Brooklyn's Tallest Building Planned as Office Demand Rises

  • JEMB Realty, with roots in Coney Island, plans 600-foot tower
  • City air rights help push office over housing on downtown site

New York City officials announced plans for what may be Brooklyn’s tallest building, a 600-foot (180-meter) office tower in the borough’s downtown.

JEMB Realty, a New York-based developer with roots dating back to a Coney Island go-kart track in the early 1960s, will build the $300 million, 400,000-square-foot (37,000-square-meter) project, at 420 Albee Square, Chairman Morris Bailey said during a news conference at the site Monday.

About 60 million square feet of new office space will be needed throughout the city by 2025, mostly in outer-borough commercial hubs such as downtown Brooklyn, according to a New York City Economic Development Corp. estimate. Brooklyn, home to a surge in luxury high-rise residential development, needs new offices as well to meet demand from the growing technology industry, Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen said at the news conference.

“Office vacancy rates in this area are now around 3 percent, which is functionally zero,” she said. “That will definitely impede the incredible momentum we have seen around here. So we need to act now to shape the future we want.”

If completed today, the building would be the tallest in Brooklyn, said Elie Gamburg, the senior designer for the project with the architecture firm Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates PC. There are a number of residential projects under consideration that may end up taller, he said.

At 600 feet, the new office tower would surpass 388 Bridge St., a 590-foot apartment tower completed last year in downtown Brooklyn, according to research firm Emporis.com. For decades, the borough’s tallest office tower, at 512 feet, had been 1 Hanson Place, a 1929 building that was converted to apartments about 10 years ago.

Air Rights

The city transferred about 120,000 square feet of air rights from an adjacent property, which influenced the decision to build offices rather than housing, said Maria Torres-Springer, president of the Economic Development Corp. The nearby property will become a 1-acre (0.4-hectare) park atop a below-ground parking garage, part of a project known as Willoughby Square.

“We made the choice to say let’s not just do its highest and best use, which would be residential,” Glen said. “Let’s do something that’s really important to maintaining the right balance in the borough.”

Bailey said he expects to be able to break ground for the tower within a year and complete it 18 months later. He estimated the base floors would rent for about $55 a square foot, with the highest rents near the top of the tower going for as much as $75 a square foot, prices that are subject to review as the completion date gets closer, he said.

Projects by Kohn Pedersen Fox also include 10 and 30 Hudson Yards on Manhattan’s far west side and SL Green Realty Corp.’s 1 Vanderbilt tower slated to rise near Grand Central Terminal.

“I want it to be an iconic building,” Bailey said. “We’re building this for long-term, for my grandkids. We’re not guys who flip for profit. We don’t do that. We build for our future.”

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