North Williamsburg is one step closer to getting its first new office building in half a century. Yesterday, the full City Council approved a special permit with a new kind of industrial and commercial zoning for the eight-story project at 25 Kent Avenue.
The unanimous vote cemented the final step in the public approval process for the building, which got go-aheads from two City Council committees and the City Planning Commission this week. Developed by Toby Moskovits’s Heritage Equity Partners, the complex will host 480,000 square feet of commercial and manufacturing space. Gensler and HWKN have been tapped to design the project, which will resemble a ziggurat-shaped, brick factory that’s been sliced in half and glassed in.
What’s exciting about 25 Kent Avenue is that City Planning decided to create a new set of zoning rules that aim to fix the problems in the city’s outdated industrial zoning. Issues include inflexible design rules, onerous parking requirements, and low-density zoning that doesn’t encourage office development. North Williamsburg’s current zoning has created a forest of boutique hotels and clubs, which contribute little to the neighborhood and can’t address a growing need for office space in Brooklyn.
First, the special permit slashed parking requirements for 25 Kent, which would have needed more than 1,000 parking spots under typical rules for new manufacturing buildings. Instead, the project will have a 275-car garage underground and 150 bike storage spots.
And the new rules allows Heritage Equity to build two and a half times larger than traditional industrial zoning allows. For each square foot of light industrial uses, 25 Kent will get an additional 2.5 square feet of “incentive uses.” Incentive uses include office or light industrial space, but exclude the types of businesses that drive up rents in manufacturing areas, like hotels, big box stores, self-storage, entertainment, retail, and restaurants.
However, the city won’t restrict what happens in the square footage allowed under the area’s existing manufacturing (M1-2) zoning. M1-2 offers a floor area ratio of 2 and allows hotels, clubs, restaurants, and big box stores.
DCP had originally planned to map the new zoning across several blocks of North Williamsburg’s manufacturing zone, but the City Planning Commission scrapped the new district after neighborhood industrial business groups and the local community board demanded major changes to the zoning, including requiring more manufacturing space in new buildings. However, six blocks of Kent Avenue will be covered by an “Industrial Business Incentive Area,” which seems a lot like a new district, but sounds a bit less scary for the community board. Any developer who wishes to build within the IBIA would be able to apply for a special permit similar to 25 Kent’s proposal.
Under the latest proposal, 25 Kent will have 160,000 square feet devoted to “as-of-right” uses, which includes retail, light manufacturing, and retail space. Another 63,714 square feet will go exclusively to manufacturing, and another 156,533 square feet of “incentive uses” will go to a mix of office and light industrial space. The development will also offer 14,400 square feet of public open space.
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