Domino waterfront development in Williamsburg inches forward

The Domino development project refuses to fall down.

The City Planning Commission (CPC) approved developer Two Trees Management’s revised proposal to develop the 11-acre site of the former Domino Sugar Factory in Williamsburg into a 2.9 million-square-foot commercial and residential waterfront complex that includes public green space and other amenities.

This means that the proposal now goes to the City Council for review. If they approve it, construction would begin on the first building later this year. The project would take around a decade to complete.

The CPC’s decision follows a busy and somewhat tense couple of weeks during which continued negotiations between Mayor Bill de Blasio and Two Trees principal Jed Walentas stalled over de Blasio’s insistence on more affordable housing units and Walentas’ insistence that such an increase would be financially “untenable.”

On Monday, March 3, the two finally agreed on an increase in affordable housing—700 out of 2,300 units, up from the initial 660 units planned—in exchange for the city’s approval on a zoning change to allow for Domino towers to be extended above 55 stories. Current zoning law caps the waterfront height to 35 stories.

According to the agreement, the “affordable” units will be set aside for a mix of low- and middle-income tenants, and will include more two- and three-bedroom apartments, as opposed to just studios and one-bedrooms, in order to attract families.

“We set out from day one to get the best possible value for the public,” said Alicia Glen, deputy mayor for housing and economic development. “This partnership delivers on that commitment.”

“The amount of affordable housing the de Blasio administration was able to lock in through zoning is unprecedented,” praised Councilmember Stephen Levin. “We still have our work to do at the Council and I will continue to review the details of the project.”

According to the NY Daily News, another hurdle may be increased pressure for Two Trees to hire unionized workers for general construction, instead of just for crane operators and electricians.

The agreement between de Blasio and Two Trees also includes the creation of a Community Review Board to oversee the project’s progress and programming for the planned open space. Members of the board will be appointed by local city councilmembers and Brooklyn Community Board 1.

Two Trees’ plan would have the landmarked factory building be the only part of the refinery complex to remain intact; the rest would be demolished and built over to create 2,200 apartments, 631,000 square feet of office space, and retail space.

The vacant factory building, located at 292-314 Kent Avenue, is slated to be transformed into office space for businesses and entrepreneurs in the technology and creative arts industries.

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