During a raucous and packed public meeting on Tuesday night, developer Avery Hall Investments laid out their plans for a seven-story apartment building with retail and a grocery store, which will replace a Key Food at 120 Fifth Avenue in Park Slope.
The development will split 165 apartments between two buildings, rising four and six stories, on a site between Baltic Street and Sterling Place. The 196,000-square-foot building will have 139,000 square feet of residential space and 52,000 square feet for retail. A quarter of the apartments, or 41 units, will rent for below-market rates.
Twenty percent will go to families making 60 percent of the Area Median Income, or $46,620 for a three-person household. Another 2.5 percent will rent to families earning 80 percent AMI, or $62,160 for three people, and a final 2.5 percent will be set aside for families earning 100 percent AMI, or $77,700 for a family of three.
There will also be a 186-car underground garage, which is more parking than the Key Food’s 100-space lot. Since the developer chose to include a large amount of retail, that boosted the parking requirements significantly. SLCE will design the new buildings.
Neighbors were upset that the grocery store in the new building would only be 7,500 square feet – a big downgrade from the 36,000-square-foot Key Food store that has occupied the lot for 30 years. When Brian Ezra, a partner at Avery Hall, announced the size of the new grocery, the crowd of 400 Park Slope residents hissed and tutted. He tried to soften the blow by explaining that he had grown up in the Slope, but locals weren’t having any of it.
“I can’t accept anything less than the replacement of square footage than we have now,” declared neighbor William Frazier. “Anything less than that would be an insult.”
One by one, longtime residents stood up and explained how hard they’d fought to get the Key Food to come to the neighborhood when Park Slope was still considered a marginal area. Older folks said the wide aisles, organic produce and relatively affordable prices made it particularly attractive for seniors and those who rely on wheelchairs. The crowd demanded that the new store rival the Key Food in size and offer food for similar prices. One or two speakers even said they’d support a slightly taller building if it would mean a larger grocery store.
“I’m willing to sign a petition to give you a variance, to go a little higher, but we also need a supermarket, and it needs to be big enough to sustain the population in this community,” remarked Ahalia Smith, who said she’d lived in the area for 40 years.
Council Member Brad Lander, Public Advocate Letitia James, and Borough President Eric Adams all showed up to speak in support of a bigger supermarket. James said she shopped at the Key Food as a little girl, and even traveled there to buy groceries when she lived in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill.
But a larger grocery store simply wouldn’t generate enough revenue for the project to work financially, Ezra claimed during the presentation.
And the site has a few unusual quirks. First there’s a swath of land that the Department of Environmental Protection has earmarked as open space. That will be turned into a “public piazza” lined with shaded tables and chairs. And the project will open up Butler Street between Gregory Place and Fifth Avenue, which was de-mapped when the Key Food was built in the early ’80s.
The neighborhood’s R6A zoning caps the heights for new buildings at 70 feet, but an urban renewal plan crafted in 1982 actually limits new construction to 40 feet. It also requires affordable housing on the site. The plan will expire in 2021, but until then, anything built along this stretch of Baltic requires approvals from city agencies and the community board.
And the developer wants to amend the urban renewal plan so they can build up to 60 feet, which is allowed in the underlying zoning. The Department of Housing Preservation and Development and the Department of City Planning will have to approve those changes and Avery Hall’s plan before they can start construction.
They expect to break ground in 2017, and work will last for roughly two years.
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