trying to connect race and economics are irresponsible and misguided.

For your reference, I live in a high-rise condo building and I have a number of what you callously refer to as "colored" neighbors who are wonderful hard working people that I consider friends. Some of them came from a very hard low-income background. They worked hard in school, went to a good university on scholarship and have made a nice life for themselves. Don't say that this is like winning the lottery because it does happen. The smartest and most talented people will always rise to the top no matter where they come from. These people they take care of their parents as well as their own families. You're sorely mistaken if you think somebody such as myself would want to shun people just because of the color of their skin.

My only argument here is that people who don't pay as much don't deserve the same quality of real estate, products and services as those who are willing to pay top dollar. There are plenty of people that are unfairly taking advantage of generous real estate subsidies and public housing as is. As an example, drive across the Williamsburg Bridge at night and try to count the number of monstrously large HDTVs that you can see through the windows of the housing project buildings on both sides of the bridge. If you claim to make so little money that you live in a housing project how can you possibly afford one of those? The last thing this city needs is more people living in prime real estate under false pretenses. If it were up to me none of these apartments would be zoned under low-income. Real estate companies have to pander to these interest groups hoping to have more low income housing in prime real estate locations and as a result revenues take a hit.

If it's socialism you want then why don't you just admit it?
March 5, 2013, 12:33 pm
Pat I. from 70's Brooklyn says:
The factory should be taken down - no doubt about it.

But this is ugly. I can't imagine they got a world class architect. It looks like a housing project for the well-heeled.

What gets me is that those with the cash are gonna flock to these sh*tholes. And if Toll Bros or Trump is involved I can almost guarantee a slew of build quality related issues.

A while ago I attended a lecture on colonial furniture. The professor made an excellent point: Back in the day, if someone were to finally "make it" and enter high society, he had to be fairly well read and educated in the arts. Long/short: He said, "you had to know what "good" was.

That's the problem. People don't know what good is anymore. A huge property like that - and on the water? And this is what you come up with - A giant lego set?
March 5, 2013, 1:10 pm
Friend of Marty Mashugana from Borough Haul says:
Marty Mashuguna will take the penthouse apartment so he can say "How Sweet it Is!!!"
March 5, 2013, 2:54 pm
Lynn from Bayridge says:
I can't understand why this City is building so many luxuary building. One, for the lower encome family and two for the upper encome family and nothing for the middle encome family. The middle encome working family is shut out of everything this city build. We are the tax payers and nothing is offer to the middle class. Why is the middle class being over look? Why do we need all these high rise water front building when the city can't place the homeless in any of these building and most of them are empty because people can't affort them. Shame on NYC.
March 5, 2013, 7:59 pm
Pat I. from brooklyn says:

You need affordable housing in any city. call it what you want- wrong side of the tracks, projects, etc.

The government unfortunately, has to get involved. because land is a finite resource and therefore goes to the highest bidder.

You need people to work in any city who are not millionaire brokers. And these people can't afford to bus in from a place thirty miles from work. If I were multi-millionaire who owned - say - a chain of donut shops, where are these people gonna come from? What about your maid, dry cleaner and the waiters at your favorite bistro?

Now having said this, let me state what I don't like about subsidized housing.

Every city has different sections - good, wealthy, working class, slums, etc. What I hate is when you have an established, well to do area (and I'm sorry.. wealthy people do work hard, my doctor puts in at least 70 hours a week and is lucky to have dinner with his family twice a week) and some political busybody decides to build low income housing smack in the middle of their neighborhood (I speak from experience, but I'm not rich) because they feel "the kids" deserve a better life and better schools (fixing their own schools never enters into the conversation).

These people bought their homes based on certain criteria - and paid a lot fo money to live there. To have someone come in and take that away is the integration version of eminent domain (in my area a golf course is being considered for low income housing).

And it's not racist to say that low income (at least in this day and age) goes hand in hand with criminal activity and violence. But then.....

One of the reasons why all the old working class neighborhoods were great places to grow up (culture and ethics aside) was home ownership. People tend to take care of there living quarters when they have a financial stake. They take pride in their home's appearance and tend to get involved in their neighborhood.

Finally - working hard is not a trait exclusive to the rich. My father busted his a** 80 hours a week for 35 years
running his own business. He's successful, but by no means is he rich. His cook worked the same hours - for 500 bucks a week.

People go to college, make connections,
move up when the opportunities present themselves, always thinking about their next move. They work hard but their goals are different. My father had opportunities to get as big as Sbarro's but just didn't have the drive. His drive started when he got off the boat in '59 and stopped when he opened his first and only shop. He built a successful business. He measured success in quality of life.
March 5, 2013, 9:07 pm
old time brooklun from SLOPE says:
people of color always raise property values
March 5, 2013, 9:21 pm
BunnynSunny from Clinton Hill says:
It'll provide a great deal of welcome shade for local residents.
March 6, 2013, 10:09 am
"Interloper" from Kent Ave says:
Pat I - I think we're on the same page but voicing it differently. I'm not against low-income housing or even housing projects in general. I'm simply against low-income housing or projects being made available in prime waterfront real estate locations like this in the city. Out of sheer principal, it's nonsense for somebody to be paying $2,500 a month for a one bedroom with a view of Manhattan while his neighbor on the same floor with the same view and same exact unit layout, appliances, doorman, gym in the building, etc to be paying $1,000 a month. There are plenty of opportunities for development in Brooklyn in non-prime real estate areas. Also, people don't necessarily have the "right" to live in the Williamsburg or Manhattan just because they come from a low-income situation. Commuting from outer areas of NYC where rent is cheap and affordable housing is more accessible is always an option and is quite frankly a smarter option for somebody in a low-income situation looking to get the most out of their paychecks.

Kudos to your family though and your father's efforts though. Sounds like a great success story for which you should be proud.
March 6, 2013, 11:46 am
hjfadl from Bushwick says:
How surprising, more comments about how much everybody hates 'hipsters' and change. Please realize that this change has been happening since this city's inception and in fact cannot be stopped no matter how many 'nays' are given.

We all know you'd like someone to blame for the loss of your alleged community, but do realize that you're in New York City, a place composed completely of outsiders, which was your descendants at one point too. Believe it or not, the culture you wish to preserve is no more significant that the next great thing to come.

tl;dr: it's happening, shut the —— up and deal with it.
March 7, 2013, 3:24 pm

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