It’s been a few years since the city Economic Development Corporation announced plans to develop a 700-car underground parking garage on Willoughby Street in Downtown Brooklyn and create a one-acre green space on top. Now, the park, Willoughby Square, is one step closer to reality, as the city prepares to demolish an office building at 217 Duffield Street, between Willoughby and Fulton streets. Prolific construction photographer Tectonic brought us photos of what the site looks like now.
The project is finally moving forward because the city sold 120,000 square feet of air rights and 3,000 square feet of land from the Willoughby Square site to JEMB Realty, who own an adjacent lot at 420 Albee Square. The developer paid $15,500,000 for the whole package, an EDC spokesman told YIMBY in November.
JEMB had originally planned to build a 65-story, 620-unit mixed-use tower on their sizable lot, which they purchased for $38.5 million in 2014. After the de Blasio administration struck the air rights deal with JEMB, the Financial District-based developer agreed to erect a 400,000-square-foot office tower at 420 Albee Square. The building would be the first major office development to rise in Downtown Brooklyn since the neighborhood was rezoned in 2004.
We’re excited to see work start on Willoughby Square. It will bring much-needed green space to an area dominated by squat stores along Fulton Mall, aging office buildings, and the bustling, traffic-filled lanes of Flatbush Avenue. But there hasn’t been much progress besides the demolition prep at 217 Duffield. The eastern side of the park site along Albee Square remains a parking lot.
When we reached out to EDC, the agency said it didn’t have a timeline for when the park would be finished.
The city purchased 213-221 Duffield Street for $23,500,000 back in 2008. Around the same time, the Bloomberg administration seized a few 19th century buildings along Duffield Street through eminent domain. Over the last two years, the city has slowly knocked down the old structures, which included homes built before the Civil War.