By Raanan Geberer
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The board of Brooklyn Bridge Park has voted to approve a joint venture between Toll Brothers City Living and Starwood Capital Group to develop an approximately 550,000-square-foot luxury hotel-condo complex on the upland of Pier 1, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced yesterday.
The vote was 15 in favor, one against and two abstentions, according to a spokesperson for Brooklyn Bridge Park.
That “no” vote belonged to Councilman Steve Levin (D-Brooklyn Heights/Downtown).
“Councilman Levin campaigned against housing in the park, and he decided to vote his conscience,” said Ben Petok, Levin’s director of communications.
The idea of residential development within the park as a way to fund Brooklyn Bridge Park, which is designed to be self-sustaining, has been controversial since it was first proposed. This writer remembers one neighborhood resident, at a meeting, saying the idea would turn the park into “a condo development, with a lawn.”
Indeed, in 2010, the park corporation itself formed a Committee on Alternatives to Housing and hired a consultant, Bay Area Economics, which concluded that alternatives, such as concessions and advertising signs, could not raise enough money to displace the housing component.
Nancy Webster, executive director of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy, which raises funds for park activities, said, “Today's announcement shows that the park's financial model works, and the Pier 1 hotel and residential development will help ensure that Brooklyn Bridge Park remains beautiful and welcoming for generations to come.”
On the other hand, Roy Sloane, president of the Cobble Hill Association, declined to comment on the approval of the Toll Brothers-Starwood proposal, saying he had opposed housing in the park “from the get-go.”
The proposal will include a 200-room luxury hotel and 159 residential units. The hotel will be called the 1 hotel, and the proposed building plan will feature nearly 16,000 square feet of restaurant space, 16,000 square feet of banquet and meeting space, 2,000 square feet of retail space, a 6,000-square-foot spa and fitness center and 300 parking spaces.
In November of last year, a request for proposals from the park corporation elicited seven responses for developers. They came from Dermot, Extell, RAL, SDS, Starwood Capital Group (with Alloy Development, Hamlin Ventures and Monadnock Development), Toll Brothers and Two Trees.
Several months ago, the Brooklyn Bridge Park spokesperson added, the field was narrowed to three. “In the course of negotiations, Toll Brothers and Starwood decided to submit a joint proposal.”
Jane McGroarty, president of the Brooklyn Heights Association, said, "Back in December, when the BHA looked at the schemes, our top two choices were the Toll Brothers and the Starwood plans.
"Some of the things we had concerns about, they actually addressed in the plan. In the first scheme, they had private gardens at grade, and they've changed that and made a much nicer separation with a berm between the private portion and the private park," she said.
Asked what factors went into choosing the winning proposal, the park spokesperson said they included the quality of the development team, the financial model, and the way in which they were able to “integrate the design into the community.”
The 10-story hotel and residential complex and five-story residential building – which is slated to rise on the former site of the Cold Storage Warehouse — are designed by Rogers Marvel Architects, and feature a stepped façade of stone and metal. They feature green roofs, a variety of walkways to access the park and a newly activated Furman Street sidewalk. The development is also projected to achieve LEED silver certification.
Rogers Marvel has designed several Brooklyn projects, such as the renovation of the School of Architecture building at Pratt Institute and the rebuilt McCarren Pool and Bathhouse. Toll Brothers has also been active in Brooklyn, most notably with its Northside Piers condo development in Williamsburg.
The joint venture will enter into two 97-year ground leases of the site. Over the course of the lease term, the development is projected to result in $119.7 million in net present value of revenue from a variety of sources to help fund the maintenance and operations of sections of the park that are built or underway.
Upon completion, the project will generate a projected total of $3.3 million annually in rent and payments in lieu of taxes from residential unit owners and the hotel operator to maintain the park, according to Brooklyn Bridge Park’s official statement.
Borough President Marty Markowitz commented, “Not only is the park a perfect location for Brooklyn’s newest hotel — with some of the most amazing views anywhere — but park users will also benefit from the addition of comfort stations, a restaurant, retail and other amenities. And, of course, let’s not forget the creation of more than 500 jobs and the income this development will generate to help achieve the goal of a self-financing park.”
And Regina Myer, president of Brooklyn Bridge Park, said, “I’m gratified by the level of private investment that Brooklyn Bridge Park has catalyzed and believe today’s vote is a critical step in funding park maintenance and operations.”