Two Trees Readies Plan for Tower, Open Space on BAM-Area Property

Will Also Break Ground Next Summer for its Dock Street DUMBO Project

By Linda Collins
Brooklyn Daily Eagle

BROOKLYN HEIGHTS — Two Trees Management Co. will break ground on its Dock Street DUMBO project next summer, “if all goes well,” and currently has a plan before Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden for the firm’s triangle property in the BAM Cultural District.

Jed Walentas, a principal at Two Trees, also told attendees at the Brooklyn Real Estate Roundtable luncheon on Tuesday that his hotel in Williamsburg, which he thinks will be called The Wythe, will be completed and ready for occupancy by next May.

He admitted that the hotel, at Wythe Avenue and North 11th Street, was “a bit of a risk” but he believes a boutique hotel in Williamsburg makes a lot of sense right now. He said he is counting on not just the friends and family of all the new residents in the area but the strong, and growing, tourist element.

Room rates will be $200 a night on average to start, he said, and he has contracted with the owners of Marlowe & Sons to be the food provider, noting that there will be a ground floor restaurant, a sixth floor bar and party spaces like the screening room in the basement.

‘We’re Working With the City on Final Designs Now’

As for the formerly city-owned property at Flatbush and Lafayette avenues at BAM — the biggest news of the day, many said — Two Trees’ plans call for public open space on the site and a tower, which will have residential units above a cultural base, according to Walentas. It will be an 80/20 (80 percent market rate, 20 percent affordable) rental building.

Asked how tall it would be, he declined to answer.

“We’re working with the city on the final designs now,” he said.

Asked if it would be a flatiron-style design to fit the site, he would only say “it will be more of a rectangle.” Other speakers at the quarterly Brooklyn Real Estate Roundtable — celebrating its fifth anniversary at the Brooklyn Historical Society this year — included City Council Speaker Christine Quinn; Karen Brooks Hopkins, president of BAM (the Brooklyn Academy of Music); and David Gmach, public affairs director for Con Edison.

‘We Are Not Going To Raise the Property Tax’

Quinn, in answer to questions from Steering Committee Chair Michael Kaye, spoke about real estate taxes and other costs to developers.

“We are not going to raise the property tax now, not while I’m in office,” she declared. “But that doesn’t mean your costs won’t go up.”

She urged attendees to come to a Nov. 22 City Council hearing in Manhattan on the living wage bill. Quinn also spoke about what she calls the “Brooklyn Tech Triangle” (giving credit to the DUMBO BID for the name), which involves Downtown Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Navy Yard and DUMBO — within which, she said, technical and high-tech businesses are “clustering” and “there are more students than in all of Boston.”

‘We’re Seeing Audiences of 650,000 Annually’

Hopkins said that in the early days it was a tremendous struggle to get people to come over the bridge to Brooklyn.

“But everything’s changed. We’re seeing audiences of 650,000 annually at BAM,” she said. Hopkins urged developers and real estate professionals to get involved.

“Arts in the community can make a big difference,” she said. “There are two city-owned lots and one parking lot that are still available for development. We need more residents. We need more shops.”

She also spoke of a triangle of sorts. From the new 17,000-seat Barclays Arena to the BAM Cultural District and all the way to the new center under construction at the Navy Yard, “we are creating a cultural corridor.”

‘Brooklyn’s Energy Use Has Grown by 36% in 20 Years’

Gmach reported that Brooklyn’s peak electricity use has grown 36 percent in the past 20 years. He credited this growth to new developments, the revitalization of neighborhoods and the increasing use of electronics.

“But the infrastructure in Brooklyn is well suited for growth,” he said, noting that the utility is spending from $130 million to $160 million a year in Brooklyn.

“We’re spending more but we’re providing incentives for our customers to use less,” he said. More than 6,000 Brooklyn businesses have been helped to cut usage and, therefore, their costs, he added.

Gmach proudly noted that Newsweek named us the greenest utility in the country and New York City has been named the greenest city.

Asked about Indian Point, he said that 20 percent of the city’s power comes from the nuclear facility and, if it were taken out of the equation, the city would have to find another source.

The balance of the city’s power comes from natural gas and hydropower plus a lesser amount from coal.

‘Brooklyn is the Coolest Place’

Kaye, who has served as chair of the Roundtable Steering Committee over the past year, noted that there have been 100 speakers over the past five years and they have not all been the “boldface names we see in the newspapers” but a mix of those names plus the smaller developers who come to talk about their specific projects.

“Despite the economic downturn, we have seen radical changes in several Brooklyn neighborhoods. But there have also been bottom-up improvements in places like Bushwick, Gowanus, Sunset Park and south of Prospect Park,” he said, adding, “Brooklyn is the coolest place to live in America.”

Deborah Schwartz, president of the BHS, in her welcoming remarks, thanked Kaye for all his hard work as chair for 2011 and all the committee members for their “impressive dedication,” noting that it’s been five years for the Roundtable, 150 years for the Brooklyn Historical Society and 400 years of Brooklyn history. She also invited attendees to take time to view the current exhibit, “Context/Contrast: New Architecture in Historic Districts,” that continues through Dec. 31.

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Filed under Downtown Brooklyn, DUMBO, Real Estate

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