Kickstarter wins Landmarks’ approval for Brooklyn HQ

Image: Mary Gillen

Internet fundraising company plans to renovate dilapidated building in Greenpoint. On March 20, 2012, Landmarks approved a plan by Kickstarter, the crowdsourced fundraising company, to adaptively reuse a neglected building at 58 Kent Street in Greenpoint, Brooklyn into its headquarters. 58 Kent Street is one of five buildings making up the former Eberhard Faber Pencil Company factory, which Landmarks designated as a historic district in October 2007. (See CityLand’s coverage here). The two-story brick structure includes remnants of the facades of three linked factory buildings, whose upper floors were demolished prior to the 1980s. Prior to designation, the former owner obtained permits to demolish the building’s interior and build a nine-story addition, but construction never took place.

Kickstarter is a for-profit company that offers independent artists an online platform to solicit funding for their creative projects. At Landmarks’ public hearing, Kickstarter founder Perry Chen explained that the company, which is currently based in the Lower East Side, had only sought out buildings with character in which to move its headquarters. Kickstarter’s Ole Sondresen-designed plan includes a small rooftop addition, a new interior courtyard, and new ground floor windows and openings.

The rooftop addition will be set back on all sides, and only a portion of a mechanical bulkhead would be visible from the street. An open-air courtyard would be constructed in the middle of the building adjacent to the addition. The building’s original window and door openings, filled in over the years, would be reopened. The windows would be set back to increase the sense of depth in the facade, and new doors would replace former garage openings. The building’s parapet and window surrounds would be constructed in Corten steel.

Historic preservation consultant Cas Stachelberg, of Higgins and Quasebarth, testified that the proposed interventions would be “clean, contemporary, and industrial in their material,” and that the building would retain all of its historic fabric. Stachelberg noted that the intent was not to restore the facade, but to “repair and stabilize it,” leaving the patina of history. Existing graffiti, however, would be removed.

Rami Metal, representing local Council Member Stephen Levin, testified in support of the plan. Metal said Levin was excited to welcome Kickstarter to the community, noting that the company’s fundraising efforts had already had a “profound impact on the creative culture of Brooklyn.” According to Metal, Levin found the proposed changes appropriately sensitive and modest. Landmarks Chair Robert B. Tierney pointed out that Brooklyn Community Board 1 supported the proposal.

The commissioners unanimously approved the proposal. Commissioner Fred Bland commended the design, finding that it appropriately displayed the layers of history of the building, which is called an “arrested ruin.” Commissioner Margery Perlmutter agreed, saying the project would retain the building’s grit. Vice Chair Pablo Vengoechea stated that the proposal was a “model for restoration in many ways.”

LPC: 58 Kent Street, Brooklyn (12-8050) (March 20, 2012) (Architect: Ole Sondresen Architects).

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