Ikea Development Approved; Sent to Council

Ikea to build a 346,000-square-foot waterfront store in Red Hook. The City Planning Commission approved an application by Ikea Property, Inc., for the development of a 346,000-square-foot furniture store and three ancillary buildings on a 22-acre site along the Red Hook, Brooklyn waterfront. The store, Ikea’s first in New York City, will be its largest store in the United States. The Commission also approved 70,000 sq.ft. of retail and restaurant space and a 6.3-acre public esplanade/bikeway.

Red Hook is primarily zoned M3-1 for heavy manufacturing. Recently, the neighborhood has begun a slow revitalization with the opening of the Community Justice Center in 2000 and with increasing private renovations to its residential and neighborhood retail buildings.

The Ikea development site will be located at Todd Shipyards, one of the City’s historic maritime/industrial areas. The project site is bordered by Beard and Halleck Streets, Columbia Street, the Erie Basin, and a deep-water slip to the west. Its centerpiece, the 346,000-square-foot furniture store, will be served by 1,400 surface parking spaces. Ikea’s plan includes a 6.3-acre waterfront park containing a 40-foot wide esplanade stretching the length of the site, a 15-foot wide path, 300 trees, a grassy amphitheater and more than 1,700 linear feet of seating. The esplanade includes a ferry plaza and public access to the existing piers and it will retain five historic gantry cranes reminiscent of the site’s industrial past.

The Commission approved a zoning map amendment from M3-1 to M1-1; a special permit to allow large retail; City map changes; a special permit to modify waterfront bulk regulations to permit the building to exceed a 30 ft. height limit; a modification to the waterfront access and visual corridor regulations; and a certification of compliance with waterfront zoning.

At the Commission hearing significant support came from area non-profits and Red Hook public housing residents interested in Ikea’s projected 500-600 jobs and its plan to limit job applications, for an initial eight-month period, to residents of the 11231 postal zone. The opposition, primarily private property owners who in the past 10-15 years have contributed to Red Hook’s slow regeneration, voiced concerns over traffic congestion on Red Hook’s narrow streets.

The Commission held a second Ikea presentation on August 25, 2004, with Sam Schwartz, Ikea’s traffic engineer, presenting detailed analysis on the project’s impacts and the extensive proposed changes to traffic intersections and transportation. Schwartz listed improvements such as widening and reconfiguring of streets; improving the sidewalks along Hamilton Avenue; reconfiguring intersections; a free weekend bus shuttle service from subway stations in Downtown Brooklyn, Carroll Gardens and Park Slope; a free Ikea ferry from Lower Manhattan; and the extension of the existing B61 bus line to the site from its current terminus at Van Brunt and Beard Streets.

In unanimously approving the project, the Commission cited Ikea’s commitment to fund a workforce development program, employ neighborhood residents, and fund traffic modifications as a positive economic development model. The Commission stressed that the special permit binds Ikea to the development configuration as presented, including the waterfront park. In voting to approve, Chair Amanda Burden, mentioned her work with the Red Hook Community Justice Center, and stressed the importance of job growth in Red Hook and access to the waterfront open space.

ULURP Process: The Commission, as lead agency, issued a draft environmental impact statement on April 23, 2004. After two public hearings, Brooklyn Community Board 6 approved, on the condition that Ikea completes future traffic studies one and three years after opening; implements traffic mitigations identified in the studies; creates a local non-profit job training center; and studies barge delivery five years after opening.

Borough President Marty Markowitz approved on July 12, 2004 on condition that employee day care, ongoing community job outreach, and a cultural community facilities space were provided. The Commission held its hearing on July 28th, a traffic presentation on August 25th, and approved on September 8, 2004. The Council’s hearing on the project is scheduled for October.

CPC: Red Hook Ikea (C 030412 MMK map amendment); (C 030413 ZMK rezoning); (C 030414 ZSK special permit); (C 030415 ZSK special permit); (N 030416 ZAK modify waterfront controls) (September 8, 2004) (Ethan Goodman, Jesse Masyr, Ray Levin, Wachtel & Masyr, for Ikea; James Bry, Lee Weintraub, for Greenberg Farrow Architects).

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