Amended Design for Redevelopment of Former Waterfront Sugar Factory Approved

The revised architectural rendering of the redeveloped sugar factory. Image credit: ODA Architecture

The revised architectural rendering of the redeveloped sugar factory. Image credit: ODA Architecture

Replacement of river-facing façade with new contemporary sculptural design changed to incorporate more masonry. On March 24, 2015, the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to approve a proposal for altering the north façade and construction of a rooftop addition to a late 19th-century sugar factory at 10 Jay Street in the DUMBO Historic District. The factory was heavily altered in the 1940s, with a portion of the building including the original north façade demolished. A new exterior wall was built and clad in stucco, and the three remaining original brick facades were also covered over with stucco. The exteriors of the existing original facades would be restored as part of the development.

Landmarks initially considered a proposal for the site on February 2, 2015. The plan called for the removal of the 1940s stucco wall on the building’s north face, and the construction of a contemporary facing outward from the district and onto the East River. The proposed sculptural glass façade, which drew inspiration from the water of the river, the sugar crystals once produced at the site, and the Manhattan Bridge, would feature projecting angular undulations. A new penthouse addition, set back from the river-facing side of the building, would be clad in masonry on the walls facing the district, with a steel-and-glass façade on the north.

The proposal divided the commission, with Fred Bland finding it appropriate as presented, while Commissioner Michael Devonshire found the “diaphanous” quality of the new façade unsuitable for the district’s industrial character. Commissioners John Gustafsson and Christopher Moore determined that the attention-attracting would distract from the district’s historic architecture.

Architect Eran Chen, of the firm ODA Architecture, identified the revisions incorporated into the new proposal. The new facade would surrounded by a brick frame, and red brick would replace the steel pier in the previous iteration of the penthouse design. Steel panels would be added to the new northern faced, lending it more opacity than the previous all-glass plan, and rendering the design less “fragile.” Horizontal masonry elements would also serve to better integrate the new facade into the rest of the building and recall the floor slabs broken by the mid-century demolition. Chen called the project a “tailored personal design that reflects a historical event,” in the building’s partial destruction.

Consultant Bill Higgins argued that a contemporary vocabulary was appropriate for the project, and that it retained the historic three-dimensional quality and industrial inspiration.

Commissioner Bland, who had found the previous proposal appropriate, called the revised design “thrilling,” and praised the use of 21st century technology and materials in finishing the torn historic structure. Commissioner Michael Devonshire said he found the prior proposal “too delicate” for the neighborhood, but with the revisions it was “absolutely perfect.” Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan opined that commissioner comments at the prior meeting had improved the plan, and that it was now appropriate, managing to retain the building’s integrity and build on it historic fabric and architecture. Srinivasan commented that the commission sought to encourage design creativity in historic districts, and that the design was unique to the site.

Commissioner John Gustafsson stated that, though the design was of high quality, it still distracted and detracted from the historic district. Gustafsson cast the only dissenting vote in the commission’s decision to award the project a certificate of appropriateness.

LPC: 10 Jay Street, Brooklyn (16-5902) (March 24, 2015) (Architects: ODA Architecture).

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