Back in 2004, the Domino Sugar Factory that runs along the Kent Avenue waterfront in South Williamsburg, from Grand Street to South 5th Street, shut down. The industrial complex, whose oldest, 12-story building was given landmark status in 2007, was immediately seen as an ideal real estate opportunity, particularly back in boom-y 2005, when hot-shot firm Rafael Viñoly Architects were commissioned to draw up plans for a massive New Domino development on the site (pretty renderings after the jump).
Since then, well, you know, real estate≠booming, but the revamped Domino project is slowly jumping through all the necessary planning and permission hoops, most recently earning certification from the City Planning Commission. The Times reported earlier this month that the project is now entering the seven months-long public land-use approval phase, which basically means that concerned community groups (who have an alternative plan), preservationists and the City Council will have their say. But what’s to talk about?
Well, lots of things. Beyond the general glut of luxury housing, the ridiculous cost of the development ($1.5 billion), and the relentless Miami Beach-ification of the Williamsburg waterfront, there’s some good and some bad, some of which is unexpected. Firstly, despite being grossly out of scale (the tallest tower would be 40 stories, looming over the historic 1884 Domino building and nearby Williamsburg Bridge) RVA’s plans are quite agreeable, if not downright good. Especially compared to nearly every other new Williamsburg building, planned, built or abandoned. Also, more public waterfront parks!
On the other hand, thirty percent of the 2,200 apartments would be set aside for low- and middle-income housing, which is both more than most new developments, and not good enough. Maybe the real estate situation won’t be so grim in 2021, when the project will be completed (pending approval), but if half or more of those apartments were kept affordable they’d be occupied no matter what the economy is doing.
Lastly, at least for now, there’s the infrastructure problem. Can Williamsburg really handle the 3,000 or so people this development represents, over and above the already rapidly increasing local population? How will the L trains keep up? Will dwindling bus service be able to cope? What schools will these kids go to? As much as it would be nice for there to be something down there on that desolate stretch of road, does there have to be so much?
Also: The New Domino’s neighbor to the south is a low-level radioactive and toxic material management and shipping company!