New designs for the New Domino development by SHoP were released this week, and they're very different from the old New Domino
: the buildings are taller, there are fewer of them, they're funnier shapes, and there's more open space. Fears were
that if the old developer, CPC, sold Domino, a new developer would break the old promises and build something even worse. But it seems like Two Trees, the new developer, may have conceived something actually better. "The city rarely gets this good a chance to extricate itself from a planning mistake," Justin Davidson wrote
for New York
magazine. "Yes, the new Domino would mean more creeping Manhattanization, but that sure is better than the alternative: the New Jersification of Brooklyn." Provided the plan passes the uniform land-use review procedure, there will be more than 2,000 market-rate apartments, the old 660 below market-rate, as well as more office space, small-retail space, and more green space. Let's break it down!
The Donut Building
The most distinctive feature of the new development is surely this: two towers 120-feet apart, joined at the top. The idea is to build taller while allowing more air and light into the neighborhood; another structure also features a gap between two towers, and there would be two slender 60-foot towers right next to the Williamsburg Bridge. "Two Trees"—full disclosure: our landlord in DUMBO—"said the community and public officials they shared these plans with were totally happy with taller structures if it meant more open space," Curbed reported
. "'If you're standing next to a 400-foot tall building or a 600-foot tall building, you have no idea,' [one architect said]. 'But if a 600-foot building means that you get a park where your kid can graduate, that means something to you.'"
By moving the buildings back from the waterfront, Two Trees has created 60 percent more open space—"more continuous waterfront park rather than something that's more like a private backyard for the residential buildings," as Curbed put it
. They eliminated one building entirely, which will open up a "central plaza" for ice skating, or roller skating, or flea markets, or concerts. The waterfront park would have space for kayak-launching, or volleyball, or bocce, or a beer garden, or a dog run, plus gardens and nature and shit. "The park will also have an 'artifact walk,'" Curbed adds
, "incorporating salvaged pieces from the Domino Sugar Factory, which [one architect] described as 'Wiliamsburg's version of the High Line.'"
The only Domino building that'll be preserved will be the refinery building—the iconic one with the sugar sign on it—which will be turned into office space to attract the kind of tech businesses for whom there's no more space in DUMBO
. "'The last developer made a big stink about how the refinery building will cost $50 million to preserve,' [someone from Two Trees told
Curbed], 'and it will cost $50 million to preserve, but we think it's worth preserving.'" Oh snap, take that, CPC! In total, the new plan will have more than 500 percent more office space than the old plan.
There won't be any big-box retail incorporated into the new development; instead, the retail spaces on the street will be scaled for small retail.
These plans are freshly released, but already I have heard concern from neighborhood activists about the increased heights of the buildings. "This could end up being the tallest building in Brooklyn situated right next to the Williamsburg Bridge," said the filmmakers behind The Domino Effect
in an email. "We hope our film will help the community to mobilize and fight for the promises that were made to them by the previous owner." Two Trees hopes to have the ULURP wrapped up by April. We'll see what happens before then!
Follow Henry Stewart on Twitter @henrycstewart