Kriston Capps is a staff writer for CityLab covering housing, architecture, and politics. He previously worked as a senior editor for Architect magazine.
A downtown tower could rise more than 1,000 feet, potentially twice as high as the next tallest building in Brooklyn.
A skyscraper more than 1,000 feet tall might be heading to Brooklyn. Towers that tall are hard to come by even in Manhattan, and there aren’t any plans to build anything that large in any other borough yet.
But there’s plenty of demand for a super-tall residential tower in Brooklyn—and now, one of the developers who has nurtured Manhattan’s Billionaire’s Row has the air rights to build something as tall as the Empire State Building in downtown Brooklyn.
Crain’s New York Business reports that Michael Stern bought the former Dime Savings Bank at 9 Dekalb Avenue, a landmarked classical building dating back to the early 1900s. In addition to the architectural gem—which might be repurposed as an event space or high-end retail outlet—Stern picked up 300,000 square feet in air rights. That’s all he needs to build a super skyscraper on the site he owns next door at 340 Flatbush Avenue Extension.
Stern, who is building the super-skinny tower at 111 W. 57th Street in Midtown, could even wind up building a second 111 W. 57th in Brooklyn, more or less. That project, which was designed by SHoP Architects and is currently underway, incorporates an existing landmark at its base, the former Steinway & Sons piano showroom and hall. No, the downtown Brooklyn tower won’t absorb a classical bank structure the same way—but it is bound to be designed by SHoP.
Stern’s original plan for 340 Flatbush, a 775-foot tower, would’ve made it Brooklyn’s tallest. A tower reaching past the 1K mark will be Brooklyn’s finest.
Nothing’s been announced in the way of a super-tall Brooklyn skyscraper, mind you. But when plans do arrive, expect to hear about them for years. Opponents of Atlantic Yards fought the project for more than a decade. The luxury towers coming to the former site of the Domino Sugar Factory—another SHoP project—have been greeted by some as “the final stroke for the gritty, intimate Williamsburg they have known.”
But the skyscraper that could rise in downtown Brooklyn is different from those other towers. It will be, far and away, the tallest building in town, and at 1,000–1,200 square feet in height, one of the tallest buildings in New York City. The next tallest building in Brooklyn is 388 Bridge Street: at 590 feet, only half as high as what might be coming. It will stick out. It will change the character of the neighborhood, to borrow a favorite NIMBY catchphrase.
And it will probably be fine! Height by itself isn’t wrong, and without a design to go by there’s not much more to say about the project. But there will definitely be much more to say about the prospect of a much, much taller Brooklyn.