By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
After many years as the site of photo shoots, school fundraisers, art festivals and foody events like Smorgasburg, DUMBO’s roofless, iconic Tobacco Warehouse has been fenced off to the public as construction of a new theater is set to begin at the site.
In September, Brooklyn Bridge Park’s board approved a long-term lease with St. Ann’s Warehouse to develop a theater inside the walls of the historic 1860’s-era building. The development will include performance space, administrative offices and community space. The outdoor public area will continue to be managed and maintained by Brooklyn Bridge Park.
Construction should be completed by the fall of 2015, if all goes according to plan.
Smorgasburg, the food festival that attracted thousands to the Tobacco Warehouse every weekend, has moved to Pier 5 towards the southern end of Brooklyn Bridge Park.
The Tobacco Warehouse lease marked the completion of a year-long federal process undertaken as part of a settlement with community groups who went to court to block the removal of the warehouse from the park. The groups won their suit, resulting in the public receiving several parcels of land at the northern end of the Brooklyn Bridge Park in return for the Tobacco Warehouse site.
St. Ann’s Warehouse has come close to its goal of raising $27 million to rebuild the space. The design, created with Marvel Architects PLLC, will leave a 7,600 square feet triangular portion roofless, to be used as public gathering space and garden, adjacent to a walled birch tree grove.
The Tobacco Warehouse’s original brick walls and much-photographed arches will be preserved, according to St. Ann’s.
In another major waterfront transformation, Midtown Equities, in partnership with Rockwood Capital and HK Organization, announced in September that it was awarded the contract to redevelop the equally historic Empire Stores, just north of the Tobacco Warehouse.
Home furnishings company West Elm has signed a 20 year lease at the Empire Stores site, and tech companies are expected to join in.