Monday, March 31, 2008

GL Analysis: The Toll Brothers Battle & the War for Gowanus

For all of the intense reaction to the Toll Brothers proposal to build a 447 unit development in Gowanus, the project would not be far out of line with what the city is likely to propose for the neighborhood. The outlines of the city's plan won't be known for a bit, but buildings of 10-14 stories have been discussed for parcels along the canal, with 10-12 stories being the most likely outcome, which is the height of the Toll buildings. The property the Toll Brothers want to develop will fall within "Zone B," which is likely to be rezoned for mixed used projects. (In the map below, the use of both Zone A and Zone B is likely to be primarily residential and commercial; the battleground zones in terms of preserving industrial uses are Zones C, D and E.) While the rezoning may limit buildings along Bond Street to 4-6 stories, the general framework would allow taller buildings along the canal. The development is also in keeping with what the Bloomberg Administration wants to develop on the Public Place site, where buildings would also rise to 12 stories. In fact, the Public Place development, only a few blocks away could be more than double the size of the Toll development.

On Thursday night Toll VP David Von Spreckelsen said that the developer was going ahead and asking for their parcels to be rezoned because they were considering the possibility that the city's rezoning might not be done before the end of the Bloomberg Administration. It might also be a way get somewhat more density than the city might ultimately allow. Yet, the Toll plan is remarkably similar to what is likely to emerge from City Planning very soon. Anyone with any doubts about what the city intends along the canal need to envision the rezoned Fourth Avenue, but along the Gowanus and with provision for public access and esplanades along the water. Yes, if the city's rezoning fails to pass before the end of the Bloomberg Administration and if a Mayor disinclined to rezone the neighborhood takes over and if the real estate market continues to go down the toilet in terms of speculative Brooklyn development, the Toll project would be a singular development in a relatively industrial corridor. Yet, there is a very good chance that the Toll development will be exactly like the Gowanus future that the city would like to achieve. We're not trying to be apologists for the developers--and we have major issues with the plan that's on the table--but the fact is that the Toll Vision is very similar to the Bloomberg/City Planning Vision for the New Gowanus.

While the Toll Brothers development is an important battle, the city's own plan--which is likely to be on the table before long--is the war itself.

Gowanus Planning Framework

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